When I hear the word “church”, I think of little old ladies who bake delicious cookies and wear cardigans all year because they’re always cold. Or I think of a glorified rock concert. The worship team has sprung “Moves Like Jagger”, and they seem to be more focused about entertaining than glorifying God. It’s silly. It’s kitschy. And I don’t buy it. It’s not sincere.
The Church is a hard thing. It’s not just a place. It’s a group of people. Many people attend church for community, for accountability, and to grow in their faith.
But on the flipside, many people outside of the Church don’t like churches and wouldn’t be caught dead in one – not even for their own funeral.
I was working with a group of artists recently and our rehearsal space was inside of a church. Referencing the space, one artist noted (cynically), “Only old people attend church. They’re the ones who have to worry about life after death.”
It hurt to hear it, but this guy was right. Today’s youth are not attending church. They don’t find it relevant or interesting. In short, they don’t need it.
LifeWay Research found that seven out of ten Protestants who went to church in high school quit attending church by the age of 23. And the Barna Group says that six in ten people will leave the Church permanently over an extended period starting at the age of 15. These are startling statistics, but they accurately reflect the attitude of this generation that says, “The Church is hypocritical, judgmental, and anti-gay.” And in some ways that’s true. In a lot of ways, I would agree with them.
I attend church, but I’m embarrassed by the imprint of my own institution. I hate admitting that I go to church because I’m afraid that it associates me with knitting circles, a political agenda, or a bunch of pretentious haters.
The Church says that we should follow God and live a certain way, but then we don’t actually live that way. We aren’t living the way we’re supposed to be, myself included. We’re hypocrites.
The Church also has the stereotype of sharing what we believe from a “You’re Wrong and I’m Right” mentality. Shouldn’t we leave that to the politicians and hot heads on Fox News?
And the Church seems to be more focused on their PowerPoint presentations than on the people in their congregations and the condition of their hearts.
As someone who looks at their iPhone all day, I can tell you that a PowerPoint presentation is not impressive. It’s just not. I mean, isn’t there an app for that?
Upon further examination, I realize – as a judgmental hypocrite – that the Church is filled with people like me because it’s filled with humans. And humans are sinful.
Sinful beings will say and do things that are contrary to their beliefs. That’s why we, the Church, humans, you, me… WE NEED JESUS.
He loves us knowing that we’ll make those mistakes. He saved us from those mistakes.
You can’t blame the Church. We can’t even look in the mirror and blame ourselves before we feel Jesus tapping us on the shoulder reassuring us that He will never blame us; and that our sins are paid for.
It’s unfair to stop going to church because it’s filled with hypocrites. Look at any human being and you’ll find a hypocrite, but look at Jesus and you’ll find a Savior.
Maybe for every disgusted and disappointed look you take at the Church, at ourselves, at our hypocrisy and at our sin, you need to take five looks at our Savior, Jesus.
And yet, even if all of us church-going hypocrites came out of the closet and said: “We’re sorry. We’re sorry for saying one thing and doing another. We’re sorry for judging you and telling you that you’re wrong.” – even if we acknowledged our faults, we’d still find that today’s youth still aren’t attending church.
Why? I think it’s because the Church isn’t doing a good job at telling Jesus’ story. When we get wrapped up in what’s hot and trending, what’s eye-catching and visual, or what’s newsworthy and politically stimulating, we forget who’s story we’re actually telling.
Jesus commands us in Matthew 22:37-39
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
If we remember the root of God’s story, we immediately see that Jesus calls us to be loving – loving our God and loving our neighbor.
This is the story we need to tell.
This is the story the Church needs to reflect.
Because this is the story that today’s youth will hear.
The true story.
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