A few weeks ago I responded in a blog conversation with a fellow young adult who was exploring what he felt were reasons young adults are so disengaged with the church these days. This was one of my responses. For the full blog conversation go here.
I confess, my attachment to the church has much more personal than theological and Biblical roots. However, there is clearly scriptural encouragement to live in community… I mean look at Acts. That was life together. They encouraged one another, learned together, and had their conflicts. Personally, Christian community, specifically a church community, was the first place I actually came to understand what it meant to belong. Investing in something bigger than myself, in more than just my own spiritual journey, and allowing others to really come alongside me and for community members to allow me to walk alongside them changed my understand of who God is, and what the church should look and feel like. The experience of belonging in a community of Christ followers helped me realize what it could mean to belong in Christ.
Unfortunately, this deep sense of belonging, of being cared for is hard to do and hard to accept. We all have our scars, and baggage. Some church communities can be judgmental, emotionally manipulative, hateful, and insensitive. You put enough people in pain and/or denial in one place, and that’s what can happen. I don’t think the potential of being hurt lets us off the hook of experiencing God in community.
As young adults, we really need to sort out why we don’t want to go to church or why we don’t like that community. Do we feel unheard or invisible? Do we feel like there is space for us? Do we feel challenged? Do we feel cared for? Is there space for us to serve and be served? Once we start figuring out why on earth we are so resistant to go to church we need to start talking about it with people who listen and respond.
A few years ago I found myself so cynical that I had become resistant to almost all things Christian (I had a horrible experience with a church). Lent season was quickly approaching, and I thought it would be an interesting experiment to give up bitterness. Every Christian experience that came my way I tried to withhold my cynicism and simply take part (example here) . It was uncomfortable and difficult. Two months later I met a pastor who had read my blog about my experiment and invited me to be part of a church plant. That church plant happened to be the church community that I came to truly understand what belonging in Christ meant.
Honestly, I still find that I’m pretty cynical. I’m quick to question the motives of a church, I’m always asking questions, and I probably push some pastors buttons. Yet, I am ridiculously hopeful. I’m hopeful that church communities can become places of honesty, accountability, love, and belonging to everyone willing to journey alongside each other.