Response to “PLEASE STOP TELLING US WHY WE’RE LEAVING THE CHURCH”

You can find the original article here.

I have seen this article being posted around Facebook recently, and I would like to offer a few thoughts in review. As a Millennial myself, I vouch that there are deep truths to the statements in the article, but there are also statements I refuse to have claimed for and over our generation. What I have to add may come off as strongly worded, but I think this is because, as a pastor, these are topics I know every church hears time and time again. I mean no disrespect to the authors because my review is for the church body as a whole in addition to my own generation (including me).

Points #3, #4, and #5 are strong and striking. I thank the authors and think these elements are worth reading. For me, personally, #4 reverberates the most. I am excited to say that, in my experience, Millennials generally enjoy working alongside many different generations, serving in ministry, and participating in transformational, holy moments together. Millennials in churches aren’t seeking to take power or make decisions in a vacuum. We only want to listen, to be heard, and to create together–many generations working with one God. Thankfully, at every stage in my development as a leader in the church there have always been older adults to nurture my growth and disciple me in our faith. I aim to follow their model for the entirety of my life as there will always be younger people who are ready to learn, to be heard as equals, and to lead. Don’t stop looking around you to find those eager to grow.

Points #1 and #2, however, are tragic for such a well-written post-gone-viral. The first point claims that Millennials are leaving the church because we are more educated than previous generations and because the church has stopped fueling our minds. This is foolishness, and though some Christians in my generation may feel this way, I hope the majority comes to use their education and ability to think critically and creatively to teach instead of leaving when they feel they aren’t learning. This goes for any generation engaging in the life of the church; when you feel that “church/worship/Bible study/etc. doesn’t ‘feed’ you anymore,” take off your bib and put on an apron! One way to continue to learn is to take responsibility for teaching, guiding, and discipling others. If you expect to be a passive participant in the life of the church then you’re missing a large part of God’s calling in your life, and tragically, the church is missing the gifts and abilities that you bring to the table. We are all responsible for our engagement in the life of the church and for our spiritual growth. We are also all in this endeavor together. Learn to lead as well as follow. Learn to serve as well as how to be served.

The second point claims that Millennials are leaving the church because we came of age in the recession and that the church has yet to change its teachings on money. While I fully understand (and am a part of the statistic) that our generation has more debt than any previous generation because of horrendously expensive education costs and pitifully inadequate job prospects for those entering the workforce, the Christian understanding of money and stewardship doesn’t change depending on the economic stability of the U.S. dollar. I recognize and applaud the authors of the article for shaming the prosperity gospel and its ilk as these streams of theology do terrible harm to those who are most vulnerable, but if that’s what your church is preaching I doubt that’s the only poor theological current being taught. Jesus spoke about money quite a bit, and the church needs to follow suit. Money is a tool and a resource that can bring about great things for God’s glory. Christian stewardship is understanding that God has blessed us all with many different things, and those things are God’s but have been put in our care. Do with them what is righteous and positions you, your family, your church, your neighborhood, your country, and our world to be a great witness to God’s love and grace. I won’t tell you to share the money you have. Jesus already did.

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hub note – June 23, 2013

the hub note
6/23/2013

Sermon Title: Justification and Grace
Sermon Text: Galatians 2:15-21 

the hubOur society is identity driven. We find countless ways to identify and differentiate ourselves from others, and in those moments when doubt and fear creep in because we find ourselves questioning our purpose in life, we suffer an “identity crisis.” To complicate matters, our world is constantly changing and evolving. The relationships, jobs, and hobbies that we use to identify ourselves change and bring new experiences into our lives. In essence, life changes around us and, whether we want to or not, we change with it.

The one constant in all of life is God’s grace (Romans 3:20-24). No matter how busy our schedules, how drastic our mistakes, or how painful our sufferings, God’s love abounds and restores life (1 Peter 5:10). Let God set your feet on solid ground (Psalm 40:1-3), and focus on only identifying yourself as a follower of Christ. Through Christ we have been transformed by God’s grace and, by being the body of Christ in the world today, God’s love and grace transform in profound and unimaginable ways (Galatians 2:20).

hub note – June 16, 2013

Every week at the hub we hand out a “hub note” which includes pertinent announcements for our church, information for our guests, and a small column from the pastor (me). This column could be a primer for worship or the sermon, more in-depth information that was left out of the sermon, or an alternative thought that illuminates the Scripture in a different way. I’ll post those on here under the category of “hub note,” and then I’ll see if I can put the sermon video on here too.

the hub notethe hub
June 16, 2013
Scripture: John 15:12-17
Sermon Title: “When God Calls”

If you reduced the purpose of your life down to one sentence, then what would that one sentence describe? Take a moment to sift through all the details, adventures, goals, dreams, and hurdles that encompass your daily life and find what is your life’s mission. Does your one sentence mention your family? Do you mention your job? Do you mention your faith? Do you mention your church or making disciples? Do you mention a favorite hobby or two?

If God wrote His purpose statement for your life, then what would it describe? God, as the perfect Father, only wants the best for you and for the world. How closely aligned is your purpose statement to what God wants for you?

#TornadoWeek

tornado-week-interns_2-620x332

 

The Weather Channel is having Tornado Week. It’s like Shark Week but less biting.

Sorry. I had to.

To promote Tornado Week, The Weather Channel has put their interns (poor fellas) into a homemade wind tunnel. There they must work all week long. As more people tweet #TornadoWeek the fans turn progressively faster. This sounds awesome, right? You want to watch, no? Me, too. Go here.

While this started going viral early this week it got me thinking about evangelism. Yes, I’m about to go all pastor on you, and I’m going to blow you away.

Sorry, again. I can’t help it.

On Monday, watching that live feed really wasn’t much fun. It just looked like the interns were practicing glamour shots with a 10” fan. However, where one tweeter slowly turned to a few hundred the fans started picking up the pace. As a few hundred turned to a few thousand, the winds really started blowing. Even The Weather Channel’s television personalities would come into the room and have some fun. No, I couldn’t name any of them, but I could tell they were important people. One time I even saw a makeup artist preparing a host’s makeup before a broadcast. That had to be fun. As the winds got stronger, more people got involved, which encouraged more people to tweet #TornadoWeek, which made the winds even stronger. It’s a crazy and vicious cycle—like a tornado.

Okay. I’ll stop. Maybe.

Evangelism is a scary word for many Christians. When asked to serve on an Evangelism Team or Evangelism Committee, most people want to hide like a tornado is coming. Tornados make us feel vulnerable because even a sturdy house can be demolished or disappear, and unless we have shelter from the storm, we might be disappearing, too. Similarly, evangelism makes us feel vulnerable because as Christians we are commissioned to share and spread the love of Jesus Christ, and anyone who has been in a relationship knows that love makes us vulnerable. What if the person doesn’t want to hear about Jesus or want to be loved? What if others disown us because talking about Jesus isn’t socially acceptable? When the world tells us to look after ourselves and protect what is ours, sharing anything with those who need the most feels counterproductive. In fact, what if we succeed in being good neighbors and “those people” actually become a part of our family? Our life of stability, predictability, and social stature just might disappear!

Then what?

Then you’re an evangelist. Then God will use you in ways you never imagined. As you’re caught up in the winds of the Holy Spirit, people will watch. When they see the power and nature of God’s restorative movement, they will join in. Then more people will come to watch. These people, too, will see that God is about renewal and reconciliation instead of destruction and desolation, and then they will want to join in. Then more people will come to watch. Then they will want to join in. Then more people will come to watch. Then … then … then … then …

Then all will know God’s love. All will know God’s transformational power is stronger than that of a tornado. All will know God’s grace blankets the earth and offers life-giving shelter.

We’re all evangelists. Be God’s intern and go do something worth watching. Put yourself in the middle of the moving winds of the Holy Spirit. Take as many people with you. Stop hiding.

Unless The Weather Channel tells you it’s an actual tornado. Then hide.

And take those neighbors of yours to shelter with you.

After all, that’s evangelism.

Public Pain

Before I begin, I ask that we pray for those affected by the violence in Boston. God will move in spite of, and in the face of, evil. Amen. 

The rest of this post is not a theological response to the Boston Marathon Explosions. If you would like to read that, I recommend this article from UMC.org.

Instead, this post is about our reactions to public tragedy.

Tragic events like the Boston Marathon Explosions, the Sandy Hook shootings, the Steubenville rape case, and Hurricane Sandy cause an outpouring of public reactions. These tragedies are different than most because even though tragedies play out every day in every hospital’s ER, the tragedies like those listed above rip the privacy curtains back and force us to deal with the bare reality of death and evil in sight of everyone around us.

We have nowhere to hide. Every news station broadcasts live feeds, countless hours of interviews, and updates to the story as immediately as possible. “Personal” social networking sites are flooded with our friends’ rawest reactions. Our meals with our closest family and friends are paired with conversations and questions that all are ill-equipped to answer. We have nowhere to hide, and our reactions are seen.

This nakedness and constant grating causes extreme reactions. After all, these tragedies are extreme realities and deserve extreme responses. Anyone who doesn’t feel their humanity and human decency being shredded is either incapable of feeling deep emotion or is, tragically, calloused because of the frequency of these events. This isn’t to point fingers at who doesn’t have extreme reactions; this is to say that extreme reactions are normal.

Unfortunately, our extreme reactions are often extremely polarizing. In our need to feel safe, we tend to hold on to what is sacred and familiar–family, friends, faith–and wish everyone else the best of luck. Or we blame and hate whatever doesn’t fall within our huddle of familiarity.

In our extreme reaction we blame the extreme situation and forget the extreme need. These tragic events make us feel that a line is drawn in the sand and divide us. But instead of looking at one another with extreme disgust and hatred, let’s use that aching and grieving differently.

 

Hope is found and fear is fought when our reaction is one of extreme love.

Boston Marathon 2013 ... Confronting Terror in...

Boston Marathon 2013 (Photo credit: marsmet547)

Extremely supportive.

Extremely together.