If you are interested in reading how 20somethings sometimes think about the church and how they think it falls way short of what it is supposed to be like, and if at the same time you want to see that those who sometimes criticize the Church most deeply still love the Church anyway, then you will want to read Sarah Cunningham’s Dear Church: Letters from a Disillusioned Generation.
Sarah grew up a pastor’s kid; she fell in love with the Church; she then experienced the dark side; she became disillusioned; and she worked through it. This book is about 20somethings who are experiencing disillusionment. Not because they don’t believe in the Church but because they do.
I can’t possibly sum up the book in this post, and it would be unfair to Sarah to do that, so let me give some highlights.
What I like most about this book is this: it works through real problems — and she doesn’t sugar coat this stuff — into disillusionment and then, beyond disillusionment, into a genuinely realistic and robust embrace of the Church — with its faults and glories. Her story is the story of many of us.
A highlight of Dear Church is her wonderful list of things that 20somethings prefer, and many could get a quick survey of the Millennials by reading this chapter: a redefined sense of family, acceptance of competing schools of thought, a deeper connection to surroundings, the view that money doesn’t mean success, a love for instant gratification, a like of technology but a preference for human contact, less of a commitment to relativism than many think; plus, they are idealistic, transparent, the value community, they want to help, and they don’t pledge allegiance lightly.
She gives a list of problems in the church that some feel — she calls them “lines” drawn: attendance, infrastructure, numbers, programming, applause, discipleship, leadership, evangelism, success, image management, superhero….
Well, there are about six chps of letters to the Church that point out some problems. Those problems are completed with a nice chp on the problem of being disillusioned and how it can become idolatrous. But the book, and this is why I think many need to read it, works its way to the idea that the Church is not perfect. And it isn’t. Finally, she writes a very nice chapter in which she affirms her love for the Church, and she rolls out a litany of things she likes about the Church.
She has another chp in which she apologizes to everyone for what the Church has been like.
Here’s my favorite: “… stages of disillusionment with the church are most valuable when they inspire us to get off our religiously-bogged-down booties and actually do something to help better represent God’s purposes to our world” (118). Some prefer to have bogged-down booties, to use her image that just might stick with us for awhile; Sarah wants to come out the other end.
Sarah has a website and blog: Dear Church. and it might be worth your while to stop and chat with her a bit.