“Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters.” Rachel Held Evans, a 32 year old mover and shaker wrote a fantastic article on CNN’s website about why young people are leaving the church. I wanted to respond to her article as I believe she brings up many thoughts that are pivotal to the church’s future. I’m hardly a millennial myself, being only a year away from 40, but I echo her sentiments of relating to the frustration Millennial’s regarding the state of the church. You can read the article here.
The issues she brings to the forefront is the feeling young people get from the church being too political, exclusive, old fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to gays. That evangelicals obsession with sex makes the Christian life more about living by a list of rules and do-not’s or perish in hell. That what they (we) cry for is for safe communities where tough questions are welcomed and wrestling with issues aren’t equated with demon possession or a crisis of faith. Yet while youth wrestle with these frustrations, church ministry staff strategize new hip ways to present Sunday morning services and spend money on building trendy coffee spots in the foyer in hopes this will restore their view of church.
This generation couldn’t care less about trendy church services and cool coffee bars – especially if it’s void of community and embracing issues they care about.
We are indeed on the brink of having to come face to face with hard issues that we’ve wanted to ignore. Honestly, we’re behind the 8-ball. We can’t ignore issues of what we’re going to with the LGBT community that walks through the doors, or what we are going to do about social issues of poverty and injustice in our communities. How are we going to include those with mental illness and addictions? For too long, the church has shrinked back on these issues. It’s time to man up and face them or lose an entire generation.
I think when it comes to the future of the church, the question comes down to this: Will we view our faith through eyes of fear or eyes of courage? If we view our faith through eyes of fear (meaning afraid of the world around us, not healthy reverence), then all of these issues will send us running to isolation, to a place where we are guarded from being contaminated by the world. The idea of befriending someone gay would mean we have compromised our beliefs, or we would take on the concept of “love the sinner, hate the sin. (You can see what I think of that statement here) Defending our faith would be our only stance to people of other beliefs. The world would only know what we’re against. We would wrestle with those struggling with depression, telling them if they would just pray more they’d be healed. Questions, wrestling with issues and doubt would be extremely uncomfortable for us, making it hard for us to relate to most of humanity. The only place we would feel safe would be with other like-minded fear-filled people who would take solace in the presence of one another’s righteousness.
But if we view our faith through the eyes of courage then the world isn’t a scary place. God is with us, His compassion floods us, and His eyes show us the beauty even in the chaos of society. Brokenness becomes an opportunity to serve and come along side. Questions are there to wrestle with together. Pain is felt, and it’s ok. Faith filled acts provide answers to society’s most pressing issues. Hope becomes our lense, love the driving force behind every act. We don’t see someone who is “gay” (aka: repulsively evil), we see a valued human being. We would see opportunities to build bridges and conversation with those of other beliefs without feeling we were losing our faith. Those with addictions, illness, problems wouldn’t be our project to fix, but a life to lovingly restore back to worth. People aren’t numbers counted in pews for church growth charts, but lives being invested in because they are precious. Our eyes of courage would make us fearless in dark places.
I believe a courage-filled faith is what this generation is longing for. It’s what they want to see in those who go before. It’s the kind of faith they want to be released in.
“We want to be known what we stand for, not what we are against”. (Rachel Held Evans)
It’s an amazing day for the church to awaken to a courageous faith. May you and I walk in it and pass it on.