Friday, October 3, 2014

Yes, I Did Use the "I" Word

Why go to church? It's Irrelevant. How many times have you heard that?

In Kenda Creasy Dean's book Almost Christian, she explains the attitude of most Millennials toward church. “Teenagers tend to approach religious participation like music and sports, as an extracurricular activity; a good, well-rounded thing to do, but unnecessary . . . religion is 'A very nice thing.'”

I don't know about you, but to me that makes church sound a bit like a plate of macaroni and cheese.

It's not that they don't like church or have negative feelings about the Christian faith. It that they simply don't care. It has no relevance to their daily lives. Kind of in the same category as the climate in New Zealand. It exists and is probably nice. But it has zero impact on a 20-something American.

When we're talking discipleship, that's a far more dangerous attitude than outright hostility. Hostile people at least accept that religion is worth talking about. Indifferent people don't. In the US, the probability of the church atrophying away from indifference is much higher than being persecuted to death.

So what must happen for the church to be back on the radar for the next generation? How do we achieve a higher SEO, so to speak, in their spiritual google search?

One way is to end our church culture of entertainment and create instead a culture of engagement.

Remember last week talking about how America has a consumer church mindset? Funny thing is, that's what we intentionally cultivated for the parents of today's Millennials. But it's death for retaining their kids. (I think God just likes to switch things up to remind us we don't know everything and can't do it without Him.) 

Young people are highly sensitive to consumerism—they see more commercials in one day on the internet than most of us in ten years of television. They tune it out. They know when they're being sold to, and they don't like it. 

That includes sales pitches from the church to come enjoy/make use of/be entertained by God. Unexpected thing is--They don't want less demanded of them. They want more.

One big reason young people find church irrelevant is that they feel there is no place for them there. They have been entertained and instructed in moral behavior. But they have not known the power of the Holy Spirit or been set free to use that power as Jesus did. 

Our youth know how to be good people, but they don't know how to be meaningful people.  [tweet this]. 

That's not enough for the newest generation to reach adulthood. Praise God.

When I wrote my book, Don't Forget to Pack the Kids: Short-Term Missionsfor Your Whole Family, I didn't want simply to write about missions. I wanted to write about relevance. How do we keep the next generation in church? An important answer for me was to get them involved in serving, using their gifts, and believing they could contribute, at any age. We've lost large portions of the next generation by keeping them entertained and occupied but not discipled. Not being little Christs (the meaning of the word “Christian”).

When people complain that church is irrelevant, what they often really mean is that church is only relevant inside its doors, to the people already there. There is a little bit of accuracy there.

When it gets outside its doors, however, church can be the most relevant force on the planet. Funny, I think that's how God planned it to work. He did say “GO into all the world.” Not “Hang out here and I'll bring them in to you.” We're not Noah's ark; we're the church. One was meant for God to bring his creation inside for safety; the other was made to go out and batter the gates of hell. I think we get those two mixed up sometimes.

The church is relevant when the people who make it up are relevant to those around them. When we don't dissolve into our church walls doing our own thing. When we teach our children that they are the church and they make it relevant by being the hands and feet of Christ. And that they don't have to wait to do so until they known enough verses or are old enough for it to be “safe.”

We've tried to be relevant by creating relevant programming. It's a short-term fix. Creating relevant people—now that's long term. That changes everything outside our walls. When the church is that, it's nearly impossible to be ambivalent about it. It will no longer be perceived as “a nice place with no meaning to me.”

Do we want to be relevant? Forget bells and whistles programming. Forget fancy guest speakers. (Ouch. I'm a guest speaker.) Create disciples. Start as early as possible. Give young people the benefit of believing they can handle real theology and service.

Be relevant people. That's it.

1 comment:

  1. So true, Jill! Make disciples, not fans. I got a letter from a 12-year-old daughter of a friend today, and she shared with me her favorite bible passage. Wow! Those parents are making disciples!