So, I’m still thinking about the church and change. I’ve been trying to be a bit more cautious about how I frame the discussion as per the last two posts, but the issues are still fresh.
In the course of the discussion, a couple of FaceBook friends helped underscore the problem by their comments. The truth is, we nearly always equate “church” with how we do church; how we try to organize a meeting or govern people. The idea of “church” being characterized by a relationship with a living person — Jesus is alive — has become lost under layers of tradition that we are loathe to discard. In my recent experience with “professional ministry” — a clear oxymoron, in my opinion — I found that the expectation among a significant number of the people is that new people (visitors) need to just deal with what they find when they walk through the door. As a community, we aren’t obligated to accommodate them. They will either like us or not.
Based on attendance, “they” didn’t like us, which by the above standard, is really “their” problem. We just need to keep doing what we’re doing only more aggressively.
I would argue, though, that if our organization, pattern, system or tradition is so central that people don’t stay around long enough to witness people living from the centerpiece of their life together, namely Jesus, then we are quite missing the point of our existence.
This derives from Patterson’s point: human tradition ought to be modified if it places a barrier in front of those for whom Jesus Christ went to great pains to come for. My Facebook friend, Anthony, sent me a link by email about the exodus of younger people from the church. The report was about recent research that identifies the reasons teens and young adults do not identify with the message of many churches. (The research is done through The Barna Group and is outlined in a book titled You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith. See also, UnChristian by Kinnamon and Lyons. Links below).
Fundamentally, the message of Jesus is being lost under layers of tradition. It is as though the gospel has been outsourced to a call center where customer service is handled by people with accents so heavy that they can’t be understood. This is a tragedy. The message of Jesus, His teaching and His life, is challenging, practical and winsome. It has been translated to nearly every language in the world, yet many Christian communities are unable to translate it into the language of the next generation because it is a language that they choose not to learn.
I need to think about how to do that…
- Here’s the article my friend sent me.
- Here’s a link to a video by the author of the books I mentioned.