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Exposing The Emerging Church – No Church At All
Bass reverberates through the auditorium floor as a heavily bearded worship leader pauses to invite the congregation, bathed in the light of two giant screens, to tweet using #JesusLives. The scent of freshly brewed coffee wafts in from the lobby, where you can order macchiatos and purchase mugs boasting a sleek church logo. The chairs are comfortable, and the music sounds like something from the top of the charts. At the end of the service, someone will win an iPad.
Many churches have sought to lure millennials back by focusing on style points: cooler bands, hipper worship, edgier programming, impressive technology. Yet while these aren’t inherently bad ideas and might in some cases be effective, they are not the key to drawing millennials back to God in a lasting and meaningful way. Young people don’t simply want a better show. And trying to be cool might be making things worse.
Taking Christ out of Christianity
My friend and blogger Amy Peterson put it this way:
“I want a service that is not sensational, flashy, or particularly ‘relevant.’ I can be entertained anywhere. At church, I do not want to be entertained. I do not want to be the target of anyone’s marketing. I want to be asked to participate in the life of an ancient-future community.”
Millennial blogger Ben Irwin wrote: “When a church tells me how I should feel (‘Clap if you’re excited about Jesus!’), it smacks of inauthenticity. Sometimes I don’t feel like clapping. Sometimes I need to worship in the midst of my brokenness and confusion — not in spite of it and certainly not in denial of it.”
When I left church at age 29, full of doubt and disillusionment, I wasn’t looking for a better-produced Christianity.
I was looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity: I didn’t like how gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were being treated by my evangelical faith community.
I had questions about science and faith, biblical interpretation and theology. I felt lonely in my doubts. And, contrary to popular belief, the fog machines and light shows at those slick evangelical conferences didn’t make things better for me. They made the whole endeavor feel shallow, forced and fake.
****My Reply Here: A truer, more authentic Christianity is to follow the Christ of the Bible, not of our own making or want. Jesus died for all. He died for my sin while I was still a sinner.
He calls me now to repentance, to walk in newness of life, regenerated, forgiven. He tells me to “sin no more”. The homosexual people are sinners like me, if they repent and turn, like me, that are saved. For us both to go on in our sin is not to truly be saved, not regenerated.****
In other words, a church can have a sleek logo and Web site,
but if it’s judgmental and exclusive, if it fails to show the love of Jesus to all,
millennials will sniff it out. Our reasons for leaving have less to do with style and image and more to do with substantive questions about life, faith and community. We’re not as shallow as you might think.
****My Reply Here: Again, a Jesus of our own making. The Jesus of the Bible was love and He was judgement. There are absolutes. To not understand this, is to engage in another gospel or not a gospel at all.****
You can be dazzled by a light show at a concert on any given weekend, but church is the only place that fills a sanctuary with candlelight and hymns on Christmas Eve. You can snag all sorts of free swag for brand loyalty online, but church is the only place where you are named a beloved child of God with a cold plunge into the water. You can share food with the hungry at any homeless shelter, but only the church teaches that a shared meal brings us into the very presence of God.
What finally brought me back, after years of running away, wasn’t lattes or skinny jeans; it was the sacraments. Baptism, confession, Communion, preaching the Word, anointing the sick — you know, those strange rituals and traditions Christians have been practicing for the past 2,000 years. The sacraments are what make the church relevant, no matter the culture or era. They don’t need to be repackaged or rebranded; they just need to be practiced, offered and explained in the context of a loving, authentic and inclusive community.
But I believe that the sacraments are most powerful when they are extended not simply to the religious and the privileged, but to the poor, the marginalized, the lonely and the left out. This is the inclusivity so many millennials long for in their churches, and it’s the inclusivity that eventually drew me to the Episcopal Church, whose big red doors are open to all — conservatives, liberals, rich, poor, gay, straight and even perpetual doubters like me.
****My Reply Here: And sinners like me but not living in my sin, not perpetuating the decision day by day that Jesus died to save me from. Living in regeneration, a sinner, saved by grace. Living as acceptable to Him because of Christ’s blood shed for me.
I applaud the “millennials” out there, keep up the rage, search for truth. I pray for the gift of faith and understanding to be yours.
Jesus said “go, and sin no more”.****
Want millennials back in the pews? Stop trying to make church ‘cool.’
By Rachel Held Evans April 30, 2015