As a baby boomer, I see differences between people in my generation and millennials. I am the mom of two millennials and have church conversations with them all the time. With so many millennials leaving the church, I want my kids to continue to go, but the church needs to become more relevant to their lives. And actually, to mine as well. I struggle with many of the same issues they do when it comes to church and daily living.
My husband and I have tried very hard to listen to what is happening to millennials when it comes to church attendance. We have visited dozens of churches to find ones we can worship in as well. We finally ended up in one for “grown ups” as we like to say–no cool coffee bars, no dark lighting (I like to see in church) and no people on a stage in jeans. I’m not knocking those churches. We attended one of those before we moved that was terrific. Right now, I don’t want church to feel like an entertainment venue. I want to feel the awe and be surrounded by beauty and a sense of reverence. I love the pipe organ, the cathedral ceiling, the elevated pulpit for reading the Word. Thus, when we moved, we have returned to a very liturgical church that preaches from the Word. And we aren’t so different from millennials who are looking for something bigger and more sacred than being entertained on Sunday morning.
When I came across Rachel Held Evans blog on why millennials are leaving the church, I felt like she nailed it. Like me, millennials have plenty of opportunity to be entertained during the week and don’t want church as another performance to attend. They want to find Jesus, and feel like so much of what happens in church, misses Him. It is the substance of the church that needs changing, not the style.
According to Rachel’s blog, millennials want a church that…
1) Ends the culture wars
2) Calls a truce between science and faith (I’ve personally never understood the debate since God created all things. Science only confirms what He has created!)
3) Tells us what we stand for, not what we stand against (How about more on love, unity and reconciliation).
4) Where asking questions doesn’t always result in predetermined answers. With my kids, I haven’t found easy answers but we go back to Scripture and try to apply it to today as well as look at the life of Christ.
5) Isn’t politically focused, but Kingdom focused. Can I get an AMEN on that one!
6) Isn’t American centric and considers the importance of all nations. This doesn’t mean we don’t love our country, but we are not the center of the Universe.
7) Welcomes LBGT friends. I would add, loves them like Christ already does.
8) Expands holiness beyond sexuality and considers it in relation to the poor, oppressed, creation care, peacemaking and reconciliation.
I suspect, as Rachel notes, that you don’t have to be a millennial to resonate with this list. And please don’t misunderstand, I am not knocking churches that have an informal style, but substance matters. Ina world that is filled with uncertainty, I want my family to know Christ above everything else. How we present Him to all generations is important.
Yesterday I listened to another round of racial offense, this time located in the NFL. The story is basically this: A white football player went to a concert, starting drinking and made a racial slur, captured on video. Now, he is being taken to task by the media. Yet, his team, the Philadelphia Eagles, seem to be dealing with it.
But that isn’t enough. It’s time for the unmerciful to lambast their judgment on yet another flawed person and make sure his career and life are deeply impacted.
What’s going on here in this repeated pattern by media?
First, let me frame my remarks. Racial slurs, bullying and any unkind remarks are never OK. We have to do better at examining the prejudice and discrimination we hold in our hearts.
In fact, the Bible tells us that every careless word will be judged one day! Ouch!
But last time I looked, we are all flawed, some of us would say we are sinners, falling very short of the glory of God. We make mistakes, we say terrible things sometimes. What if we were videoed 24/7 in our families, on the job, etc.?
Media go too far and incites people to hang on to offense, not work through it. Especially the news pundants who rarely report but are big on their opinions.
This time around, I give Michael Vick, quarterback of the Eagles big props! His response was refreshing. Why? Because Vick has been the target of unrelenting media that tried their best to crucify him for his mistakes. Again, please hear me, what he did in his past with dog fighting was wrong. But Vick, I really believed, learned something from his mistakes and hopefully will continue to do so. His response last night was helpful and forgiving. People make mistakes, you deal with it and move on.
Vick said. “Riley is still my teammate. And he just stood in front of us as a man and apologized for what he said. And somewhere deep down, you have to find some level of respect for that. Riley wished he never said it.”
According to the Huffington Post, his brother Marcus Vick, went on a Twitter tirade, calling Riley all kinds of expletives. His tweets– angry, degrading, and hateful. Somehow, that is OK? Who is taking him to task for hate speech? Hate spewed back at a racist remark just revs up the hate. To Michael’s credit, he said he did not agree with his brother.
A mistake should not define the person for the rest of his or her life or we all are in trouble. Cast that stone at your brother and it will fly back in your face at some point.
Here’s a novel idea: How about media being part of the solution instead of problem? How about asking questions, conducting interviews with people like Vick, Tebow (yes I put them in the same sentence) and others who manage to find a way to forgive and keep moving forward. What about promoting reconciliation instead of constant anger and division that stirs up hate? Wait, that doesn’t help ratings! We prefer the out of control rantings of reality TV, where revenge, resentfulness and unforgiveness are glorified.
But for grace, so go I! We’ve all sinned. The important part is if we confess those sins, repent (change our ways) and walk in God’s grace. He is the only judge and jury on the state of our hearts. Our job is to accept the confession and forgive.
Was the racial slur offensive? Yes.
Was there an apology? Yes.
Should we forgive? Yes.
Does that mean that everything is great now? No, it means people need to address their prejudice and work on race relations.
Who truly changes hearts? God, not political correctness and certainly not the media!
What happened with the Pope’s comments, usually happens whenever any comment is made about homosexuality. It is taken out of context if it is not politically correct, and all attempts to polarize positions are made. In conversations about homosexuality, someone has decided there can be no gray, only black or white. And black or white means full acceptance or hate. There is no middle ground. Religious people are ridiculed who try to have the “hate the sin and love the sinner conversation.” In fact, that phrase has been labeled a mere platitude.
In my opinion, no real conversation can ever take place in this emotionally charged atmosphere of either being for or against homosexuality. Language creates meaning, it is socially constructed and when that construction excludes any morality context concerning homosexuality, the conversation is lost. It reverts to the black and white, either/or positions.
Ordinary people can do what the Pope did–love people, welcome them to the church, but hold to Scripture as sacred and above the opinions of man. They just can’t talk about it.
The pope talked about sin, forgiveness and being cleansed, basic tenets of Christian faith. He didn’t label anyone. He didn’t provide an argument for or against homosexuality. He didn’t judge. He mentioned that gay priests should be celibate, the same as hetereosexual priests. And media are astounded that his tone was loving. Why? This is what the love of Christ does to people. He reflected Christ.
Maybe we don’t see this reflection often enough among those who call themselves followers of Christ.
But to assume the Pope is somehow changing his theology goes too far. In the Catholic church’s doctrine, homosexual acts remain sinful-the same for all non-procreative sex.
What media reacted to is that this Pope didn’t present gays as enemies of the faith. Neither did Jesus, by the way!
Media don’t understand. The Pope was more representative of Christ than most Christians.
This issue is not political for the Pope. It’s spiritual. But having a spiritual conversation with people who want to be political doesn’t work. It’s apples and oranges. Soul care and politics rarely mix, which could be one reason Jesus didn’t come to the politically powerful when He came to this Earth. He came to hurting, the lowly, those of no reputation. He cares about the disenfranchised. So does this Pope.
Whenever sexual issues are reframed as civil rights, there is no conversation. It is impossible. Who can argue against civil rights?
The love that is so desperately missing in real conversations is absent on both sides of the homosexual conversation. Christians have failed to love their gay brothers and sisters, and the gay political activists fail to love those who hold fast to the tenets of their faith.
Pray for this Pope. He gave us a glimpse of the divine nature of Christ, and the call for all Christians to love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Forget for the moment that Anthony Weiner is running for Mayor of New York City. Set aside your politics and think about Anthony Weiner’s behavior.
Let’s pretend Weiner comes to see me because he has been ordered by someone to get help. Just pretend with me.
He tells me he calls himself Carlos Danger on social media and sends sexting messages and lewd photos of himself to women, had inappropriate online relationships and then lied about them. When he was confronted, he tells me he admitted to his behavior, but really lied about what happened after the confrontation. He tells me his wife is covering for him.
What would I be thinking as a therapist?
He is obviously reckless with risk and enjoys the “catch me if you can” game.
He is a high sensation seeker, willing to do things for the sake of novelty? Impulsivity wins over reason. This indicates problems with self-control.
He is a pathological liar, a behavior that doesn’t remit with confession.
He seems to have an inflated view of his personal beauty and seems to be unaware of how his behavior affects others.
He is acting more like an out of control adolescent with a budding sex addiction than a grown man.
He has intimacy issues.
I would be telling his wife to stop enabling his behavior, get him out of the public spot light so he can stop humiliating himself, and get him into treatment. He is psychologically disturbed and is not trustworthy. He needs help.
In other words, if he wasn’t a public official, we would all agree this man needs help and shouldn’t be leading anything at the moment.