With all of the recent articles and blog posts describing why “youth” are leaving the church, I thought it necessary for me to put down my own ideas. To be entirely honest, it was my wife who wanted to write out why it is that we have decided to leave “church” and never go back. After reading many of these related articles, she has decided that she doesn’t want to write & address this ‘nonsense’ (in her own words), and so I’m taking the task.
In all honesty, I want to give reason to why I have left without giving any kind of hook or rude/offensive statement about church. There is absolutely nothing in me that desires to be mean or vicious, even though there have been many vicious articles written about me – since I am one of those “youth” that has left. This journey started a long time ago. I went to church, and I got burned. I think that this is true for many people that leave. Unlike many, however, I didn’t leave because I got burned. I left because I realized that the system will only use and abuse, and will never allow someone like me to flourish.
How about I start with some basic thoughts?
For someone that grows up in youth group, they are taught the same truth that they learned in the nursery. By the age of 13, they have exhausted the faith. By 16, they can lead Bible studies. By the time they are 20, they are probably youth leaders. Is this all that Christianity has to offer? When you have figured everything out, you go to seminary to learn original languages, what others have written, and maybe relearn everything that you already know? Is Christian life about relearning over and over again because humanity is too stupid to learn the first time?
But the truth is that this isn’t even necessarily the reason that we are leaving. The whole thing is cheap, and it seems like what others are offering is so much more authentic… That isn’t to say that we need something more intellectually stimulating. The show must go on, but we aren’t here for a show. We came to your “church” to hear reality. We came to hear the words of God. We came to hear what it is that God might be saying to this generation, but all that seems to protrude from the pulpits are “we can worship our way into heaven.” Other times, we only hear a pre-packaged message. I have yet to be to one church that gives reality instead of falsity. By reality I mean a reiteration of the resurrection life. Falsity, therefore, is a life lived out of our own ability.
Generally, the objections that are being raised in these articles are fallacious. “Kids are just liberal. We didn’t really let them “go to church.” All they got were nursery and youth group hours. They think we’re hypocritical, judgmental, and insincere. They think we’re shallow. We’re antagonistic to science.” The list goes on of things that really are surface issues.
These issues that people are writing only go to show the true problem. The real problem is that the articles describing how they out there who are leaving just don’t understand us who are here. It is completely the attitude. It is as though there is no problem with church as we know it, and the entire problem and blame lies on they youth. They are perverts and desire materialism and carnal pleasures. They want their gay friends to come and feel comfortable. They want to live like hellions and still have heaven. They want, they want, they want.
The real issue is the very core of what we call church. The system itself does not allow for truth. There is a remnant Church that has ever and always been present, but the vast majority of Christian “fellowship” is really only there as religious exercise. We don’t need “hipper” worship, or more powerful sermons, or to be able to answer difficult questions. We need reality. We lack honesty and truth. The Church at the beginning met daily, going from house to house breaking bread. They lived according to their convictions. By and large, we “put faith” in our convictions, but we do not live from them.
You didn’t need to tell the people in the first century to sell their possessions; they did that naturally. You didn’t need to tell the people in the first century to meet daily; they did that naturally. You didn’t need to tell the people in the first century to lay down their lives for their brethren; they did that naturally. The law of love that was shed abroad in their hearts caused for them to live and move and have their being in a very unique manner. Their lives were transparent before one another. Truth reigned supreme. And they engaged the culture by the reality of their lives.
Why are the “millennials” leaving? It can only be because the “church” is seeing them go, and telling them, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” I cannot tell you how many people I have spoken with where they start by saying, “I would love to believe, but…” Too many of these articles only seem to talk about how great we are, and how those rotten kids don’t understand. They call it a “lost” generation, and they really believe it. There is no point in trying to save them, they’re a lost cause. The problem is not that we need to be more relevant. We need to be more authentic.
Paul said that he was crucified with Christ – it is no longer he that lives, but Christ that lives in him. The extent that we say that this is only rhetoric and playful word games is the extent that we have forfeited the faith. We have an entire Christianity that is based off of applauding Paul for his faith, but then rejecting that anyone today can possibly achieve such a state in God today. Perhaps there are simply too few who have witnessed or seen the reality of the crucified life.
The whole of the Christian life is to be lived out of the life of God. We do not perform out of our own ability, but instead lean not on our own understanding. The beauty of Christianity is that when we lose self (Luke 17:33), we actually obtain it. The paradox is that when we forfeit self, we find self. True humanity is the marriage of spirit and flesh, male and female, Jew and Gentile, black and white, slave and free – that they be one as God is one.
Christianity has nothing to do with “doing,” and everything to do with “being.” Ultimately, the reason that I have left “church” is because there is the lack of “being.” All of the things that are applauded and accepted as truth are typically displayed as symbols, metaphor, and sometimes sentiment. Sometimes you can find a “church” that tries to put these things into practice, but even in these circumstances they fall short for reasons that I’ll address later.
The majority of church-ianity has only allowed and applauded far too often the religion performed out of our own ability. We have not truly died, and therefore we have not been brought to a place of resurrection. To defer to myself instead of trusting in God – in any moment – is to fall short of the glory of God. The glory of God is eminently and always a resurrection phenomenon.
Speaking for myself, it is the lack of that glory that has caused me to leave. When we are starving for truth, and all that is given are cheap cliches and forgeries of truth, it is time to leave.
In conclusion, I want to say that I have not left God. I have left “church” to find God. I have left “church” to find The Church. What is desired is reality. Our lack of reality and conviction in what we say we believe is true has driven the youth away. They see through our false identity. They watch as we say that we believe the Bible, but then live lives completely contrary to that Bible. It doesn’t have to be something abominable. When we set up church services so that we can be done in time to go home and watch sports, we have lied to God.
God desires that we be progressing toward an ultimate end. There is a time that He desires to call upon us, as His Church, for ultimate purposes. We cannot fulfill those ultimate purposes if we are busy playing games and singing songs. If our Christianity is known by our Sunday services, then we have become apostate. But there is a reality that the youth are searching for, and I don’t believe that the fat woman has started singing yet.
In love, wishing you grace and peace,
For follow up: