According to Barna, at about age 15, people are leaving churches in record numbers. This must cause us to evaluate what we are doing in our churches, in light of the 6 reasons 20/30 somethings gave below, each reason is linked with my evaluation of it.
The reasons are
- Reason #1 – Churches seem overprotective.
- Reason #2 – Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
- Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
- Reason #4 – Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
- Reason #5 – They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
- Reason #6 – The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.
Now, we will evaluate another reason people walk away from church.
Reason #5 – They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
Younger Americans have been shaped by a culture that esteems open-mindedness, tolerance and acceptance. Today’s youth and young adults also are the most eclectic generation in American history in terms of race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, technological tools and sources of authority. Most young adults want to find areas of common ground with each other, sometimes even if that means glossing over real differences. Three out of ten young Christians (29%) said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and an identical proportion felt they are “forced to choose between my faith and my friends.” One-fifth of young adults with a Christian background said “church is like a country club, only for insiders” (22%).
Augusta National Golf course makes headlines each year hosting “The Masters” for it’s heritage, prestige, challenge….and it’s men only membership policy. For the most part, I completely support the rights of businesses and private groups to set their own membership policies, regardless of what they are. As such, they will stand or fall on their policies, because people will vote with their money, effort and time.
But you did not learn Christ this way….or maybe you did?
As we understand the Church, it is not a building, a program, a pastor, or the people who follow him.
No, the Church is a body (1 Cor 12:12+). It has hand’s, feet, eyes and parts that are …less…honorable-and they are indispensable (verse 23, 24). The church also has a head, and that is Christ, and Christ alone. He made the Church, bought the Church, married the Church, and washes the Church.
In all of these, the Church is accountable to Christ.
As to her membership, the Church has the strictest standards-life commitment, and unwavering devotion to Jesus as King.
I was not surprised to note the uniqueness of the above reason for people leaving the local church. Here it is in summary-
The local church I attended acted as if I did not look, act, talk and behave like them; then I had no communion with them or Christ. I believe in Jesus, but his people make me wonder…I believe my faith is personal, so I practice it privately-without a church.
If you look at the stats above, the issue regarding exclusivity was in regards to the “churchiness” of the church, not Jesus being the only way to know God.
Yes, Church is for people like us, and only like us…but what are we?
1Co 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
The Church is filled with people who walked in the things above, and turned from them…regardless of who shows up in your local church.
All through this post, I’ve used “Church” and “church”-and they are different. The reason is that the first is that group of people who have sworn allegiance to Jesus as King and given their life to Him, seeking to obey His Word. They are His Church. They are of every race, culture, gender, political party, country, and generation.
The other, is lower case because it is not necessarily the same as the first. Perhaps it’s managed by those who have, “paid their dues” by growing old in a specific building (but never maturing in Christ), or is masking a heart of self righteousness with good deeds, or strong morals.
The local church often has very low membership standards; walk and aisle, say a prayer, just kinda show up, or spend the first 10 years or so of your life coming about half the time, and “Tadaaaa” you’re a member for life!!!
- Christ is it’s head
- Scripture is not only authoritative, but applicable.
- Repentance and Faith alone define membership, thus church is made up of people who have a past. If you don’t struggle with sin, church isn’t for you.
- Members are expected and accountable to behave biblically.
-it is not Church, it is a golf club-without the golf. It’s a group of moral people, who are more focused on themselves ,their desires, and their preferences- than Christ’s mission.
If that were all I knew about God’s people, the Church, I’d want no part either.
Yes, Church is for people like us…and only like us. People who pledge their life to Jesus as King. People who struggle against sin. People of every tribe, nation, and tongue-who will use their passions, gifts, and personalities to exalt Jesus in a biblical way. People who realize what they were apart from Jesus, and are so loving that they are honest about how Jesus changed their life. People who are willing to change the ‘feel’ of their local church because they want see the world know Jesus—not be like them.
Church is very exclusive, however, it’s Christ who sets the membership standards. If we take away from those, we cheapen the Gospel. If we add to them, we are legalistic and put our standards above Scripture. That is dangerous.
Church must be nothing less that what Christ called it to be, and nothing more either.
Friend, don’t be like my personality or style (or lack of either)
be like Jesus.