I always dreamed of having my words go VIRAL. Oh how the feelings of prominence and popularity would swell through my extra-long limbs as I rode atop the elephant of my Alladin “Prince Ali” world-celebration.
*CUE THE TRUMPETS!*
And then it happened and it was nothing like I expected.
In mid-September I started click-click-clicking away at a new post that had me levitating with the creative electricity that all of us Bohemian, artistic types crave in our bones. As I crafted and molded each sentence, I already felt perhaps this was the most important thing I’d ever written.
Yet despite my perceived importance, I figured like most of the 125 posts I’d penned over the past 5 years, it would make a little ripple and then settle quietly beneath the water.
Like that old World War II grenade your grandpa keeps in his freezer, I never expected it to explode.
And explode it did.
At first, it was a small explosion mostly in my home town with lots of love, some (let’s call it) resistance, and everything in between.
Then it got picked up by my favorite blog –tosavealife.com, shortly followed by two more national blogs including FaithIt.com. From there, it has been shared thousands of times across several social media platforms and has garnered over 50,000 views on my own blog in just two months (and gathered hundreds and hundreds of comments).
Here is the post: 12 Reasons Millennials Are Over Church (and scroll down to read the many angry comments)
I’ve never been at the center of a controversy before. Well, not since the great Barbie Convertible debacle of 1994 when I refashioned my sister’s prized toy automobile into a vehicle more fit to carry around Curious George.
Suddenly I was thrown in the middle of a battlefield of Christians launching flaming arrows and bullets at and around me. A Lord-of-the-Rings-worthy war rose up as I stood frozen and shell-shocked in the chaos.
Some people hugged me with knowing tears in their eyes. Some people wrote thousand-word comments and donned me a “heretic.” Some people said I am a voice of my generation. Some people told me to “shut the hell up.” Some people told me I was everything that was wrong with the church. Some people asked when I was starting my own church so they could attend.
Truthfully, I am really struggling in all of this. I’m hurting as the hateful angry comments and emails somehow scream louder than the resounding praise and support. I am lost in trying to make sense of all these people who are my “brothers and sisters in Christ” and yet are practically ready to burn me at the stake for my ideas.
Since writing is how I process the world and you’ve decided to be on this crazy blog journey with me, let’s dive into this VIRAL post together and see what we can learn from this whole, crazy shebang.
***Disclaimer: Yes I am aware I am generalizing a large group of people based on a small, vocal sample. Please direct all complaints to:
Santa Clause re: naughty list North Pole
He’ll know how to handle it.
1.) They are FREAKING angry.
Holy Hippopotamus people! When did Christians get so mad at each other? Out of a gospel centered on love and truth, service and brotherhood, how have we wandered so far from that?
I certainly didn’t think everyone would agree with me, yet how is it that sharing my thoughts on how to reach people who are anti-church could create a firestorm of rage and excessive capital letters?
The scary question is since anger is a secondary emotion, what emotion are we running from when someone dares to talk about the imperfections of the church? (and what message are we sending our young people when we barbecue anyone who does?)
Oh, and to the gentleman who emailed me accusing me of being a “devil worker.” Aren’t you just a spring peach…
2.) They Don’t Know How to Disagree Well.
When did religion become so intolerantly polarizing, “I’m right, your wrong, shut up!” Where is the vulnerability to simply sit together and admit we don’t have all the answers? Heck, we probably don’t even have half the answers.
This whole faith thing is a mystery—not an equation to solve or prove! Why are we wasting even a second screaming at each other? Can we all just take a deep breath and dream of the possibilities together?
3.) They are Beautiful.
Christians are beautiful people who want others to have the unparalleled experience of knowing this God Guy and His Son who love us like crazy. They are passionate about making the world a better place and standing up for what they believe in.
They love the church and want to protect it from outside attack and that truly is a beautiful thing.
4.) They Throw Bible Verses like Hand Grenades.
I love the bible, I truly do. But perhaps loading the word of God into a cannon to fire at people isn’t quite what our loving Father had in mind.
The bible is a complex book in need of study, translation and context. And the “right answers” aren’t in the back of the book, I’ve checked. When did this beautiful collection of story, wisdom and truth become a weapon we use out of anger and resentment?
5.) (Too Many) Are Always Ready to ATTACK
Out came the claws.
One of the most common reactions was that I needed to “stop whining and go do something about it.” And my personal favorite—“you are everything that is wrong with the church.”
No you didn’t.
I have spent the last six years serving the crap out of my community. My low estimate is that I’ve logged over 1000 hours helping in kids ministry, middle and high school youth group, retreats and events, writing ministry curriculum, directing a kids church choir, serving on worship team, leading a young adults group in my home, starting my own suicide prevention ministry, writing a blog about Jesus that thousands of people read every single month and writing a book.
I also spent 6 weeks serving in Zimbabwe and 2 weeks loving up on some incredible orphans in Haiti.
If I am self-centered and everything that is wrong with the church… we’ve got much bigger issues.
6.) They are Scared.
Remember when I mentioned the secondary emotion thing… I think talking about why millennials don’t like church is striking some deep, horror-movie-like fears.
Fear that we aren’t doing enough. Fear that are ministry models aren’t “successful” enough (whatever that means). Fear that perhaps the enemy is winning in our culture. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change. Fear of admitting that we don’t understand what is happening in our world. Fear that (gasp!) a young person might actually have words that matter.
But oh my friends, none of this is surprising to God. He says “Do not fear” more times than Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory says BAZINGA. Let’s move past our fears and work together.
7.) ***(A SELECT VOCAL FEW) Will Make Anything About Gay People and Abortion.
As long as I live I will never understand why Christians are so obsessed with SHOUTING about these two issues.
I just can’t seem to find the verse where Jesus gets out his picket signs and stands around screaming at people. If these are issues that God has placed on your heart, go, serve, be the light of the world. To me, that looks like serving an organization like Save the Storks or building relationships with people and getting to know them.
The fact that these arguments are even happening as a result of my post PROVES why millennials are tired of church.
8.) There Are TONS Churches that are Totally Rocking It
I loved how many comments and emails I got from Christians who are so proud of their church. “Come Visit!” I happen to think my church does a lot of things extremely well too. I actually wrote that post out of love for this church I have served with my whole heart.
I also live by this quote, “we have never arrived.” Every place has room to improve—to be more outward focused and loving. I had some ideas I thought were pretty swell so I shared them in hopes more people would share their ideas.
I mean it didn’t not work…
9.) We Don’t Know How to Ask Questions
This is my biggest takeaway and perhaps our greatest weakness as a body of believers.
Nobody asked me about my story or my experiences in the church. Nobody asked clarifying questions about the points I made. Nobody asked if I was okay or how they could help. Nobody asked.
They jumped to screaming and fighting and scolding. How do we train ourselves so that our first instinct is to ask out of love instead of kill and destroy? (we’ll save that one for another post.)
10.) They really love Jesus.
That’s the thing right—if these people didn’t deeply love Jesus they wouldn’t be so passionately trying to defend His church. They wouldn’t be attacking if they didn’t think there was something worth defending.
However, history would show us that perhaps this isn’t the greatest strategy. *cough* The Crusades *cough*.
How do we as body of believers from all over the planet learn to come together and be love? How do we work together to reach a generation that is terrifyingly anti-church? How do we learn to listen and see each other the way Jesus saw and heard people? How do we take back this horrible (and somewhat accurate) perception of Christians that yell, scream and argue instead of helping, loving, and serving?
I don’t know. I don’t… know.
I just know that we have to. I know that we cannot shut up. I know we cannot let the loud angry voices drawn out the softer, loving ones. I know we have to keep standing in the middle of this battlefield together and desperately cling to the very thing Jesus came to give us: hope.
Hope that God can and will find a way to change Christian culture from one of fear and anger into one of peace and action.