Its widely popular to talk about how young adults, from my generation on down, (I’m 34, ouch, that hurts to write) are leaving the church. It’s a mass exodus of immense proportions (is that redundant?). I’ve seen a lot of bloggers talking about their reasons for walking away from church, so I thought I’d share the other side of the coin: five reasons why I haven’t walked away from church.
1) It’s deeply engrained into my identity.
Dad was a pastor, which made me a pastor’s kid. And while many PKs grow up to hate church and church people, I never did. Dad was always there when we needed him, and I never felt as if the church came before us. So I never resented the church, even when the sheep bit the shepherd, which happened all too often. And as a PK, when the doors of the church were open, we were there. Sunday morning without a church service would feel completely unnatural. Its hard to fathom life without church. Its a part of my identity.
2) I believe in COMMUNITY.
I hear many who believe they don’t need “church” to be a Christian, and I admit that I agree with that statement. But while I don’t need church to be a Christian, I find that it sure does help. Even when fellow churchgoers become backstabbers, and legalism overwhelms love, and concern for biblical context is overlooked, I am still a part of a Christian family who loves me and is concerned about my Christian walk. When I cry, they cry with me. When I hurt, they pray for healing. And when I need, they give. That leaves me with accountability. It also gives me an outlet to release the giftings God has placed in my life. And the giftings are not for me, they are for the body of Christ. How can we exercise our giftings in the body if we aren’t part of one?
3) I need to remember that it’s not always about me.
I was raised in church, and while things undoubtedly went on from time-to-time that I disliked, overall, I feel it instilled a sense of responsibility deep within me for the needs and concerns of others. There were times when I was not allowed to wear shorts to a picnic because it might offend some of the older generations. (It was either that, or the fact that shorts in the 80s were like man-thongs with white trim. Come to think of it, I’d be offended, too.) There were times when I was not allowed to see movies because of the whole stumblingblock idea. (Or wait, maybe it was because of the R rating. Can’t quite remember.) I hated this in my youth, but it made me realize that I’m a part of something bigger than myself. Christianity is not just about ME, MY beliefs, and MY convictions. It’s about US–the body of Christ. It’s about caring for one another’s needs and helping and loving. So I didn’t wear shorts. It wouldn’t have hindered my walk with Christ (those shorts could have hindered my pride, though), but it might have hindered somebody else’s, and that made me realize that I needed to always be aware of the needs and convictions of others, even when I didn’t agree with them. It’s not always about ME.
4) My kids
We have 3 children now. My son is 7, my identical twin girls are 5. We attend a small church. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the bigger churches. We know everyone by name. If we miss a service, people notice. Sometimes I feel like I wear WAY too many hats from week to week. But my kids like it. The older generation loves on them when they walk in the door. It’s like they have ten sets of grandparents when we come to church. Somebody always has a gift for them. My son often gets to stand next to the drummer and rattle an egg shaker during praise and worship. My girls helped lead worship during our last youth service. Grandma gets to teach them in Sunday school every week. They are young, but they are a part, and they are learning about God, Jesus, the Bible, and about Christian love and fellowship. They are also intricately connected to the older generation. Its a part of my identity, and I want it to be a part of theirs, too. In a society that is growing more anti-Christian every day, I want them to know the importance of being a part of Christian community.
5) For a better future
Sure, sometimes things happen that I thoroughly disagree with in church. Fights erupt over ridiculously petty things. People get upset over nothing. Too much emphasis is placed on performance. And if I had written the books of our doctrine, some sections might read just a bit differently. But when I look into the New Testament, I see one thing that jumps out at me over and over and over again: Christians stuck together. They ate together. They broke bread together. They met together often. They discussed their beliefs, and studied the Word, and worshiped together, and prayed together. That word TOGETHER just keeps popping up as I write. And so, Christian community is not something I want to disconnect myself from. It has always been a part of my life, and it always will be.
And here’s where I think I may differ from many in my generation who have walked away. Some say they walk away because there’s just too much that they disagree with. But I see it this way: I love the church, and I love it enough to stick it out, even through the rough times (and believe me, sometimes it gets bad). And if she needs to change, then I’m going to see to it that the change happens. I don’t want to walk. I want to stay and fight. I want to make sure that the church walks into the future equipped to successfully pass the Faith on to the next generation–my kids and my grandkids. Those who keep walking in and walking out because they disagree with stuff will never bring about change. If you want to change the system, you don’t do it from the outside. You do it from the inside. So I stay–to help bring about a church that can effectively reach the generations to come; to help make it better.
It troubles me when I read of fellow Christians who hop from church to church, searching for one that fits the belief system they have developed for themselves. They just want a good “fit’; a good “match”. But they never find one. Why? Because they don’t stick around long enough to help bring about the change they seek. It’s a cycle that won’t break until we are willing to hunker down and fight the good fight. It’s not about being seen. Its not about being “right.” It’s not about tradition. It’s about being a part of a community. It’s about loving one another through the good and the bad. It’s about encouragement, and sharing, and connecting, and giving. It’s about fighting for something I believe in. I believe in church, so I go, week after week, and I fight for it. I want her to live. I want her to be relevant. I want her to reach our society and bring about a Christ-like change in our culture–a culture that wants truth, but just doesn’t know where to find it.
I’ve always believed that Truth is best found in numbers, not in isolation. What better place to find it than in the middle of church?
Whowoulda thunk it? Truth… found in church. Crazy, right?
See you Sunday?
Oops, wrong punctuation.
See you Sunday.For more ideas on church, read this: What Happened To Church?