I couldn’t disagree more. I just recently read this article about why young people are leaving the church. It is not the first of its kind and is most definitely not the last. We are getting the message that what young people want is a church that is catered to them. They want lights and sounds and fanfare. And that we, as a church, should come in to the 21st and accommodate them.
I couldn’t disagree more. This is not what young people want or need.
I am 26 years old and have been a member of the Church of Christ, well, my whole life. I grew up living and breathing the church and having the same dissatisfactions with the church that you discuss in your article. You’re right. Its outdated. Its based on the past and its hard to let go of traditions. And that’s frustrating. But the thing that is making young people leave the church is not the lack of “wow!” when you walk in the building. Its the lack of “wow!” we see in the church members’ lives.
Growing up the in the Church of Christ, we were given a lot of information. It’s true. We were taught about who Jesus was and how he acted. We read beautiful stories of God transforming people’s lives…over and over again. Then, we were old enough, and it was time to take action. I, personally, couldn’t help but get on the mission field. Its what I was called to do. And its very biblical. After college, I left to spend two years in Germany telling people about Christ.
In Germany, the churches are small and atheism is rampant. The biggest Church of Christ congregation was about 50 people. This was a big change from my church of 2,000 in Texas. Yet, the community found in this small group of people was amazing. The kids were all friends with each other. They spent holidays together and always knew it and felt it when someone was missing from worship. There were no YouTube videos or 3 screen setups or lights to dim. We just had a Bible, a songbook, and our voices. There was no money for anything else. In fact, this church right now can barely raise the money needed to build a new church building that is inevitable based on the age of the building and growth of the congregation.
The church in Germany was full of people who had given up a lot, some including their families, in order to follow Christ. And of course, they are churches like this all around the globe, in places where its much more dangerous even. Yet, the gift of Christ was so precious, so transforming to them, that they were willing to sacrifice whatever it took to follow him.
And how did the transformation occur? Through missionaries. Missionaries who were living it. They had given up their comfortable lives in America, in order to live as foreigners, learn the language, and minister to the people. Their willingness to sacrifice meant that they had something special. They had something worth sacrificing for and the people they were ministering to could see it. There are hundreds of thousands of stories like this from so many missionaries around the world.
And that’s the difference.
Young people, millenials, don’t want fanfare. We don’t want a three screen set up with Youtube videos to experience Christ. We want to be in a room with people who are willing to give up everything in order to be Christ to the world. We want to be in fellowship with doers not talkers. Our language is not lights and sounds- its action. Actions speak louder than words. We want to be a part of a church that is so sold out for Christ that they can’t help but live every moment proclaiming His glory to the world. We want a church that shouts the name of Christ from the rooftops. We want a church that celebrates Christ through sickness and in health. We want to see the fruits of the things that we are talking about.
We are the most educated generation on record. We know that studying is important. We have no problem taking in information. But that information is false, if the lives that have received that information are not transformed. We don’t want it to be false. We want to be the first century church that risked everything, because what they believed in was so real and true and good.
We don’t need a three screen set up to meet Christ, if we are meeting him in our brothers and sisters every day.
So, to the older generation, if you want to keep your kids and grandkids in the church, think about what it is God is calling you to sacrifice. Not everyone is called to be a missionary. But, everyone is called to something. Everyone is called to take up their cross daily and follow Christ. No matter the sacrifice. Stop talking about it. Start doing it. And your children will follow.
Small Disclaimer: Based on the response to this article, I wanted to just give a small disclaimer. I am in no way opposed to using technology as a tool. Also, I have the highest respect for James Nored and the suggestions he makes in his article. This article came from a place of wanting the younger generation to be represented in a different light. And if you couldn’t tell, I do feel quite passionately about it, but do not intend to disregard anyone else’s opinions, rather just be part of the conversation. Thanks so much for reading and responding!