It is 11 am on a Sunday morning. 3 minutes late, as usual, I slip into a middle-back pew and finger my keys restlessly. Did I really need to dress up before noon on a weekend?
I’m a college-educated young professional. I love Christ, but sometimes I feel badly because I’m not so excited about His church. I scan the congregants. As usual, mostly senior citizens and a few young families. A few sullen-looking teenagers. These people don’t know me, I think regretfully. They’ll never get me. Does God really need me here?
59 minutes later, we are all out the door. I am thinking the same thing I think most weeks – really, I didn’t get much from that. The awareness that my deepest moments of worship will come this afternoon, on a training run in breezy sunshine with my iPod and audio Bible, nags me.
I find in the gospels (Matthew 16:18) that the gates of hell will never overcome the church of Christ. This excites me, because I do not have this guarantee for any other entity in my life. I don’t want to resent the church. I’m trying to get excited about it – I’ve been trying for years – but excitement is slow in coming.
In Christian periodicals I notice an influx of diagnostic books, authored mostly by middle-aged stalwarts, on my generation and church. Where are the young adults? Where have they gone? How can we bring them back?
It’s true: my generation, the Millenials, aren’t in church for the most part. Why the lack of enthusiasm? If you were to ask me, I’d take a deep breath and reply something like this:
- Because my soul cries for a huddle during half time or a war-time briefing from the Commander, yet church feels more like a retirement home social club.
- Because all or most of the spiritual breakthroughs in my life have happened, not because of the church, but almost in spite of it.
- Because something in me knows that if Christianity is true, it is the most radical and the most demanding thing in the whole world. But attending church is the easiest thing I do all week. Shouldn’t it be the most intellectually challenging, the most emotionally honest, and the most spiritually enriching activity of my week? I’m not saying I want this from church, but something tells me I need it.
- Because though I hunger for community and acknowledge my need for accountability, I can find or create this apart from the church and the rationale for formal church membership has never been explained to me.
- Because I long to worship, but in church I hardly know how – I feel closest to my God when I am tired or needy or exuberant or thoughtful, in the forge of my everyday life.
- Because I long to connect with the Creator of heaven & earth, but they do not pray in church with this awe, and so secretly I wonder if they mean it.
- Because the people who teach me and who ask me hard questions and who I want to live like and learn from are outside of my church.
- Because they thought the music was becoming more hip, but I noticed that in any other context the lyrics would have been taken for an adolescent love song – infatuated without explanation, repetitive, simplistic, and whiny. I wanted lyrics that would challenge me and confuse me and teach me and catch me up in the grandeur of Almighty God.
- Because they do everything for me – I sing songs from the screen and I can even read the sermon from the screen and I stopped bringing my Bible because I didn’t even need it. If I wanted to be entertained I would have gone to a concert, and if I wanted a detached lecture, I could have stayed at school.
- Because the sermons and the doctrine didn’t so much make me think as they fed me other people’s thoughts.
- Because though I have a warm respect for the pastor, I do not want to be like him when I ‘grow up,’ and I would not want his marriage or his perspective or his demeanor.
- Because I know God said that those who know Him best plead the cause of the poor, deliver the afflicted, and defend the helpless (Jeremiah 22:16), but the people who lead in these efforts in my community and around the world are generally not triumphed, not supported, and not a priority in my church experience.
- Because though the majority of my Sunday school teachers and the church leaders and church members are precious senior citizens, their children and grandchildren seem to have gone missing along the way. I wonder where they are and what they saw that made them leave and why I should be expected to return before they do. And I wonder why I am the project and the prodigal and the lost sheep while they are never mentioned.
- Because the church talks about people who are “called into the ministry” or “called to preach” and asks me to support them, but my Bible says that everyone is called.
- Because I met, or perceived – rightly or wrongly – more hypocrites in the church than I sensed anywhere else.
- Because, everywhere else in life, if I want something, I am told how to get it, but in church, if I want something – to be married or to know the Lord’s will or to find the right job, for instance – I am told to wait on the Lord instead of being given an instruction manual. Surely Christianity is nothing, if it is not fiercely practical?
- Because everything is cloaked in platitudes. I hate platitudes. Although yes, I speak in them too. But I wish I didn’t.
- Because my parents were not enthusiastic about the church.
- Because my hard and frank questions are not answered with equal hardness and frankness.
- Because I am not expected to contribute to the intellectual climate of the church community, and I am not expected to work hard at the practical things, although being young and available I am the most able to work hard and being hungry intellectually I also have the most need to contribute.
- Because being a ‘missionary’ means going to Africa or South America forever, but few mention that my school and my workplace and my city need missionaries, too.
- Because no one has ever asked me to be, no one expects me to be, and if I were, everyone would be surprised.
This post was originally published July 18 2013. [/sociallocker]
Sarah Greek is a Missouri millennial with a passion for “the purpose of God” in her generation (Acts 13:36). She’s worked as a teen life & academic coach and in the state Capitol, and currently produces a radio show and counsels at a crisis pregnancy center.