We have seen so many people talking about how the youth of America are leaving the church, they don’t want to be there, or they don’t want to be called christian. Yet they still want to know God. We have an issue at hand that many in the religious institutions are willing to talk about but always point the finger and never look in the mirror. Unfortunately, the religious institutions very well could be creating this problem and the problem starts with the experience at these churches…and the experiences are just that…Experiences! It’s the realization that the experience leaves reality and enters into the artificial. Why? Because an artificial experience can be used to create, mold, and shape people and also bring about the desires of those in leadership at the religious institutions. At the forefront of the leadership is preservation. Preservation is the number one driver of the artificial experience at churches….it’s the desire to survive. The desire to be important. The desire to be famous. The desire to be relevant. The desire of the people to commit to what the leader’s vision and mission are. The desire to find wholeness that comes from people and not Christ. And this is what the youth today see right through.
The commitment to an organization is taxing to say the least. However, living in the life of reality with others is not. What is the difference? The difference is when a person has a need to appear greater then they are to help their vision, and then that need asks others to buy into the facade of the vision. That’s the commitment that enslaves and is taxing. The opposite, or reality, would be allowing God to work in others lives with no manipulation or control from us. Meaning, if I have a vision that I feel is from God, I will only allow God to bring into that vision who He chooses. A big example of this would be building a new building for a church organization. The normal is to campaign for supporters, ask for money, ask for commitment, or even demand loyalty to financing a multi-million dollar building. The opposite of that would be to ask God if a building is necessary and if He says yes, then He will provide it without any burden put on the people involved (like someone saying “take this building..it’s your now”). Otherwise, isn’t money better spent on the poor, widows, and the marginalized?
The whole point of this is to point out that the artificial atmosphere that is created to seem prosperous or even relevant is being called out by the youth today…or at least they don’t want to become engaged in it. They see that the church is trying to be something is was never intended to be and they do not want it. Organized Christianity for a long time has promised something that it cannot deliver, relationship with the Father. The artificiality of the experience, to believe that God shows up at that building, is teaching people to seek the feeling of the experience and not the relationship. This also explains why so many people of all ages are starting to ask questions of whether or not the organizational church is worth the drama that it always creates. The experience should not be the point, but the life giving Spirit should be. If God has called us to love Him and love others, should we not do as Paul speaks in Romans 7 and live in the Spirit,
Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.
What we are showing so many in the world, including the youth, is that God shows up on Sunday mornings and it should create a fuzzy feeling as you sing, listen, and give to the offering. When this should not be what we teach. What we should teach is to love your enemy, to help those in need, to clothes, feed, and house those who have none. The Spirit of God is moving in the love for others, especially those who are starving for it. If the youth today could see God in the presentation of real love (love that doesn’t control or manipulate) driven by the Holy Spirit, I believe they would change their minds. If they could see an enemy being loved no matter what, if they could see a cheek being turned when hit, if they could see a person sell a house to feed hundreds of people, if they could see a person that has anger for another forgive the other then just maybe they could see Christ. But they see a show, an act, or a facade that is trying to look relevant from a religiously worldly perspective. They see big buildings, expensive sound systems, and opulent interiors that rob the poor of food and clothing by paying huge salaries and the youth ask “why?”.
We need to look at what we are doing. We need to realize that going to church is not about being “filled up” or “recharged” to face the week ahead. It can be used as 1 of many times through out the week to connect and love on others, to show we care, to invest in those who are less fortunate. I can be a time to be with others to share their burdens. Or is it a time to turn all the chairs up front and focus on one person? Are the youth leaving the church because we don’t have enough liturgical actions? Are they leaving because the church music is changing and they want to hear something else? Or are they leaving because we need to send pastors back to seminary to learn how to build more powerful sermons (which I still contend that a person cannot go to school to a be pastor or worship leader)?
I say “no” to all those questions. It’s because we have created an artificial sense of religiousness that looks fake. We say we love but we really don’t. We say we care, but we really don’t. We say we will help, but we never do. True love that comes from the Spirit of God is reality, and that reality is experienced when a person lays down their life for another. Other centered, self-sacrificial love destroys the artificial. It destroys the show of Christianity. The Kingdom of God is not furthered by sermons or great worship bands on Sunday mornings…it’s experienced by those that live reality with others and see Christ through each other. The Kingdom of God is choosing to live like Christ through the transformation that is done in us by realizing who the Father is. It is a drastic difference than the world we live in and the artificial experience that organized churches are chasing to be relevant What’s more important to you…sitting in a seat at church or being with a mother who’s hurting from the loss of a child? Unfortunately, we have taught the youth, and the old, that God shows up while we are in the seat at church. This is the artificial experience that so many are tired of.