So many from my generation are running as fast and as far away from church as they can… believers and non-believers alike. And really, who can blame them? With images of hate like Westboro Baptist Church, who would want to be affiliated with that?
There are so many lists and articles carefully articulating why my generation is leaving the church, but if you will allow me a moment, I’d like to share my perspective of why I’ve chosen to stay.
1) Fellowshipping with other Christians is a Biblically encouraged model.
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25 NLT)
Really, you know I could break out a few other verses and go on and on about this. But what I’d like to point out in this verse is not the “do not,” but rather, the “do”: …but encourage one another… Why should we continue meeting together? Because it encourages our faith. Because iron sharpens iron, and church is an excellent place to challenge your thinking, encourage your spirit, and be an encouragement to other believers in a similar place as yourself.
2) We have to be the change.
I’m not going to lie. The system is flawed. Many people come to church, act and behave one way, and then walk out the door and on to a completely different life. Let’s be real: I’m guilty of that very thing. And that’s ME. I’m one of the most transparent, honest people you’ll ever meet. But many churches have created an atmosphere that so strongly discourages imperfection that transparency feels unsafe. We’ve become so judgmental that instead of honestly pursuing faith together, we turn our gaze outward and find fault in those around us.
We MUST stop this dynamic. And because of that, we must be willing to be the ones who are transparent. It’s intimidating, but it is truly a worthy endeavor. Most of the time, transparency is met with falling walls. Sometimes, the walls crumble slowly. And sometimes those walls come crashing down immediately as that honesty and vulnerability become a literal lifeline to a hurting soul: “Oh, thank God–I’m not alone.”
3) For our children.
I want my kids to be raised in the very shadow of God’s love. Yet, even I (a 4th+ generation Baptist who was a music minister’s kid) feel ill-equipped to shoulder the burden of my children’s religious education by myself. Allowing my children to be involved with church gives them the opportunity to hear about God’s love from other people’s perspectives. (It most certainly does not replace my role in leading them towards faith, but that’s another blog post in and of itself.)
Being involved in church also greatly extends your family. At our church in Irving, TX (Oakview Baptist Church), we had such a deep connection with so many from the church that I felt like I was moving away from family when we left. We had surrogate grandmothers to spare. That nursery loved my babies like they were their own, without the slightest reservation. We still go and visit them every chance we get, and my kids STILL remember Ms. Susan… because she loved them from the deepest part of her heart.
So that’s that… my simple thoughts on an extremely complicated subject. Is any church perfect? No. Most certainly not. But I challenge you–go. Be the change we need for the sake of the next generation. Look past those who are unkind, cynical, and false, and choose to see the dear, sweet people who are there. They are always there, waiting for someone who is willing to come alongside them and encourage them in their faith.