Today, on my day off, in between car washes, trips to the store, the mechanic, and multiple loads of laundry, I read two things:
First, I read a piece from the Washington Post by Rachel held Evans that one of my youth leaders sent me this morning from April of 2015 called, Want millennials back in the pews? Stop trying to make church look ‘cool.’
You should read it. I admit, it is another post about millennials, but it’s a relevant one. It’s one reminding us (those of us working with young people and in the church in general) that young people don’t need concert-like churches that grab for their attention or media managers for churches to bring people in, but that young people need something concrete and authentic. If your authentic and concrete church is like a U2 concert, then so be it, that’s great. Some people really need and respond to that. But if your church isn’t something that connects Christians today to the first Christians of old, then you’ve terribly missed the mark. I’m afraid that even those of us in “traditional” churches have as well.
As I read part of this book this morning in the lobby of the Toyota dealership, I found myself agreeing and disagreeing with the writer here and there. He’s an evangelical, I’m a mainline liberal reformed protestant and pretty far from evangelical. But his premise of the book is spot on: so many don’t necessarily know what’s in the Bible. (To be totally honest, I didn’t know Joel was a book in the Bible until I got to seminary…) For many, it’s become about making one’s faith fit into God’s message, not the other way around. We have to start with God, not ourselves.
Between these two readings, I’ve come to this conclusion: RHD is right, we don’t need to market the church and we shouldn’t be. And Andrews is correct as well, we need biblical foundations for the frozen chosen in the back pews as well as those who find themselves jumping and screaming at rock concert-like services.
What we don’t need are churches that pull people in with flashy lights and preach abstinence and call for sin-fixing. What we need are faithful communities that remind us that we have a responsibility to all of God’s creation, not just fellow Christians or only to God. We need churches that connect us to the Christians of old. We need active faith that address the needs of today’s world.
In other words, we need authentic churches with people being their authentic selves. I have no idea how to make all of that happen, but I’m sure trying.