I’ve asked myself often if what we do as a church resonates with those outside the church? For those who know me, you know I question many things. It’s in my nature. Long held beliefs many times are there simply because we never questioned why. It reminds me of an old story about a family who had a tradition of baking a ham each Christmas that was passed down for three generations. Each year as the family prepped the ham for baking they end would be trimmed and tossed in the trash before it went in the oven. When the fourth generation asked why, Mom stated “Grandma always did it and that’s how we learned”. When the youngest went to her Great-Grandma to ask the secret of the trimmed end, the elderly lady replied “My baking pan was too small and it was the only way the darn thing would fit!”
The application here is obvious. Many times, we simply never ask. We assume. Church culture is very much like this. We create an environment based on what we see as the ‘necessary’ elements. These generally include worship teams, children’s ministry, teen ministry, college ministry, young adult ministry, senior saints ministry and the list could be endless. Many church planting organizations now have assessments that their prospective ’employees’ take to see if they are truly ‘called’..as if a test can determine this. I’m certain Moses would have failed miserably at these assessments given the rousing reception he received when he first let on that God had called him to free a nation from slavery. That’s not to say that some people truly are not fit for the task but again, we have created a culture where we now have expectations of the ‘team’ sent to establish a new church or revitalize an existing one.
In my own experience, I can say this…My kids were disinterested in youth groups. All of them. I’ve been in ministry now for a long time and can tell you, I had some very bright folks leading our youth but in the end, I saw what many others did…that a generation of children schooled by this ministry left the church at alarming rates, many never had a strong faith and the reason was obvious…The faith was lacking in daily life not only in their lives but in the family as a whole. Kids tend to reach for what they see in their parents or the adults in their lives who have influence. If it’s not real to those folks when the assaults of daily life hit, it’s not going to be real for them either. In academic terms, we have a sociological issue to deal with. Something that has developed over many years…not just the past 10-20 years. The problem began not long after Jesus ascended to heaven and has only begun rapidly picking up steam in the past one hundred years or so.
This issue has led many to write articles lamenting the church. I’m now inundated with opinion pieces titles “10 things wrong with the church”, “Why your kids are leaving the faith”, “College kids are moving away from home and church” and similar titles. You get the idea. The response to much of this has been the changing culture of the 21st Century. Millennials are now beginning to enter their prime adult years and this sociological problem has grown like a cancer. Lack of biblical understanding and pandering to a populace that yearns to be entertained has grown a narcissistic view of the church that leads to new interpretations of Scripture by changing leaders like Rob Bell and others who claim that their view of Scriptural truth has matured and broadened over the years. Many young women look to writers like Rachel Held Evans who is pointing the finger at more conservative Gen Xer’s like me and telling us our views have to change in order to bring her generation back to a church building. As she does, many in today’s society join her and are beginning to adopt her views as the new norm for our culture moving forward.
Which leads me back to my original question. What are we doing as a church that resonates with those outside of it? Is it truth we seek or approval? Is it a large crowd to manage who have expectations of the church to provide entertaining Jesus activities for their children at all stages of their lives? Or are we seeking to grow as a family in God’s Word, relying on IT and not catchy sermon titles and graphics to grab our attention for 20 minutes and then go home? DISCLAIMER: I am not criticizing any church or it’s model of ministry. Many would question my own and have their critiques. What I am asking is the question “Why are we here?” The prophet Amos dealt with a similar culture in his day and was called out by religious leaders when he foretold the woes God had pronounced on a people who had gotten enamored with themselves, their titles, and their lifestyle and had forgotten Him. He was a simple man with a fiery demeanor. My favorite of the minor prophets as our bible labels them.
I’ll have more to say on this at a later time…For now…I just wanted to ask the question and if any wish to reply, feel free to leave me a comment. Constructive replies will be posted. Those trolling for a fight, will be deleted.