*Disclaimer: I don’t pretend to be an expert on church or religion. These are just random thoughts that I’ve been mulling over for the past few days.*
One of the things that I’m appreciating about the past few years is the fact that I’ve been blessed with having another MK/TCK as a roommate who also has a strong faith background. However, at the same time, I’ve also been amazingly fortunate to be able to develop relationships with people who do not come from that faith background. Whether atheist, agnostic, or just non-practicing, I’ve built relationships with many. As you can imagine, it’s something that doesn’t happen very often at a Christian college. If someone isn’t a Christian, then it’s not really talked about publicly due to social pressures. That’s not meant to be a criticism, it just…is. And I love my college years.
But as I’ve talked to some of the people I’ve gotten to know over the past couple of years, it’s been fascinating to see many of the perceptions and impressions that they maintain toward religion and Christianity. Over the past few days in particular, I’ve realized just how fortunate I am. And I’m not talking about the living in the top 1% of wealth in the world kind of fortunate (although that is indeed true…). I’m talking about how fortunate I am to have grown up in environments that not only teach Biblical truth, but also have taught me to think critically and be aware. I’m often taken aback by the number of people I come across who are unable to back up their beliefs with Scriptural truth. Maybe I’m just falling back on Protestant roots here with Martin Luther’s sola scriptura cries, but I can’t imagine having a vibrant faith without being able to read for yourself what God preached to be true.
A lot of people talk about the lack of young people in church. I don’t have a study to cite, but before I went to college (and even in college), people would talk about people going to college leaving the church, and then maybe coming back when they start a family because they want to raise their children to be morally upstanding people. A lot of people also talk about being missional–spreading the Word, sharing God’s truth. And one of the most obvious ways for people to do this would seem to be through inviting people to truth.
But really, when thinking about the college grad population, is that really the most effective way to spread the gospel?
Think about it. A college grad/young professional starting his/her career walks into a church where they don’t know anyone. And beyond that, there’s basically no guidance for them. Church is a whole separate culture that, if you haven’t been raised in it, is hard to understand. And even if you were raised in the culture, that doesn’t necessarily mean you know why the service proceeds the way it does. The newcomer would probably catch to stand and sit on cue, to shake hands and smile, sing songs in the hymnal, and watch awkwardly as the rest of the congregation took communion. Granted, God could move in their heart to go to the altar, but it seems like most people have such a solidified impression of church by that point in their lives that they wouldn’t get past the doors to allow that to happen.
Young people crave community. They crave it to the extent that they spend hours on Facebook or Twitter so that they feel connected with people whether they are close in proximity or not. They follow blogs to be inside the thoughts of other people. They go to parties to be with other people.
Young people are also, more often than not, very keen on questioning. At least the people who I’ve hung out with. But there’s not a chance for them to do that in a church service, especially if they don’t understand something in the sermon. And if the rest of the congregation hasn’t been reading the Bible, they can’t turn to the person next to them after service is over and ask.
So if we’re really serious about reaching young professionals of the world, why not do something differently? Why not create a space for people to ask questions? Not in a Sunday school class that’s so formal with an agenda. Not during a church service. And not designed ONLY for people with a churched background…but everyone.
Because I really don’t think people who are searching for a faith just want fancy lights and an electric guitar on stage. I think they crave an authentic community and honest questions.