I’m with you.
Not very long ago, I was one of you. Sitting in the
pew stadium-style seating, trying to pass the time in the darkness, wondering how many more times they can sing this same, inane refrains. Counting the the times the spotlight-loving, mic-hogging, hot shot pastor says the word “just” in each prayer.
“Why does every sermon end with the same cliches?”
“Why does he take so long to say basically nothing?”
“Why must he talk about sex so much? His mind must be in the gutter…”
“If this is what church is all about, I don’t want anything to do with it.”
Oh, I know what you’re probably thinking. Your budding faith is real, it’s there, and nobody can tell you any different. You feel Christ’s call on your life.
But you don’t see or hear Jesus in this space. And if he is here, nobody would know it in this clamor and darkness. Then when they leave, the noise still rings in their deafened ears, their eyes squint at the noonday sun, and nothing of substance seems to stick. It’s back to the same life, the same grind, and the same escapist role of religion in their lives.
You and I are on the same page.
Why do they keep herding you like sheep into this bombastic attempt at entertainment they call a “worship experience?” You hear the “adults” around you say they do church like this “to attract the young people.” If they only knew the effect “worship” actually had on your faith.
Let me be perhaps the first adult to affirm your thoughts, your gut reaction: you’re right. No matter what those youth “experts” say, church isn’t cool, it isn’t interesting, and it’s really not applicable to much of anything. The whole spectacle sucks. It’s usually shallow, hollow, and too focused on music. And what remains of any substance is disconnected, isolated, and awkward.
See, a few generations ago, some silly baby boomers, much like some of the silly people in your peer group, decided they wanted church to be fun. Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t totally their fault. Their world looked a lot different than the world in which their parents grew up. And the emergence of the teenage culture made those differences even more pronounced.
Some of their rebellion was well-founded. The rigidity about hairstyle and clothing and so forth, well, a lot of it was uptight and ridiculous. The social constructs of racism and sexism that ran rampant through many churches and denominations were abhorrent. There should have been no room in God’s church for prejudice and judgmentalism.
If that had been the end of it, maybe this conversation wouldn’t be necessary.
But they were the weak link between the riches of church history and us. When they came of age, when they entered adulthood, they found themselves stewards of timeless biblical, liturgical, architectural beauty. And they chucked it out almost entirely. In the decades since, they’re replaced it with ad hoc pseudo-liturgies, weekly rock concerts, and nondescript warehouses that look more like converted Wal-Marts than anything sacred.
Some of the Christians from this generation, certainly not all of them, but a lot, continue to perpetuate the lie about worship that says church needs to be fun. They’ve also been able to sell it to some of the younger folks.
But you and I both know that there are some things in life that aren’t meant to be fun all the time. As much as we all might moan and whine about it, we know the things in life most worthwhile are things that require much out of us. So it is with worship. So it is with the call of the gospel, which isn’t so concerned with being “seeker-sensitive” or “purpose driven.” No, it asks things of us that are hard, things that take discipline and fortitude, and call us to walk a narrow, isolated path.
Don’t wait for the church to admit it was wrong. It’s not going to happen any time soon. To do so would necessitate repentance from fifty years of folly, bad decisions, and overwhelming immaturity. It would require them in their advancing years to finally step up and be mature worshipers, wise people of faith. To their credit, a few of them have, and some others might follow.
Finally, look around at those friends who seem to be caught up in it. You know, the ones who always cry during the guitar riffs, the ones with their hands in the air, Most of them haven’t really bought it, either. They’re succumbing to a sinister, subversive form of peer pressure. In a few years, life will have gotten busy, and the jesusy entertainment just won’t work for them anymore. They’ll realize that Saturday night’s entertainment is waaaay better than Sunday morning’s, anyway. We all know that’s true. So if that’s the draw, the choice is clear.
But don’t worry, kids. There is something much greater out there. If you look hard enough, you will find churches that aren’t trying to cater to their ideas of what a youth needs. They will welcome you at the door with a smile, but walk a little further inside, and you’ll find yourself called to something much deeper and much more timeless. You’ll find people who still kneel and pray, you’ll find a script to follow, you’ll find reverence and preparation befitting the Creator’s presence. There will be symbols to remind God’s people of our need of grace. And you’ll find God’s presence in the gifts of bread and wine.
This formality of it all might seem different, maybe a little bit foreign in this day and age, but considering where you grew up, that’s not a bad thing, at all. And if you truly enter in with mind, body, and spirit, you’ll find communion with the saints of old, not the painful disconnect of the rock show church.
So push through the next few years. I know it’s hard. It’s so very, very hard. But don’t worry. The “church” that has numbed your senses all these years doesn’t need to be your forever faith home.
Be excited for what lies ahead. I’m already excited for you.
Your friend and fellow post-evangelical,