What’s so uncool about cool churches?

Unintended Consequences: How the “relevant” church and segregating youth is killing Christianity.

I recently spent six-months doing a rotation as a hospital chaplain. One day I received a page (Yes, hospitals actually still use pagers). Chaplains are generally called to the rooms of people who look ill: People gray with kidney disease, or yellow with liver failure, discouraged amputees, nervous cancer patients. In this room, however, was a strikingly attractive 23 year-old young lady sitting up cheerfully in the hospital bed, holding her infant daughter and chatting with family and friends.

Confused, I stepped outside and asked her nurse, “Why did I get paged to her room?”

“Oh, she looks fabulous. She also feels great and is asking to go home,” the nurse said.

“…And you are calling me because?” I asked in confusion.

The nurse looked me directly in the eye and said: “Because we will be disconnecting her from life support in three days and you will be doing her funeral in four.”

The young lady had taken too much Tylenol. She looked and acted fine. She even felt fine, but she was in full-blown liver failure. She was dying and couldn’t bring herself to accept the diagnosis.

Today I have the sense that we are at the same place in the church. The church may look healthy on the outside, but it has swallowed the fatal pills. The evidence is stacking up: the church is dying and, for the most part, we are refusing the diagnosis.

What evidence? Take a gander at these two shocking items:

1. 20-30 year olds attend church at 1/2 the rate of their parents and ¼ the rate of their grandparents. Think about the implication for those of us in youth ministry: Thousands of us have invested our lives in reproducing faith in the next generation and the group we were tasked with reaching left the church when they left us.

2. 61% of churched high school students graduate and never go back! (Time Magazine, 2009) Even worse: 78%  to 88% of those in youth programs today will leave church, most to never return. (Lifeway, 2010) Please read those last two statistics again. Ask yourself why attending a church with nothing seems to be more effective at retaining youth than our youth programs.

We look at our youth group now and we feel good. But the youth group of today is the church of tomorrow, and study after study after study suggests that what we are building for the future is…

…empty churches.

We build big groups and count “decisions for Christ,” but the Great Commission is not to get kids to make decisions for Jesus but to make disciples for Him. We all want to make Christians for life, not just for high school. We have invested heavily in youth ministry with our lives specifically in order engage youth in the church. Why do we have such a low return on our investment?

What are we doing in our Youth Ministries that might be making people less likely to attend church as an adult?

What is the “pill” we have overdosed on? I believe it is “preference.” We have embraced the idea of market-driven youth ministry. Unfortunately, giving people what they “prefer” is a road, that once you go down it, has no end. Tim Elmore in his 2010 book entitled Generation iY calls this “the overindulged Generation.” They ask for more and more, and we give it to them. And more and more the power of God is substituted for market-driven experience. In an effort to give people something “attractive” and “relevant” we embraced novel new methods in youth ministry, that 20 years later are having a powerful shaping effect on the entire church. Here are the marks of being market-driven; Which are hallmarks of your ministry?

  1. Segregation. We bought into the idea that youth should be segregated from the family and the rest of the church. It started with youth rooms, and then we moved to “youth services.” We ghettoized our children! (After all, we are cooler than the older people in “big church”. And parents? Who wants their parents in their youth group?) Be honest: Have you ever thought you know more than your your student’s parents? Have you ever thought your youth group was cooler than “big church”?
  2. Big = effective. Big is (by definition) program driven: Less personal, lower commitment; a cultural and social thing as much as a spiritual thing. Are those the values that we actually hold?
  3. More programs attended = stronger disciples. The inventers of this idea, Willow Creek, in suburban Chicago, publically repudiated this several years ago. They discovered that there was no correlation between the number of meetings attended and people’s spiritual maturity. They learned the lesson. Will we?
  4. Christian replacementism. We developed a Christian version of everything the world offers: Christian bands, novels, schools, soccer leagues, t-shirts. We created the perfect Christian bubble.
  5. Cultural “relevance” over transformation.We imitated our culture’s most successful gathering places in an effort to be “relevant.” Reflect on the Sunday “experience” at most Big-box churches:
    1. Concert hall (worship)
    2. Comedy club (sermon)
    3. Coffee house (foyer)

And what about Transformation? Is that not missing from these models? Where is a sense of the holy?

6. Professionalization. If we do know an unbeliever, we don’t need to share Christ with them, we have pastors to do that. We invite them to something… to an “inviter” event… we invite them to our “Christian” subculture.

7. “McDonald’s-ization” vs. Contextualization:  It is no longer our own vision and passion. We purchase it as a package from today’s biggest going mega-church. It is almost like a “franchise fee” from Saddleback or The Resurgence.

8. Attractional over missional. When our greatest value is butts in pews we embrace attractional models. Rather than embrace Paul’s Ephesians 4 model in which ministry gifts are given by God to “equip the saints” we have developed a top-down hierarchy aimed at filling buildings. This leaves us with Sunday “church” an experience for the unchurched, with God-centered worship of the Almighty relegated to the periphery and leading of the body of Christ to greater spiritual power and sanctification to untrained small group leaders.

Does not all of this work together as a package to leave us with churches full of empty people?

Here is an example: Your church. Does it look like this?

If you look closely, you will see the photo on the right is of a nightclub, rather than a church. Can you see what I mean about “relevance” and the clean Christian version of what the world offers? Your youth room is a pretty good indicator of what your church will look like 15 years from now. Because of the principle “What you win them with, you win them to,” your students today will expect their adult church to look like your youth room.

In summary, “Market Driven” youth ministry gave students a youth group that looks like them, does activities they prefer, sings songs they like, and preaches on subjects they are interested in. It is a ministry of preference. And, with their feet, young adults are saying…

…“Bye-bye.”

What might we do instead? The opposite of giving people what they want is to give them what they need. The beauty is that Christianity already knows how to do this.

Once upon a time our faith thrived in a non-Christian empire. It took less than 300 years for 11 scared dudes to take over the most powerful empire the world had ever seen. How did they do it? Where we have opted for a relevant, homogenously grouped, segregated, attractional professionalized model; the early church did it with a  multi-ethnic, multi-social class, seeker INsensitive church. Worship was filled with sacrament and symbol. It engaged the believing community in the Christian narrative. This worship was so God-directed and insider-shaping that in the early church non-Christians were asked to leave the building before communion! With what effect? From that fellowship of the transformed, the church went out to the highways and byways loving and serving the least, last and lost. In that body of Christ, Christians shared their faith with Romans 1:16 boldness, served the poor with abandon, fed widows and took orphans into their homes. The world noticed. We went to them in love rather than invited them to our event.

The beauty of where we are today is that, unlike the girl in the hospital bed, our fatal pill could still be rejected. It is not too late. We can leave the culture-centered models we have been following for more Christ-centered ones. More ancient ones. More rooted ones. And the most beautiful thing is that students actually enjoy them.

So many have commented on this post in the last month that I did a follow-up: O Yeah! And other things I wish I would have said on “Cool Church.”

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1,188 thoughts on “What’s so uncool about cool churches?

  1. You have made an interesting case and, in some respects, I agree with you. However, I think the reason the young are leaving the churches are much, much larger than this, and much more serious. After all, it isn’t just the mega-contemporary churches that are bleeding out their young members. It’s also the traditional churches and the catholic church. If you really want more answers, I strongly suggest you turn to the very people you are discussing: the young men and women who have left (like me). There are thousands of stories, and we want to be heard. We want our elders to know why we can’t be associated with our faith anymore. There are many, many different reasons, depending on the individual and the church, but common threads run through most of them: betrayal, judgment, harassment, showiness, pride, deceit, cruelty, group-think, and the silencing of the victims and those that stray. These toxic “pills” are much harder to cure. I would start here http://redemptionpictures.com/2013/08/01/why-we-left-the-church/ if you want to listen further. Thank you for hearing me out.

    • Good morning Galactic Explorer,
      Thank you for bringing your voice to the conversation. I am greatly interested to hear your story. I have been in youth ministry for 30 years (which really means young adult ministry, since 90% of the heavy lifting in our context is the faithful young adult volunteers. In our case we often did not do a good job of helping people into the church. The ones who entered tend to stay. So I a wider source to hear stories is a gift to me. Thank you!

      For the record I do not think that segregation and “cool” are the only problems. That post was most oversimplified-the story of it is in another post I did last week about “what I wish i had said.” However, if you were going to read something else on my blog I think you might actually prefer last night’s post on “Todd, adoption and the briar patch. I will go to your link now. Thanks again!

      • Thank you for your reply! I am always eager to participate in these sorts of discussions because, in some corner of my heart, I still love God and miss being a part of a church body. But I simply can’t go back at this time. I would rather throw my faith away completely than open myself again to the sorts of abuse and hard-headedness that the church represents to me. The most frustrating part of discussing these sorts of things is how often I hear people say “but of course the church is flawed. No one is perfect, so just get over it and be the change you want to see.” The problem with Christianity (or at least conservative Christianity, which is the only sort I’ve really been around much) is that it seems so few people are willing to listen. And if no one will listen, how can I bring about change? I can’t change a congregation when speaking the words I am going to say to you here would have me evicted from the doors and placed on passive-aggressive prayer-lists. I can’t make a change when people stop listening to what I have to say after the first sentence and already have their pre-made response that takes into account nothing that I am saying. And that is why I have left it; I can’t take the hypocrisy, the pride, the cold-heartedness that pervades every memory I have of the church. Since you seem so open to listening, and this is such a welcome relief to me, I am happy to share my experiences. I certainly can’t speak for every young person out there who has left the church. We all have our own stories and our own lessons that we learned. But the core of my objections to the church, I think, are widely shared by many. Fair warning… this is going to be LONG.

        My spiritual upbringing is pretty split between the Pentecostal church of my younger years, and a non-denominational church of the older years. For parts of my life, as well, my family simply did home-church, since we moved often and my family didn’t settle well with very many churches. I preferred home-church as a youngster, because it actually involved teaching instead of just crayons and Bible coloring books in Sunday School. My family was very conservative in most ways, meaning my sister and I homeschooled and wore long skirts and had hair down to our waists. I was taught to be modest, pure, meek, humble, to serve others, to model Christ to others. Or, so I thought.

        My family broke with the Pentecostal church when I was a young teen, ironically because it was too legalistic. They still held onto most of their doctrine, but they simply disliked the “holiness standards” that everyone was held to. If you didn’t look and act like x, y, and z, you were probably backslidden. People would talk about you behind your back, and confronted harshly about how you were showing a “poor example” to the World. This would be for crimes like wearing earrings or pants. THE HORROR. More serious crimes were dealt with more harshly. A friend of our family (a wonderful, caring woman) was interested in experimenting with methods of hypnosis for stress and pain relief. Her church felt that hypnosis=demons, and thus branded her a witch to the whole church and made it clear that she was not welcome anymore. My mother lost her best friend over a conversation about reaching unbelievers. All she had said was that maybe it was more important to reach someone with love than to immediately make them start following church rules. My mother was also shocked when she overheard a family that considered themselves prophetic discussing my father with the pastor of our church. “I just get a sense of demons around him,” they said. “You shouldn’t let him join in worship anymore.” Thankfully the pastor did not listen.

        By the time we quit the Pentecostal church, then, you can imagine I was ready for something new. My parents were a bit burned out on churches, and reverted back to church at home. However, I was getting a bit old to want to hear sermons from my dad, so I sought out a church that I thought would serve me better. It was non-denominational, much more modern than I was used to, and seemed so welcoming and laid-back after my experience with Pentecostals. I joined the youth meetings there on Monday nights as well as sometimes attending Sunday service. Each meeting felt like a spiritual growth for me. I was passionate about God and serving him. I felt I was learning about scriptures and becoming equipped to enter the world and live my life for God.

        And then, I discovered the real world. Perhaps my overly-sheltered homeschooled upbringing left me more susceptible to it, but I was completely unprepared for how little the real world matched the pretty, perfect lessons I’d been given in church, in youth group, and at home. My atheist friends had good reasons to reject God… they weren’t just doing it out of spite or ignorance. My friends of other religions felt strongly or struggled with their own faiths like I did. My education opened my eyes to many possibilities that I hadn’t been presented with before. I started to ask questions about some of my old assumptions. It may have dampened my enthusiasm for church a little, but I was far from rejecting my faith. Indeed, I found it a bit encouraging to finally start asking and answering these questions.

        But I discovered that subversive thoughts (questioning) were not welcome in church. My father grew frustrated with a woman who said that her study group had thrown her out after she asked “how do we know the Bible is true?” He said to me “if she asks stupid questions like that, what does she expect?” I started to realize how much the church was like an echo chamber. People expected to hear messages they agreed with. The pastors obliged, and always said a little blurb about how tithing MORE than 10% would give you extra blessings too. People who before had seemed to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit to say a certain thing, I now realized were probably just inspired by their own emotions and the agreement of the people around them. After all, no one I saw was ever inspired to say something controversial to the church body. No, those ones were the ones in rebellion that were mentioned in disappointed tones later. My father became upset when I questioned the Pentecostal doctrine that speaking in tongues was a requirement to be saved. “Are you turning your back on your redemption?” I dared not admit that I was becoming certain that my own speaking-in-tongues experience had been the simple product of 2 hours of non-stop shouting, praying, dehydration, and being surrounded and pushed forcefully by many adults until my brain began hiccuping.

        But even with all of these doubts, I tried to cling to the church. Of course it has flaws. What human institution doesn’t? I was willing to try to turn a blind eye to them, until I was the target of all that I was hoping to ignore.

        I came out as a lesbian. Suddenly, my loving, caring church became abusive. Suddenly my loving, caring family became abusive. Suddenly, my loving, caring God became abusive. Through my own prayer, scripture reading, and searching, I felt that God did not condemn me for the person I loved, even though I could not be sure if he approved or not. But my family did not agree. I tried to explain to them that I respected their opinions but that I had come to believe differently and I wanted to still be part of the family. The response was intense shaming, phone calls involving yelling, scolding, crying, and cruel words, accusations that I had singlehandedly “ruined the family”, that I was bringing spiritual oppression on my mother and sister which was responsible for my mother’s illness, claims that God had “given up on me”, and intense sessions where I would be sat down and my family members would each tell me how my homosexuality was personally harming them. I submitted myself to the intense emotional abuse, believing their claims that I deserved it all. I was self-harming, and admitted to my family that I was fighting suicidal thoughts. They balked at first about sending me to a doctor, claiming that my illness was just demonic oppression, and that it would all go away if I would just turn straight. They eventually agreed to send me to a doctor for medicine, but strongly discouraged me from seeking therapy from any secular doctor that might encourage my ways. So long as I was under their roof, the medicine did not help. I would spend hours locked upstairs, lying on the floor, just trying not to let myself go into the kitchen and get out a knife and cut the long way down my arms in hopes of relieving my family of the pain that I was causing them.

        My church was no consolation for me. The Baptist church that I had chosen to attend while in Gradschool was wonderful… as long as no one knew my secret. When I came to church in tears after my family had told me “we don’t even know you anymore” a well-meaning woman asked if I needed to talk to someone and get help. I took up her offer, and asked to speak to the Pastor, whom I had a friendship with already. In typical conservative-christian fashion, I was directed instead to the pastor’s wife, whom I had never met before. After taking a few minutes to try to control me tears, I took a deep breath and admitted to her that I was gay and tried to explain that my family was treating me abusively. But as soon as I had said that first sentence, she looked away from me and started flipping through her Bible. She opened to Romans 1, and after waiting impatiently for me to pause in my story, quickly began explaining to me that I was degrading myself and God was unhappy with me. I shakily tried to tell her that I knew what Romans 1 said (along with all of the other verses on the topic) but that I didn’t feel God condemned me for who I was and, even if he did, right now, I really needed prayer about my family. “You aren’t crying about your family. You’re crying because they are right about you, and God is convicting you for your homosexuality,” she said. My heart broke, right then and there, and so did my relationship with that church. I sat, alternately in tears and staring blankly, and let her scold and exhort me to stop degrading myself. I went back into the service once she was done and heard nothing. After that, I distanced myself from the pastor and his wife a bit. They were only temporary leaders and, once they left, a new couple took over. I grew a friendship with them as well, but I never admitted my secret to them. I was not willing to be burned again… especially after he preached a sermon about how it was good and righteous to refuse to allow sinners to be baptized into the church if you knew they were still sinning. “If you believe they are sinning, fine,” I thought to myself, “but who are we to decide who is worthy of Christ’s blood and who is not?” The seeds of anger and bitterness towards the church were finally planted.

        My old non-denominational church also turned on me in the same way. I was arm-twisted by my family into talking to one of the female leaders about how to reconcile with them. I again explained my situation to her, and admitted that I was struggling with how to reconcile my family with myself. However, she had also not heard a word I said after “gay”. “Let’s pray that you give up this sinful relationship in your life,” she said. I was surprised and said “but I didn’t say that I was trying to give up my relationship.” “Well, what else would you come to me for?” She wondered. Clearly she had not heard my actual requests, or else considered them silly and invalid. Poor girl… wanting to be treated with respect and not abuse. Hah! Like she can have that while she’s a lesbian…

        In the end, my family banished me from the home. For about another year, I still went to church, although I had a very tense relationship with it. I felt like Jesus was there, and that I still believed in him, but I also felt that I was a dark stain on the congregation. I knew that, if they knew what I was, they would turn on me. I knew that they cared more about telling me how wrong I was than helping me heal. I knew they’d rather gouge the mote out of my eye than even discuss the logs in the church. Once I graduated from gradschool, I left the church and had no desire to go back. I wasn’t the sort of sinner they wanted. I wasn’t someone that they were willing to help. They would never listen.

        But I have not 100% given up on my faith. Rather, breaking with the church helped me find new meaning in spiritual things. For example, I was always taught to be charitable to those in need, but also to be careful not to “cast pearls before swine”. The implication is that some people just don’t deserve our charity. After being dragged through the mud, being thrown out of my home, and suffering in ways I didn’t think I could stand, I came out with much more profound compassion. That homeless man on the street? He could have been me. That drug addict at the corner? She could have been me. The “Freeloaders” on the welfare system? They could have been me. Because, you see, I WAS one of them. I was one of the millions or billions of humans that most Christians simply don’t have charity for. I am a problem to be fixed, not a person to have compassion on. Once I am re-written and reformed to fit their idea of the “correct Christian”, then perhaps they will give me the shirt off of their backs. But as is, I am swine undeserving of pearls. And suddenly, I started feeding the homeless or leaving them change, or just spending some time talking to them and listening to their stories, not caring if they would buy booze or drugs… whatever helped them get through the days of pain. I started buying Christmas presents, not just for innocent children in Africa (to be delivered with a gospel tract!) but also for those welfare-sucking adults in my own community who might not be able to afford a real Christmas. I started putting money towards secular charities, where I knew it would be distributed without prejudice against others, and without pressure to conform. I started wanting to show REAL compassion, not let-me-fix-you-whether-you-want-it-or-not compassion. And that was so freeing.

        I think it’s interesting that so many people single out “the church’s treatment of gays” as one of the #1 reasons that millenials are leaving. I think there’s some truth to that, but only because it is one of the issues that brings the harshest light on the problems of the church. Here’s the problem: the world is not as small and homogeneous as it used to be. Us young people have much more access to other philosophies, religions, and denominations than any generation before us. Because of that, we’re going to start asking questions. We’re going to start challenging old beliefs. We’re going to want to know why our way is more right/better/more TRUE than all of these others. And rather than being offered answers or given the opportunity for discussion, we are being silenced, shunned, abused, outcasted, and dismissed. As long as the church puts its fingers in its ears and tries not to hear us, we will keep growing tired and leaving. I tried. I journeyed through the Pentecostal church, church at home, a non-denominational church, and an international Baptist church. All three of those churches and my family turned out to be full of poison. None of them could offer the love, understanding, or respect that they preached. None of them would listen. And I am tired, and I have left. Church is simply not safe for people like me. Church is becoming unsafe for my generation. I think that is sad, because I still have a distant longing for that connection. I still wish I could believe in God without question. But right now, I just can’t. Last time, it almost led me to ending my own life. Now that I have a second chance, I am going to do what I can to be the example for others that I wanted to church to be for me. I’m going to listen a lot. And I am going to love. I hope that will at least bring some healing to the broken world outside of church.

        If you actually read all of that, thank you very much for your patience. I am sorry it was so long! =) I hope that it shed a little light on some of the fears and difficulties that many of us face. I hope this can help perpetuate a discussion that might start bringing healing back into the church. Who knows… maybe someday I’ll walk back into a hall of worship. Maybe I’ll find God there again. Maybe.

        • Hello GalacticExplorer,

          Thank you for trusting me with your story. I have been victim of the passive-aggressive prayer list, so I can relate on that one. As for the rest: Extra blessings for extra giving, getting ditched for asking questions, self-proclaimed “prophets”, I think If I were you, I would have been done far before I got to coming out.

          You are obviously a person of deep faith (which doesn’t mean unquestioning in my book), deep commitment to the ideals of Jesus and great love for your fellow humans.

          I put up a post last night that explains my faith journey and a bit of why I am curious. It feels not altogether unlike reading your journey, although I am older, reconciled to the church and my pain happened outside of the church and involved other rejections than those around sexuality…but (smile) outside of those ten differences, really quite similar.

          I cannot thank you enough for trusting this little corner of the internet to share your grief over the church.

          The most beautiful part of your story, Galatic, is that I did not hear you blame the church once for disagreeing with you, but only for the way we have failed to be Jesus but walked in pharisaism toward you, a sister in the Lord and a child of the church.

          Thank you again for sharing your story. You brought tears to my eyes at your willingness to endure and walk in grace toward others.

          Be well in your journey, Galactic.

          • Also a victim of the passive-aggressive prayer list? Ouch. =P I just want to thank you very much for listening to me. It’s such a rare thing for me to find… especially on the internet, although the internet is often where I feel safer to discuss these things. I do not blame the church for disagreeing with me. As much as I would love for my family and my friends to all be 100% on board with my homosexuality, I understand that this is unreasonable and I can respect their opinions. I used to be of the same opinion myself, so I would be quite a hypocrite to condemn them for it! All that I ask is that they respect me enough to let me make my own decisions without offering unsolicited condemnations and judgments. Unfortunately, this has not happened, which is why I barely speak to my family anymore. For my own mental health, I find it best to hold them at arm’s length… or more like 10-ft-pole’s length, much as I hold the church right now.

            Thank you so much for the well-wishes. We have all endured our own pains and struggles and they lead us to very different places in our lives. However, I could easily believe that you and I are not so different, based on our eagerness to listen and converse. All the best to you!

            • Thank you, Galactic. I really appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable. I understand your need for distance from your family, but I will pray for the relationship with them in the long-term…that time heals wounds. If you are ever in Phoenix I’ll buy you coffee. :-)

        • gallacticexplorer,
          Thank you for pouring your heart out and your honesty. I know people who are dealing with that very same issue. Please don’t give up on church. I belong to the Christ Gospel Church of Decatur, IL. We are a small, totally non-judgemental church that is like a family. It has changed my life. I’m sorry your past pastors wouldn’t listen to you. Mine would with love-even past the word “gay.” Check out Christ Gospel Churches International on Facebook. I’ll be praying for you : )

        • Very well said. I just left the church a year and a half ago. It’s always a pretty face that has to be on and everything has to be perfect. The families that look the best probably have the most problems. And when things fall apart everyone is flabbergasted and surprised. How could this happen? People live openly with gluttony, gossips, backbiters, Phariseeism and the like everyday and its no big deal, but you say gay, lesbian, pedophile or any sexual thing and the roof comes down. Sorry some secrets are meant to be left alone. There is no room for compassion in those places. you just need to leave and find a place or group where you can be loved and accepted. Isn’t that what everyone wants? I lived my whole life for others and didn’t even know the cost of not being ME! It was never safe to be me. To do what I wanted, or to live life as I choose. It had to be this way or not. We were never given a choice. Everyone is never going to agree on everything even though every group thinks “We are the only true one!” That’s another pet pev! We are all different. We will never be the same and that is not what life is all about. They can make the scriptures say anything they want. What was Jesus’s biggest problem. The religious leaders of his time!!! The church was the problem. We are better than you! You better be like us or you’re out! Sorry I’m out and will not be back. I just want to love people and care about them and live a peaceful life. Hugs to you! Sorry about your family. Just keep moving on. Maybe you are the lesson they are suppose to learn in this lifetime. Acceptance! Just love them and send good out and let it be! That’s all you can do! :)

          • Hello LJMan,

            I totally get being frustrated with the church. And I am sure that Galactic appreciates the support.

            I do have to chime in though: being in a same sex relationship is absolutely NOT the same as being a pedophile. A relationship with a minor is inherently predatory. The other is the choice of consenting adults. Regardless of someone’s stance on same sex relationships, no church is bueno with pedophilia neither is law enforcement.

          • Thank you for the support! I understand how you feel about how everything seems fake and hypocritical. Every person who is baptized into a church has secret sins that they are holding onto. Everyone. And the pastor baptizes them without question. But if the pastor knows they are in a same-sex relationship or have a live-in boyfriend/girlfriend? Nope, you cannot be washed in the blood until you change your ways. It’s sick. I just can’t be in a church that claims God has offered redemption freely, and then blocks people from attaining it.

            • I hope you find a group that embraces you where you are now and not for what they want you to be. I have stayed with the Episcopal church because they accept both women and gay pastors and even bishops. These clergy prove to be some of the best at understanding where the downtrodden and “different” are coming from. I agree with one of the commentators who states that we are not all meant to be the same! How boring would that be anyhow? There is a plan and a place for every human being and you have to believe that we all reach our greatest potential with love from others and for ourselves. Stay true to yourself and in the end it will all work out.

            • Redemption is not free. Your redemption was paid for by Christ shed blood on a cross. Jesus himself says who will be saved and everyone can read this for themselves in the Gospels. Salvation is not some initiation into a social club we belong to looking for acceptance. It is a gift, and Jesus demands obedience to his laws for the promise to be assured. Corporate church is a social club, looking to enlarge it’s tent so to speak. The real church of God has no logos, or uniforms, except for the full Armor of God. His word is totally molested by most of the corporate churches out there and I’m sure they might be part of the Lord, Lord crowd. Read the word for yourself, submit to God’s authority in your life and go to church for one thing. Fellowship. Forget the name of the denomination, and go to praise God Almighty for saving you.

            • What makes you think I have not read the Bible for myself? I have, several times. I will NOT go to church for fellowship because the fellowship of my non-church friends is much more life-giving than the destructive environment I’ve found in the church. Please, I am sure that your advice is meant to be helpful, but approaching me with assumptions (incorrect assumptions) and COMMANDS is hardly an effective way to influence me. You sound like all of the church members that I am fleeing from.

        • God will find you. I heard it said that the only thing we need to do to find God is stop running. Love is the evidence of Christian Faith. People are afraid of Sin. They do not recognize their own failings. Only Jesus was able to resist temptation. We are not Him. All things are made by him through him for him. Sin is not the problem not knowing the depths of Gods love and mercy and grace are. Forgive the people for not seeing the Jesus in you and giving him the love and respect he deserves. Many think gays and lesbians are evil. They are people. All have sinned and come short of Gods glory. You will never know the fullness of joy until you know the fullness of God. He is unsearchable and big enough for gays and lesbians. Ask for him to have his wy in your life and let the chips fall where they may. If you does not remove your convinctions then let it be. Pray andalways pray and thank God always for He is able to present you holy and blameless for his judgment seat, not church or man. Amen Go in peace. See you on the other side sister in Christ.

        • GalacticExplorer -
          I love what you had to say!! I too grew up in church, non-denominational, and although I met a few good people, I always knew my way of thinking would not be accepted by the whole. Although, at the time I did not fall into any category they would shun, the fact that I believe they are wrong in shunning those made me leave shortly after HS graduation. One of the last churches I went to was in 1999, a Southern Baptist church Texas, and his whole sermon was about calling sinners out for what they are. For instance, alcoholism is not a disease he/she is merely a drunkard and should turn from his evil ways. I really think the verse of all sin being equal and no sinner is greater than the other is LOST on the majority of churches. The fact that they condemn and judge people is an overlooked and acceptable sin. It is hard to begin looking for a church as every time I visit one I see the faces of judgement and there is an air of superiority among these people. You are also right and in that once we step out into the real world from the sheltered life you begin to hear all the other religious or non-religious viewpoints and there is more logic to some of there arguments. I am a very logical and realistic person and that does not coincide with evangelical christians. I now have children and although I would love to raise them around others with the moral values I still have, I am not sure if I can attend church for that reason alone. I am very conflicted about my belief, and feel drawn to christianity. But I am not sure if that is Holy Spirit I invited into my heart so many times, or if it is just merely what I grew up believing to be true. And I was taught so strongly to fear the other side and to never reject Christ. So I stand in the middle not sure where to turn, only knowing I will not live in fear of judgement and rejection of other sinful humans. I think your well-written response is absolutely the reason many of our generation do not return to the church. And I think it has very little to do with the “coolness” of the church, because in all honesty if churches did not conform to the popular world they would never be accepted by many youth to begin with. What is that verse, about living IN the world but not OF the world? I think churches are trying to do that and it is not a bad thing. When we realize we do not fit into their perfect world and “hide our sins”, is when we leave and never return.

          • Hi Melanie,
            Thank you for joining the conversation. I know that many large-church clergy and leaders have read these comments. I hope they are picking up what people are saying.

            I do think that one thing you said might be changing: the need for “cool.” The point of my post is that many young people are no longer asking the church to be “cool.” They have cool everywhere…literally at the end of their fingertips on their smartphones. I think they are asking for relationships, depth, room to think and process. I think the cultural shifts are profound and that the evangelical world is vaguely aware that something is different but isn’t sure what. The place to see that is in young adult ministries that are occurring outside of the church, led by young adults (like PhxOne- packed with young adults. High quality, mixed media, ancient and modern, room to think, willing to ask questions, willing to live with some ambiguity and mystery. About practice, not just dogma.

          • I understand what you mean about feeling lost somewhere in the middle. I faced a lot of fear in rejecting my old beliefs because I was always taught that questioning or rejecting my faith would send me to hell. Even once I no longer really believed in hell, that visceral “what if” fear still remained. Honestly, I still haven’t shaken it completely. I want to still believe, but it’s hard for me to figure out how much of that is because of fear or because I’ve always believed it, and how much of it is because I really, honestly think it’s true. I hope that you find peace in whatever decision you make. A suggestion: if you don’t feel comfortable going to a church but you want to find some sort of morally-upstanding company for your children to keep, why not find some sort of volunteer activity that you can do together with them once a week? That way they can be hanging out with other people who are providing a good example for the kids by doing meaningful volunteer work. And it’s good for the community! It will also teach the kids that moral people can be found in all shapes, sizes, and religions/lack thereof, rather than ONLY in church. That’s a lesson that I wish I’d been taught! All the best!

            • Not to jump into y’all’s conversation, but, hey, it is my blog. :-)

              I hear you that you have found emotionally damaging churches, I really don’t think the answer to toxic spiritual community is no spiritual community. I think it is emotionally healthy spiritual community. There are lots of churches that understand that there are moral people in every religion and in non-religious people. There are also train wrecks in all of the above.

              I grew up outside of religion. My parents were part of the “find your own way” crowd. I believe both because I was convinced it was true intellectually and through the lives of loving people I knew. I deeply wish I could have avoided the years of staring at my ceiling at night and wondering if there was anything more to the universe. …But I still avoided the church (although not ministry) for decades because I found the churches that I was at were narrow, inward, superior and judgmental. I also realized that at some level I wanted to see those things to avoid mutual surrender and conflict.

              I think that if it wasn’t for realizing that children need a village, I might have never engaged in the church. I knew, from 20 years of parachurch youth ministry that my children would, developmentally, need to disengage from my influence and would look for influence from others. I wanted those others to be dependable, moral, faithful…I wanted older Christian young adults to be mentors to my children when they hit their adolescent years…rather than the knucklehead friends.

            • I understand your concern. I would like to have a community where I feel safe exploring spirituality. Perhaps someday I will seek one out. At the moment, however, I simply don’t feel ready to put myself in a church building. I find it more welcoming and safe to discuss my faith with my varied-belief friends than to attempt to enter a church right now. Perhaps that will change once I have kids of my own (something that may happen in the next few years??) I haven’t decided. I hope, by then, that I’ll have come to some sort of decision on my faith… we will see! Thank you for the further comments!

            • Hi Galactic, I love that you are still talking to folks in this! I am reading Romans 8 right now, “If God is for us, who can be against us.” It seemed good to pass along the message that God is never against you, but always for you.”

              blessings,

              Matt+

        • Normally when I read comments to an article that has any potential to be controversial, I see hate and bigotry. It was really refreshing to see this respectful exchange so thank you for that.

          And I feel that you really hit the nail on the head. I haven’t technically left the church, but I have become incredibly disillusioned with it as an institution. I no longer really want to be associated with the term “Christianity” because I feel like, on the whole, it no longer reflects Christ, but instead reflects an imperfect and misguided church.

          I am from an extremely conservative area and for most of my life I’ve just bought everything that I’ve been taught. Recently though, I found myself being forced to question things that I’ve always been taught. One cannot study other religions, philosophies or ways of thinking and still hold on to everything you’ve always believed. At least I can’t. And now, I find myself tending to vote more on the side of the left…and what’s more, believing that Jesus would be doing the same.

          I’m grateful that I have many friends who are at least tolerant of my difference of opinion and some who even believe the same way as I do. It seems to be a rare thing in church these days. Particularly of the older set. I don’t want to be disrespectful, but for me, this is one of the main reasons I would leave the church. Again, I haven’t left yet, but if I do it will most likely be because of the stagnation I’ve observed in many of the more elderly members of every church I’ve been to. And it’s not limited to elderly members. I’ve seen youth, including myself, be just as stagnant.

          And let me be crystal clear here though. I know a lot of older people who are far from stagnant. I know many of them that I look at and think to myself…”I hope I’m like that when I’m old.” I am generalizing here. A lot of what I’ve observed in church is people holding onto (what I believe) are outdated ideas…and holding onto these ideas merely because this is the way things always have been.

          Now if I do leave the church it will not be because I’ve lost faith in Jesus, but because I have lost faith in the way things have always been. The world is changing and (in many ways) for the better. My hope is that the church will see that people aren’t the enemy, that the church will come to understand that evangelism will never reach as many people as unconditional love, that the church will stop pumping out disparaging statistics and start trying to change them with love.

          And I am no saint. I’ve been just as guilty as the church. I may not be condemning gays and liberals, but I have judged the church just as harshly as I complain about it judging the world. For that I am sorry and I will be working on improving myself and hoping at the same time that I can improve the world where I am.

          These have been my two cents and I hope they were constructive. Have a lovely day.

          Jesse

          • Hi Jesse,
            Thank you for your thoughtful comments!

            I can hear the pain in your experience of the church. I have had those same emotions. The lack of true community-a “mission-community” that I didn’t find i church (but did find in the parachurch) frustrated me for years. That and that I was not actually worshipping…just singing and listening.

            I appreciate that you are still there, critiquing from the inside. Those, to me, are the faithful wounds of a friend.

            I also join you in finding the Gospels showing a Jesus at odds with many of the priorities of the Conservative church…and now that I am in the Progressive church, with those as well. And, like you, I realize that a big part of the problem is that the church is comprised of sinners like myself. :-)

            By the way, thanks for noticing that we try to keep the dialogue kind and assume the best of others. That was the real topic of a post a week ago: http://thegospelside.com/2013/09/16/the-cloud-of-unknowing-7-steps-to-successful-blogging/

            Thanks for stopping by. Please add your voice here regularly!

          • Thank you so much for your kind words. Your sentence “I hope the church will see that people aren’t the enemy” resounds so much with me. I grew up in the “culture wars” ideology, and it is such a shame to see Christians viewing people as attackers. People aren’t the enemy. There is no “their side” and “our side”. There is only people that should be loved. If Christians (and EVERYONE for that matter) just loved, no matter what, setting aside all other needs and evangelism and legalism and demands and just loved… what a change we might see. I guess that sounds a bit hippie and foolish, but I don’t think that makes it wrong. I don’t think it will ever happen, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all strive for it.

            • Hi Galactic,
              What you are describing is actually the hope of Anglican/Episcopalian Christianity. The idea that people do not need to agree theologically to pray the same words…that we can all meet at the communion rail. In practice it is more difficult to do than say. People still make uncharitable assumptions of others. I have been on the receiving end of it myself. But in general, the vision is quite beautiful and hopeful.

            • I think that that is a lovely and noble goal. Of course, no body of people of any sort will ever be perfect, but the more people that support these ideas, the better of a world we will have! I hope you will keep up this attitude of acceptance in your church and the communities around you!

    • Amen, The church(es) ignore the outsiders trying to speak to it. If they would only listen instead of just going with their own programs and social clubs, this terminal illness the church has could be treated and even cured. I used to be told that people leave the church because they go to secular universities and get a post-modern, liberal, left-wing, whatever education, but it isn’t these secular institutions that are the problem. The church is responsible for driving out many through the list you mentioned: I would add neglect to that list too. Funny, but the only religious people that ever come to my door are the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

      • Good call, Terry. There is actually a whole other list of things that you cracked the door on. That post was the summary of a talk given to urban youth workers several years ago. They are doing things some others aren’t: Loving kids, going to their world, Loving Jesus, serving others.

    • Showiness. Isn’t that right? The actors are better than the audience. Praise them, to my detriment. I slink back from awesome people who don’t welcome me in, because they “rightly deserve” all the attention, and I “deserve” none – as in, I have not earned it. I have not earned the right to be heard, so I am to sit in the back. Aren’t I a human. Didn’t I accept the mantle of the Christian faith long ago? But it is worth nothing because I’m not showy. I’m not talented, I’m not eloquent and passionate and outgoing and expressive, I’m not even daring or risky, so I am in the back. Yes, it’s where I chose to be, but is it where I belong? Can we be a circle of Christians, as if everyone truly had something to give and everyone could truly learn from everyone? I am in the back. When they let me sit back there, they refuse to love me.

      • I’m sorry that you have been neglected by your church. Yes, I seem to find that many Christians pay only lip-service to those that come through the door… counting heads, if you will, so they can say “praise the Lord, we now have 10 new members!” But do they notice, do they really have compassion, do they expect to learn anything or gain anything from these new faces? Or do they just assume that you are less than them? I find it is usually the latter.

        • Every body likes to belong, that being said everybody started out new, the older ones who remember what it was like being new, should have empathy or the gift of hospitality. God at work in the body. If you do not have a whole body you limp. be all you can be and pray faithfully that God will provide. Do your best pray that it is blessed and let God take care of the rest. I love God because He first loved me. Go in peace and love the hurting, best way to heal hurts. Forgive and let God work through you. You and Me and God vs. the World flesh and the Devil. I like our team!

    • Hi Galacticexplorer;

      I read your LONG life testimony and it was worth-reading. You have the makings of a prolific writer. Thank you for sharing.

      I am writing to share my two-cents worth. As we wait for the Second Coming, seeking for a perfect or the non-hypocritical church or church members are far from reality. (I think , this is even an understatement). So , what I have learned to do (to spare myself the frustrations and discouragements) is to look for a church where God wants me to be. It is HIs command, so He must provide one for us. He wants us to belong to a community of believers (that share the same faith), and encourage one another. My seeking for a church is out of my obedience to HIm (more than anything).

      The bible is clear “to NOT CONFORM to the pattern of this world but be ye TRANSFORMED by the renewing of our minds”. And the Bible alone is the ultimate authority in leading us on how to live our lives, the template of our transformation- the truth revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, regardless of denominations.

      Pride and strong self-entitlement were the root-cause on why I and some of the people I know left the church. Therefore, I went back to basic. I re-learned to be humble and seek to worship God and serve His people: That’s my mindset now and my priorities. I will not be blinded by the mistakes of my churchmates and leaders because I will rebuke them with love. I will continue to speak the truth, not my truth, but the truth set by His Word. I will continue to love and serve. I will continue to be more forgiving and understanding and patient and considerate. Because God is in the business of building our character. And there is no building of character without tests, trials, disagreements. And if in the event that I NEED to leave the church, the HOLY SPIRT will be the one to dictate me and not “other voices” ( not even my voice. because our voices can be very deceiving) BUT ONLY THE VOICE OF GOD through Hs Word- THE BIBLE.

      I pray for the Holy Spirit of God to be upon you And that you will continue to walk by faith and not by sight. May the Lord continue to use your beautiful life testimony to touch and open the eyes of a lot of people who are lost and deceived and less loving.

      • Thank you for the encouragement! I am glad to see that so many people have read my story and felt moved to respond. It is hard being vulnerable sometimes, so encouraging words are very helpful.

        To be honest, a lot of the reason that I left the church is because I NEEDED to learn how to be proud and self-entitled. So much focus was always put on tearing me down, and tearing myself down, in my early faith. “You’re disgusting. You’re unworthy of love. You’re unworthy of comfort. You’re unworthy of protection. You’re unworthy of living.” These were my mantras for so long that they brought me to the brink of suicide. This is what the church supported, over and over again, and what I repeated to myself over and over. I NEEDED to learn that I have value! I can be proud! My life is worth something! I deserve something better than neglect, abuse, disdain, and hatred. The church taught me I deserved all of these things. Being humble was not my problem; I was too humble. I saw no worth in myself. Now I am learning otherwise. In order to do that, I needed to be away from the church and all of those toxic messages. This doesn’t mean that God was behind them… I don’t think he was. I think God has helped me find my self-worth. Or maybe he doesn’t exist. I’m not sure. I do know that, finally, I feel like I deserve to live, be happy, and be loved. To me, that is salvation.

        Again, thank you for your encouraging words! All the best!

        • Hi:

          Please allow me to share this with you.

          Whoever wants to embrace life
          and see the day fill up with good,
          Here’s what you do:
          Say nothing evil or hurtful;
          Snub evil and cultivate good;
          run after peace for all you’re worth.
          God looks on all this with approval,
          listening and responding well to what he’s asked;
          But he turns his back
          on those who do evil things.
          —1 Peter 3:8-12 MSG
          Father, thank You for the reminder of character qualities that are such a vital part of our Christian lives. Though we bear very few of the marks of maturity Peter wrote about in the passage above, we always need to be stirred up by way of reminder. How often we have come before You, asking for help in these areas! You have heard our pleas on many occasions. Truth be told, You will hear them again. We yearn to be like Your Son, Jesus, the One who modeled each of these marks of maturity to perfection, though fully man. We long to grow in spiritual maturity . . . but the uphill journey takes so long. We confess that it often feels unending.
          Thank You for the promise that Your Holy Spirit will be with us each step of the way. We desperately need His empowerment to keep us going and growing . . . until we become like Jesus . . . fully conformed to His image.
          We ask, Father, that You give us hope beyond our immaturity. Help us in our unbelief. Guard us from discouragement. As we look back over the checklist You gave to Peter—and realize how far we have to go—remind us also how far we’ve come, by Your grace. Remind us that You will complete the good work You began in us . . . until the day of Christ Jesus.
          Through His matchless name we pray. Amen.
          See also John 14:16-17; Galatians 5:16; Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 5:8; 2 Peter 1:13.

          • I am now happily running after peace for all I am worth. Leaving the church was, unfortunately, part of that for me, since the church offered me no peace. But I am certain that I can be of good use in the rest of the world. Thank you for your kind thoughts!

        • Hello again Galactic,

          It sounds as if you have had a very slanted exposure to the doctrine of the image of God. John Stott wrote a great piece in Christianity Today about how “I am a Jekyll and a Hyde” …both are true. I have both dignity and depravity.” If we get one without the other, we end up with a pretty dangerous view of ourselves and humanity. Both are true…we are both deeply flawed and the beloved of God.

          If you are ever in Phoenix look me up. I’ll buy the coffee. :-)

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  3. So being Relevant and Segregated are what we are blaming here? As far as I can tell those are methodological terms which have no bearing on what is important.

    Does the church pray?
    Does the church stand on the Bible?
    Does the church confront the reality of sin in their lives and repent?
    Does the church have a passion for bringing the lost to Jesus?

    Questions such as this are far more important than whether or not you use lights and screens during your worship service or sing out of a book held in your hand to a piano or organ.

    “Coolness” is such a subjective term it is difficult to brand something so important as this. What seems “Cool” to me is not “Cool” to you. So what if you are “cooler” than me? What does that have to do with anything biblical?

    We just need to be careful that we are not lumping in too much in our criticism and blame game. Those church that are “cooler” often fail by blaming the problems in our church today on other people for being too “uncool”. The real conversation should be around core truths and whether or not we are living in reality and dealing with that reality according to biblical truth.

  4. Excellent article. I understand. However, we have a ministry full of 20-30 year olds. In our local ministry we have two pastors and a prophet all in that age group. As a result we have young children being filled with the Holy Spirit and it is not unusual to have pre-teens giving a Word of Wisdom in our meetings. What we have to do is teach people how to walk in the Spirit (Instead of teaching them “Church”.

  5. You wrote, “The beauty of where we are at today is that…” Since you are writing an article, thought I’d point out that the “at” is not needed, nor is it good grammar. It should read, “The beauty of where we are today is that,….” :-)\

  6. I’m one of those who left. I was president of my youth group at a very large United Methodist church, and was on the district youth council and was the youth delegate to the district council. Why did I leave? Because the church quit teaching what Jesus taught, and went back to the Old Testament. I tried other denominations in my efforts not to leave, but the answer kept coming back the same. A close friend who is a retired United Methodist minister told me I didn’t leave the church, the church left me. When the church becomes more about unconditional love again and less about condemnation, I may come back. When the church becomes more about redemption again and less about naming sins, I may come back. When the church quits cherry-picking which sections of Leviticus it wants to enforce – or starts using Leviticus as history entirely, since Jesus fulfilled those laws, I may come back. When the church quits taking votes about whether or not homosexuals can be Christians, and by this debate sets that “sin” apart as more significant than any other sin (and forgetting that we are ALL sinners, and have ALL been redeemed in Christ), I may come back. Meanwhile, I find God in my garden. “And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own.” For me, that is the real church now.

    • Hi Harry, Thanks for bringing your voice to this.

      Was your church preaching about whether L/G people can be Christian? Lots of people are saying that here. I have never heard a sermon about homosexuality in church, and I have been a part of many different denominations over the years. I have heard plenty of sermons about marriage with the assumption that marriage is between male/female. Individual Christians and the church have in times and places been horrible to the L/G/B/T community. Not many would deny that today.

      There is a legitimate disagreement about what the role between nature and nurture is in the development of human sexuality and what that means for people seeking to be faithful Christians, and whether or not Christians should read the 7 prohibition passages as definitive, or more like slavery, on a trajectory of change.

      Your statement raises a question: How is your seeming single issue withdrawal different from the single issue elevation of one sin above others you report? Is the church better without your voice? And is being alone in your garden corporate worship and the engagement with people with whom iron could sharpen iron?

      I was not in your shoes. I grew up without the church…and spent the lions share of my life not liking church. The Episcopal Church and its ancient words have been a gift to my soul, allowing me to be a part of something that is essentially about worship in praying the same words rather than the agreement to think in lockstep. I do think that corporate worship and community are soul values worth fighting for and worth being somewhere over.

      Can I ask an honest question here? I am in no way trying to demean you or cause defensiveness, I am honestly looking for an answer because so many write and say what you are saying. Here it is: With all of the L/G/B/T affirming churches, if this is about the L/G/B/T issue, why not just find a gay affirming church to be a part of?

      (Note to readers: I do not want to start a debate on whether or not same sex attraction is sin or same sex sexual activity is a sin. I want to hear from Harry or others who dropped from church over it’s treatment of L/G/B/T people.)

      • Mattarino, m leaving was not a single issue leaving. The gay debate is just one symptom of what broke my heart. The Bible teaches that God forgives our sins, and washes us clean. The church (at least the ones I’ve tried) teach that we need to clean up our own sins first, and once we’ve gotten ourselves scrubbed to a sparkle, God may smile on us. That’s the problem, and the issues of gay relationships, women pastors, whether or not the unwed mother should be allowed to remain in the choir, and on and on and on are the symptoms. Many churches have forgotten the teachings of Christ, and replaced them with a rule book base on the current list of what makes a person “respectable.” We’ve become the Pharisees that Christ condemned.

        When we were children, we sang “Jesus loves me, this I know…” As I grew into adulthood, this became replaced with, “This church will love you if you follow our dogma, stick to our rules of behavior and believe what we believe.” My belief is that God speaks to each of us individually, and provides us with the message we need for each day. And I still find community in worship. I didn’t mean to imply the only place I find God is in my garden. I find God in family gatherings, 12-step meetings, support group meetings for physical diseases, dinner parties with close friends, attending a concert, a symphony, a play or an art museum, or walking through a zoo with others. In the original post there was a question of what happened to the sense of awe and wonder at the sacred (remembering as best I can here – forgive me if I didn’t read it the way it was intended). The ancients found that sense of awe and wonder at the sacred in looking at a sunset, marveling at a newborn child, being overwhelmed by a forest of tall pines or a mountain’s majesty. I agree with that, and I also find it in the smile of a friend, the laughter of a child, a hug from my sister, and the support of my own community.

        • Hi Harry,
          Thank you for taking the time to respond. It is hard to communicate emotion over text, and I was hoping that I wasn’t coming off as “loaded.”

          I read of your experience with the church and am amazed that people are still dealing with unwed moms and women clergy. I came from an environment that when high school girls started having babies we started a ministry for them so that they could learn about Jesus and some new crafts and skills for parenting and other young people provide child care for them so that they can have a break for a few hours a week. That organization also now staff camp weeks for them at a discount and bring an army of childcare providers for them.

          I did indeed mean to suggest that we could bring space for mystery and the sacred back into public worship! Thank you for picking that up. Many merely want to debate that as a “preference.”

          Blessings on your journey.

  7. gallacticexplorer,
    Thank you for pouring your heart out and your honesty. I know people who are dealing with that very same issue. Please don’t give up on church. I belong to the Christ Gospel Church of Decatur, IL. We are a small, totally non-judgemental church that is like a family. It has changed my life. I’m sorry your past pastors wouldn’t listen to you. Mine would with love-even past the word “gay.” Check out Christ Gospel Churches International on Facebook. I’ll be praying for you : )

    • Thank you for replying! I looked up Christ Gospel Church Intl’ and read about their beliefs. I appreciate that they state that one need not make oneself appear a certain way or renounce certain behaviors in order to become a member of the church. However, as it is not an affirming church, I do not think I could feel welcome or safe in such an environment (I am in VA, so I’d be at a different congregation than you, sadly). After all of the pain, I am just not willing to open myself to that sort of risk. All the same, I thank you for the suggestion, and the prayers are always welcome! =)

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  9. Good evening, Pastor.
    The whole nightmare around the emerging church has described my, oh….20 years on the West Coast.

    See, I was raised in Mississippi in the Southern Baptist Church, but grew up in Oregon, in, uh…well, a whole bunch of non-denoms, Baptists, Presbyterians, etc. My family and I were searching, but we knew not what for. All we knew was that Jesus had abandoned the churches either shortly before or shortly after we left (it’s like we were Typhoid Mary in many cases).

    In high school, my family settled on a non-denom that appeared unafraid to use the “s-word,” and the “h-word” (sin and hell), and had started preaching on Revelation when we joined – another oddity among churches in our neck of the woods. I joined their youth group, and I can attest to the fact that it leaves believers feeling abandoned, because almost everyone I went to youth group with fell away in some form or other. Praise God, many came back, but I attribute that more to His Grace than to my church’s teachings.

    Now, I do have a question that seems to follow this trend (and is but one of many symptoms of the overarching disease), but it seems like many of these churches have in common a lack of that “old time Religion” that our father’s cherished. By this I mean that many non-denoms choose “worship songs” – which are mindlessly repetitive – over the traditional hymns, OR they have hymns, but are sung with no passion, fervor, or joy. I can’t imagine that Peter and Silas sang songs without meaning in that old prison, or that they merely intoned verse after verse. What, then, is a reasonable expectation for a parishioner such as myself to expect from my church, or should I simply sit back and say, “Abba, there ain’t gonna be anything perfect until I see You in glory. Until then, I’m just going to do the best with what they give me, and may You glorified?”

    …Actually, I think I answered my own question.

    • Hello Pax,
      I am glad you are finding peace. I am guessing in this day and age that you can find a church that sings passionately AND includes hymns in the playlist. Enough worship pastors are getting tired of the pablum.

      I was at a church recently with a very talented band. They sang acceptably 3 modern, low content, “love songs with she changed to he.” Then they went into a 2 song hymn medley and raised the roof on the place. My 16 year old son said, “Man, you would think they would give up on the weak stuff and sing the real stuff.” I do realize that he has had a certain amount of corruption living in my home. However, we have nothing but modern instruments in our church. The music guy wants to sing high-content stuff and does his best to find stuff he can play as a non-music reader.

  10. Pingback: What I’ve Been Reading « Cathy Thoughts

  11. I think you have some interesting points (and something I believe a lot of people would agree with in many circles). On some level it seems like you also may be a victim of the same “preference” pill. In essence you’ve called out some things that you think are deficiencies in other churches, but in reality may merely be preferences (or in this case your preferences).

    Take segregation of youth from the adults as an example. You clearly “prefer” for the youth to be in church with the adults and I’m sure your preference in that area is grounded in your belief it is better for the church and/or the youth. Other churches have concluded it is best when/if the youth have separate services and I believe in some cases are genuinely doing what they think is best in their community. But certainly this (whether youth should be in the same gathering on the Sabbath or not) is/was not a mandate given to Christians by scripture, Christ, apostles, etc.

    Or the Sunday experience (large auditoriums, etc.) piece / attractional model. There seems to be an underlying implication in your comments that if you’re “doing it the right way”, your church (attendance) will not get too big with lots of people attending or even attract lots of people… I don’t think you actually believe that (largely because you rightly cite the rapid growth of the early church), but it comes across this way. Is it possible that some churches are being missional trying to help transform lives, but are doing it within the context of a concert hall or methods that draw attention resulting in a “Big” church? I think it must be acknowledged that it is possible, but it can only be done if the church (and its leaders) are genuinely trying to be led by God to transform their community, with pure godly motives. Not trying to gain power, recognition, influence, money, etc… Obviously some churches (leaders) out there deceive themselves at times saying they’re not after these things, when they really are chasing them.

    I think the piece focuses too much on the methods of some churches insinuating that such method could not be done appropriately, rather than focusing on what the right heart/motive looks like when pursuing improvement in these areas.

    Example. Cain & Abel both gave gifts to God and on the surface an observer would see the same act (giving gifts to God), but in one case the gifts pleased God (Abel) and in the other they did not (Cain). How so??? Because God knew the heart behind those gifts. Similarly, I think God can be pleased by a big, concert hall church service that may come across as attractional to some and at the same time be displeased by the big, concert hall service across the street. Similarly you could have God be very pleased by a more traditional (or church like you envision) in one case and displeased by another doing the exact same type of thing, only without the proper motives and/or heart for letting God work through them. Again, it goes to the heart/motives of the people in the church.

    Going back to the “preference” thing I started out with. As I mentioned, I think you too are being led by your preferences on some level, only I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. Preferring certain things in the Church experience is not necessarily a bad thing (it can be, which I understand is where you’re cautioning, but the concept of “preference” in church is not inherently a bad thing). Even the traditional churches today often have heating, air-conditioning, building protecting those from the elements, semi-comfortable seats, microphones, speakers, visual aid projection screens for songs, etc… These are all things that help make the church experience better for some people… They are not bad things, though some or all may be seen as “bad” things by some people out there… I happen to really enjoy / prefer when the house band does old hymns with modern rock arrangements. That happens to be my preference and the church I attend does so quite frequently.

    In short I admire your passion for these things and I believe you genuinely are trying to let God help you positively impact the lives of the youth in your church. My primary feedback is I think churches should focus on their own motives / heart for God’s plan in their church. It will look different in different churches, just like God’s plan for all Christians is not to go to seminary and/or lead a church. Christians being led by the holy spirit / God go on to accomplish all types of different things in all different areas of life (not just the mission field). Similarly, there all different spirit led, godly churches that don’t always look and feel the same. Their fundamental message is always the same (need for Christ death on cross, save us from sins, etc.), but how they operate (worship, evangelize, serve, etc.) may not.

    In my personal experience I’ve been a part of 2 different churches that I believe had those genuine motives and were at opposite ends of the spectrum. 2000 – 2003 I attended Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC (Paster Tim Keller – I still download his messages), which is very traditional in terms of how it operates, although it is a very large Church. I now attend Flood Church in San Diego since 2004. Flood is very non-traditional but yet is genuinely trying to help people be transformed by the gospel (as far as I can tell).

    • HI Kyle,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      I really like Redeemer and checked out your new churches website and listened to a sermon. Your pastor was doing a great job teaching the Scriptures.

      There is a lot in the Cool Church post that is not obvious (which I tried to address in “O Yeah, what I wish I would have said in cool church: http://thegospelside.com/2013/08/12/o-yeah-and-other-things-i-wish-i-would-have-said-on-cool-church/

      I think you might have misunderstood what I was doing. I was not saying, “we all have preferences and my arbitrary preferences are better than yours.” I was looking at data that says, “Young adults are disconnecting” and asked, “Why?” Two things came up in the data: 1) Churches that don’t segregate seem to keep a higher percentage of their students. That is a strategy that is independent of spiritual content, passion, leadership, etc. The other thing is the “relevant” model. That model is based on the idea that church should be more like the world. That worked very well in an age when the world was friendly to people: if you invest in your 401k and buy a home, you were guaranteed a good retirement. In a post-911 world the culture is not necessarily their friend: An airplane may get crashed into your building. The economy may collapse. Your job may disappear in a heartbeat. The data indicates that millennials are asking for something different-something more ancient, rooted…something bigger and more solid than this current world.

      Thanks for taking the time to write.

      • Agreed. I did misunderstand and/or should have read the other post first which does a great job of clarifying. I have a much better understanding of place you were writing from.

        I think what makes a topic like this so difficult is the impossibility of really trying to understand large segments of the population. I work in the financial services and everyone is constantly trying to understand and “reach” different groups. For instance the baby boomer generation is this large segment of the population that investors and financial advisors want to understand and predict how they will operate or respond to various things. Anyway, thanks for you thoughts and the work you’re doing.

    • Hi Lidycata,

      Surely “done well” and Christ-centered and Spirit led is more important than style.

      However, a higher percentage of youth from churches with NO youth ministry seem to remain in church than students in churches WITH youth ministry.

      The logical assumption would be that a church with a youth ministry has more content than one without a youth ministry. Having a youth ministry says that the church has the resources to invest in leadership for youth. The glaring, jarring issue is that it appears that churches that have NO leadership or program (also potentially indicating a failing church) appear to be doing a better job of keeping their young people than churches that do.

      That is the weird stat – That one might naturally conclude that weaker churches seem to be keeping a higher percentage of their kids than high-content churches.

      It is a head scratcher, isn’t it?

      • Is that because the “weaker” churches without youth ministries have fewer kids to start out with? I don’t know the stats, but it is possible that both churches keep the same absolute number of students, but the bigger, more “exciting” churches attract more people who are not committed in the same way, but are there for the show, or something like that. The “weaker” churches do not attract those people. Then, those “extra” people are lost upon graduation, while the core student group from both churches remains in the church forever. Or smaller = more personal attention = fewer drift.

  12. Loved the article except for one fact. Most of the facts on how many youth are leaving the church and never returning (hard to prove that one, unless someone tracks them for about 40-50 years) are very weak at best. The 88% figure has been used a lot but has no real source that is dependable. The Time magazine source is also hard to support. I read Time every week. The best figure that has truly been fully researched for youth leaving the church, is Dr Gary Railsback of UCLA, who studied a huge number of college students coming in to college and then how they have changed coming out. His figure is 55%. Still bad, though!! It is found in a number of sources. I first found it in David Wheaton’s, “University of Destruction” fully foofnoted in the back of the book. I met Dr railsback a few years ago at NAPCE and discussed it with him.

    • Hi Johnny,
      Thanks for commenting. I honestly cannot figure out how one could say, “and never coming back” other than that is what someone self-reports. And we all know that what humans say and do are very different animals.

      I am also not ready to say that Pew research is not valid. That is where my 1/4, 1/2 data came from.

      There are a couple of recent works that seem very solid. Have you seen the intro and literature review of the Hemorrhaging Faith study released in April? It has a good summary.

  13. Interesting post, yet I know of another reason why young people are leaving the church, and this deals with people going into a new church (building), sometimes even a new denomination. There is an expression that “If you give up your old friends who are in sin, Jesus will give you new ones (Christians).” People who have been away from church for a while and go to a church other than one where they know people will usually have a hard time finding this to be true. All too often, churches are filled with clicks just like in the outside world. While the preaching and praise and worship may be very good, what everyone in church needs in addition to Jesus and a growing relationship with Him are Christians who care enough about new people to actually connect with him/her during the week. After all, we are supposed to care about people, and what better way than to text someone a “Hello! How are you?” once during the week or to do something else similar? It’s sad to know that many, many Christians don’t even care enough about people to try to do this. Actually, this is an ongoing problem that persists for people of all ages who are in search for a church.

  14. Wow, lots of comments. But you nail it pretty well…

    Here’s the thing, though: we know what we’re doing isn’t working yet in most of the *successful* church models today, to suggest an alternate course or radical makeover will be greeted with a cold stare. That most churches (especially the successful megachurches) are running off a model, a playbook from other successful churches and that you detail in this post is on the checklist: “segregation” of youth, disneyland-esque shows, rock-concert vibe to service (which is more in tune w/baby-boomer/gen-x desire), messages more centered in MTD, etc.

    • There is some total denial. But I am finding many mega church pastors who know that their suburban model deal doesn’t work for single young adults and that people are stalling marriage. They also know that many marrieds want to move to inner-cities. So those facts alone are motivating at least attention. In Arizona the largest church has a great building for young adults that is sitting unused and they no longer staff a dedicated young adults person.

  15. So if today’s Youth are leaving the church at 1/2 the rate of their Parents and 1/4 of the rate of Grandparents, does this mean there was a 50% drop from generation 1 to 2 and then a 50% from generation 2 to generation 3. If we are blaming youth ministries and contemporary churches for the drop of generation 2 (parents) to generation 3 (teenagers)… what caused the 50% drop from generation 1 (grandparents) to generation 2 (parents).

    • That is a good question…the big question really. That is a Pew Research number by the way, and they are among the gold standards in data sources. Lots of researchers are saying that the first group, my parents group, represents a bubble…that it was a time when Americans went to church at higher than historic rates. However this new group goes to church at much lower than historic rates. It was “in the water” to go to church for that group. There was actually a Christian church in Phoenix that had a staff rabbi, since so many Jewish parishioners were there for business reasons.

  16. Why is it so hard to understand that kids who are PART of the church, involved in EVERY part of it as a family is entwined together in daily life, see their part in the church as organic and good and necessary. If they are given the sense that they are an important part of the whole church, they may leave, as they leave their families as they grow up, but they will return because they ARE a part of it, and it feeds their soul.

    It’s the ATTITUDE of the adults they are learning from—and the reality IS that the adults are not reflecting/teaching CHRISTIAN precepts in their lives or their words. THAT drives most young people out of the church. I grew up in a parsonage, and was driven out of organized religion by the disparity between Christ’s words, and the way people interpreted them as a way to control their little social groups and also a way for people with huge needs for ‘supporters’ to find a group who will make them feel important and in charge. The amazing, and often sick, egos that have found a niche in the American Church System are unbelievable!! They’re also not really Christian….but they consider themselves to be! A child hears “Love one another” and sees that the only way they’re gonna be allowed to DO that is so circumscribed by rules, conventions, laws and wildly unChristian social mores that they have no chance to ever measure up to…no wonder they leave!!

    You don’t have to dress the message up to get souls interested…just stop all the social posturing and the in/out games, and LOVE without requiring people to “FIT IN” to the group! What’s Church really FOR??

  17. I think you’re totally missing the point here. If you think that people are leaving the church once they graduate because your church isn’t boring enough, you’re delusional. It’s no coincidence that people stop going to church at college age. Two reasons: 1. Many were only going because their parents made them, plain and simple.
    2. It’s amazing what a little “higher education” can do for your mind. Once one learns that there are other views than the extremely narrow one provided by their parents/church, the world becomes a lot clearer, and believing in the Christian God becomes akin to believing in Santa Claus. I know you people won’t like it, and obviously you won’t agree, but the fact is that Christianity is losing its stranglehold on the United States to common sense and critical thinking.

    • Hi Chad,
      Thanks for commenting. It sounds as if you may be among the giant list of those who have had a negative experience with a church. Much of American Christianity is not recognizable as Christianity at all (at least when you read the Bible). Rather than resembling the radical and world shaking ideas of an itinerant teacher who turned upside down all of the world’s values (production, social class, power, etc), it resembles much more the paganism of Rome in which the dominant religion was a tool of social conformity.

      I do have to wonder what part of the country you are in. In the West, almost no one (except maybe a few home school or Christian school kids) go to church because their parents make them. It is 2013. Parents have to fight their kids on enough. They aren’t going to add church into the mix.

      On your other contention, It seems that you are either saying that people are becoming less religious or less “Christian.” The data does not support your theory that people are becoming less religious, just less tied to the institutional church. In terms of them becoming more tied to “common sense” and “critical thinking” I would ask if you really think that is so? It was critical and forward thinking cultures that gave us Nazi-ism and Stalin – not exactly bastions of humanitarianism. So, the data is that people are not becoming more “critical” at all. The data is that people are picking and choosing ideas that they like from many different religions, forming an incoherent potpourri of inconsistent beliefs. The great religious traditions of the world have survived because they have wisdom and staying power. Humans seem to have religion hard-wired into us. That is why it is hard to eradicate, no matter the means employed.

      For a more plausible source of why people are leaving the church, there has been a recent study of young atheists who are former professing Christians and church members. It is very interesting. Have you read the Atlantic article on interviews with young atheists? http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/listening-to-young-atheists-lessons-for-a-stronger-christianity/276584/

      Thanks again for writing, Chad. I trust you will understand my wishes for God to bless you on your journey. :-)

  18. I agree with much of your assessment, but not with your answer. “This worship was so God-directed and insider-shaping that in the early church non-Christians were asked to leave the building before communion!” It’s unfortunate much of Jesus and his followers’ teachings on inclusiveness are twisted to become the very justification for being exclusive. (Romans 14 & 15; 1 Corinthians 8 & 11). Any reading in context without preconceived notions will result in precisely the opposite understanding.

    • Hi John,

      I appreciate what you are saying.

      I have spent 30 years doing youth evangelism in which the motto was “every kid counts.” Our leaders literally sat in the quad of the high school and identified groups of kids. Leaders then claimed the different groups as their personal mission field and spent the next years entering their world to love those kids in Jesus’ name.

      The early Christians spent all day, every day, everywhere, always inviting everyone to the Savior. That is real inclusion and is very clear in the records both biblical and in the early Fathers. When they gathered for their family meal, though, it was family. Real inclusion is a family that is always adopting, which the family of God is.

      I find it inherently non-inclusive for Christians to stop doing evangelism in the world and defaulting to the Church to do it for them in the sanctuary. If I wanted the sanctuary to be for evangelism I would have stayed an evangelical. :-)

  19. Of course there is some truth in your assessment of why “the church is dying,” but there is much more to it than that. One, each generation is better educated that the last, and each has access to more scientific discovery than their parents’ did – and often those tangible or demonstrable discoveries do not fit with scripture. Two, non-believers are beginning to be accepted in the mainstream (much as happened with gays not long ago) and no longer need to remain “in he closet” – and like a snowball, such things tend to pick up momentum and grow… plus they no longer fear being tortured and executed for blasphemy, heresy and apostasy as was once the case. Three, more and more celebrities like George Clooney, Jodie Foster and Woody Allen are openly atheist or agnostic and since they are role models in a culture which reveres the cult of personality it sends a signal that unbelief is not only okay – it is cool. Contrast that with a time when big stars like Rock Hudson had to conceal their sexuality behind sham marriages in order to remain employed. Fourth, the internet has enabled people who do not believe in God to find one another, and when they realize there are others out like them (and they are often surprised to discover just how many there are) they feel confident enough to take a stand. There is strength and security in numbers and acceptance. The bottom line is unless Jesus provides everyone on the planet with their own “Damascus Road Experience” sometime soon the church will vanish (much as it already has in parts of Europe) and soon be nothing more than a fringe cult… and since that “experience” is unlikely to happen, it may soon be time to “say uncle.”

    • Hi Andy,
      Thank you for your comments. You have lots of good stuff to share.

      There is certainly more to it than was in the post. The post was the outline of a talk given to youth ministers on there contribution to the issue. I talk a bit about it in this followup: http://thegospelside.com/2013/08/12/o-yeah-and-other-things-i-wish-i-would-have-said-on-cool-church/

      Your comments about education and science are echoed by many in the previous comments. Unfortunately, the comments on this post long ago became unwieldy. It is too bad they don’t post topically rather than chronologically. I will chime in with a version of something I have said before: The data I have seen shows young people as at least as “spiritual” as they have ever been, but are disengaging anyway. I find when I ask (which I do a lot of as a curious sort) that it is for one of two reasons: 1) The church did not give them leaders, role models, or content (the mainline denominations who defunded youth ministry) or it 2) Gave them dogma without spiritual practices (the conservative church, both evangelical and Catholic). They came to us wanting Jesus and we gave them an organization to join, theological outlines and moralism (“three steps to a happier sex life”).

      In gross oversimplification, the new generation doesn’t think like those over 35. They don’t have to agree with Clooney…or Timberlake to love their art. They embrace what the older generations consider mutually incompatible ideas, for example, as a group millennials are considerably more pro-life and pro-gay than previous generations-this plays games with older generations minds. Young adults tend to be fine with complexity: they can be friends with people with widely divergent beliefs. They don’t understand why democrats and republicans have to yell about their disagreements. They can disagree intensely and then grab a beer together. This comes off as wishy-washy to lots of people in my generation and older. I don’t think that is it.

      I do know tons of young adults who have had Damascus Road experiences but left anyway when the church didn’t cultivate the experience!

      Thanks for commenting, Andy. Do come back.

      • Thanks for the reply mattarino. I left out one point related to my earlier comment which dovetails with our changing culture. When I was growing up I never knew anyone who was not a Christian. In fact I never even knew there were such people! The church of my community was pretty much THE church, but today kids are exposed to all manner of belief systems at a young age, and I suppose it can get quite confusing for them. Personally I think (and I’m sure you will disagree with this), in a perfect world, children should grow up in a religious vacuum, and upon reaching the age of majority have the dogma of all belief systems presented to them so that they can make an informed decision with a fully developed mind and without the prejudice of community or family pressure. As Bishop Tutu and many others have pointed out, people tend to adopt the religion of their communities rather than searching out their own truth. A system like this would IMO pretty much guarantee that the strongest and most compelling message would be the one to survive, and all others would more or less fade away.

        • Hi Andy,

          I enjoy your comments!

          Boy did we grow up in different environments. My parents had left organized Christianity before I was born and actually thought exactly as you think.

          As a result, I vaguely knew about Noah’s ark and Moses and Jesus from those old spectacular movies, but after being baptized for the grandparents hadn’t been to church.

          I knew a few Christians in school, but they kept it pretty under wraps.

          I embraced Christianity the first time I heard the message at a young life camp when I was 17. I had an emotionally painful adolescence, so when I found out that a couple of friends who knew that Jesus offered love, forgiveness and a life of purpose and that they hadn’t told me about it I was angry with them. My strong feeling was that they could have saved me years of frustration but didn’t because they were too worried about what I thought about them.

          So I don’t know if that proves your point or not. :-)

          I do know that my children, both late adolescents report their faith as an incredibly meaningful part of their life and have a desire to sensitivity share with others the gift that walking with Jesus is to them. Most of their peers growing up, like mine were, were outside of the Christian faith as well. They are well-adjusted, leaders with peers (both going through high school as class presidents). One is a pre-med major, the other hoping to go to the Naval Academy to study naval architecture.

          Bishop Tutu is surely right about people embracing the narrative they are presented with. I am just not sure that humans do not construct a narrative whether they are given one our not. The question is which one? I think that any of the world’s great religions offers a better narrative than the absurd narrative of the dominant culture: “You are an accident of time and chance, but really special.” Any kid with a brain realizes that while “accidents” might be unique, by definition are neither “special” or purposeful.

          Thanks again for engaging!

          • Thanks mattarino. I don’t know if your experience “proves my point” exactly, because while you did make a choice on your own it was pretty much the only one presented to you. If you were instead called “Mohammadarino” that story could easily have culminated with you walking with Allah rather than Jesus – and even then, it would not meet the standard I alluded to because all systems would not have received equal time on a level playing field. I have lived on four continents and visited 85 countries, and the diversity of thought and tradition in this world amazes me… and it is difficult if not impossible to reconcile that with there being one truth amongst many for all (unless we are talking about natural laws which apply to all regardless of beliefs, i.e. atmospheric pressure at sea level is 14.5 psi and 2+2=4 for a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, animist, atheist or what have you.

            Of course SOME humans will construct a narrative whether they are given one our not – mankind has been doing it for millennia, and the evidence is the thousands of religions which have been created… although it is less likely in this age, since so much more is now known about science and the natural world than was the case when the ancients decided the sun was a flaming chariot simply because they had no other explanation. As for your question, “the question is which one?,” I would say without a narrative they would invent something totally new (like Scientology). After all, nobody is going to come up with the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus or the winged horse of Mohammed or the golden plates of Joseph Smith without first being indoctrinated.

            I don’t really agree with the notion that “any of the world’s great religions offers a better narrative than the absurd narrative of the dominant culture” for a couple of reasons. First of all, have you ever read the Quran or BOM? (I already know you have read the Bible/Torah) You must agree, there is a LOT in those manuscripts which would be considered “absurd” by an objective reader! And as for the notion, “You are an accident of time and chance, but really special,” I do not believe that is actually the narrative – in fact I think it is quite the opposite. Religious dogma convinces people that we are more or less the center of the universe and/or the chosen people or however you want to state it… but science (in this case cosmology – astronomy was always one of my favorite subjects in school) puts us in our place and gives us perspective. When you consider that the distances involved in the universe are measured in hundreds of light years and that we occupy a small planet circling a dwarf star (which is only one out of a couple of hundred billion in our galaxy) on the edge (not even in the center!) of a galaxy which is itself only one of a couple of hundred billion in the universe (and there may even be other universes) you realize how insignificant, rather than special, we actually are. It also makes the notion of the creator of all that following around a particular tribe or group seem kind of small. As for the portion of your statement concerning us being “an accident of time and chance,” I have a logical way of looking at such things. If you buy a lottery ticket the odds you will win are small – 100 million or more to 1 – and it might seem as if it would take an “accident of chance” for you to win. But once you have won (and someone usually does) the chances of you winning are 100%. Compare that with the cosmological “game of chance.” There are certainly billions and billions of planets out there (just as there were millions of lottery tickets in the drawing) which means the odds of conditions for life being favorable for life on some of them are actually pretty good… and since we are here, that means our odds of existing are 100% as was the case with the winning lottery ticket.

            You are correct that accidents might be unique, but by definition neither special or purposeful, but that begs the question why does there have to be a purpose for anything… whether it be an appendix or nipples on a man or the frozen planet Neptune. Some things just are!

            Have a good evening.

            • Hi Andy,
              You opened a can of worms, friend.

              As I said, I grew up in an irreligious home. However, I became quite the convinced atheist from 6th grade until the end of Sophomore year. My parents divorced about the time my friend’s parents also were divorcing (that whole 70′s “discover yourself” thing). I thought, “Life really stinks. If there is a “god” he would have to be good and powerful. All this pain is evidence that there isn’t a good and powerful “god.” I remember asking my parents in 6th grade to admit that, “God is something parents made up to control kids, isn’t it.” My moms answer was, “Probably.” My dads, “Absolutely.”

              In a biology class I had an epiphany while dissecting a sheep eye: that there were too many tissue types. Beneficial mutation didn’t explain that! I had quite the identity as the DA for the crusade against God. To think that a sheep’s eye was designed – that caused a crisis. I grabbed my books, stood up and walked out of class. By the time I was half way home I came to the conclusion that there was a creator and therefore I needed to find a religion to explain creation.

              I did NOT start with Christianity. I had little use for it. The few girls I knew who went to church were promiscuous and the few guys I knew were big partiers. This, to me, was good indication of Marx’s “opiate of the masses.” So Christianity was most definitely not on my short-list.

              I started my God search by reading a book on Zen on my stepmom’s book shelf. This is the Sophomore mind at work: I started with Zen because it was as far East as you could get until you hit the international dateline and were “West” again…As far from victim Jesus and his flakey followers as possible. What I knew of Christianity was that they sat around arguing about things that didn’t matter while smoking pot and having sex.

              Zen seemed hopelessly complex to me. I moved on to Confucianism, which I realize isn’t really a religion, but I liked the respect for your elders and ancestors (who I thought must be much sharper than my parents who had split up). Besides, Confucius having a version of the golden rule 1000 years before Jesus made a good point of mockery with the Christians I knew.

              3 months into Confucius I had the realization that I couldn’t live the way I thought I should. One night I groused at my mom for wanting me to take out the trash. I realized that I knew HOW I should live, but wasn’t doing it. I had the sense that Confucianism would not work for me as I had no power to live the values.

              I moved on to regular Buddhism. Same thing with the Eightfold Path. Great values. I couldn’t do it.

              I had a friend whose older brother was a Hindu convert (early 70′s). He too was a druggy, so that didn’t have traction.

              I read the Koran. It was difficult in translation, and the idea that I could get browny points for offing the infidel caused me to put it down. I had enough anger without religion adding to it.

              The Mormons came by. I listened and realized it was Hinduism (eternal beings in progress) with Christian names.

              I decided that what I was looking for was best embodied by Judaism. I lived in a highly Jewish neighborhood and had great respect for my neighbors, some of which still had tatoos from the camps in WWII. All of this searching took a great deal of time. By senior year I was in a Bible as Literature class at the public high school. They only read the Old Testament. I really liked the Old Testament…found it very interesting. For some reason the violence seem limited in time and place. It occurred to me that I could become a proselyte to Judaism and have the Bible, the power to overcome adversity. I was asking my Jewish friends to take me to synagogue with them, but I had been so over the top in my atheism that they were hesitant. While I was trying to talk them into it, I was invited to the YL camp by a group of guys I played basketball with. They had lives that “worked.” I asked them what their secret was and they were smart enough not to use the “J” word. I would have laughed.

              My father is still an atheist. My mother is deceased. She returned to a belief in God in her later years, but never the church.

              So I didn’t really only have one choice. If you would have asked me on the way out of bio-lab I would have said, “I am looking for any religion but that one.”

              Which is why I said, “I might prove your point.”

            • No worries – I have no problem with worms, in a can or otherwise.That’s quite a story – and of course I didn’t know any of that when I commented. Have you ever watched Julia Sweeney’s performance piece “Letting Go of God”? (it is available on DVD) She went on a similar journey although her starting point was not atheism, and the show is quite entertaining.

              Your response more than covered my first paragraph… but I wonder what your thoughts are with regard to the remainder of my comments? The structure of a sheep’s eye may cause someone to question evolution, but by the same token the scope of the universe may well have the opposite effect.

              Until next time.

  20. Hi Andy,
    I do agree with you that all narratives are not created equal. :-)

    I do think there is a human universal need to find purpose…in a way that makes us unique from other creatures. I think that need for purpose is a built in call-back to our creator.

    I probably should say that I am a big fan of science, so I am not one of those with a view that faith and science are in opposition. In my mind, science is concerned with WHAT happened and WHEN it happened. Religion is concerned with WHY it happened and WHO made it happen. So I have never been one of those who is threatened or frustrated with science.

    I have a much more Newtonian view of science: for me chemistry, physics and bio for majors were more fun than church. My college biology professor wrote the text book we used for Bio108 (biodiversity). He was bugged with our class: he was giving out 3 A’s for the first time in his teaching career. One afternoon at the end of the semester he asked, “Ok, the other two are med majors. I understand them getting being motivated by to get an A. You are a youth minister. I cannot figure out why you are even in my class, let alone hanging on my every word. Christians generally hate my class. What’s your deal?” I said, “I love your class. I think God created everything. Three times a week I come to your class to find out how he did it. Your class amazes me. I hang on your words because I am worshipping in your class.” The professor sat looking at me for a moment and said, “Really? You think biology is amazing? I thought Christians had no ability to see any beauty that wasn’t in their book.”

    I actually think that Christian dogma puts God at the center of the universe, while humans continually attempt to put themselves idolatrously at the center.

    • Good evening!

      It’s great that you take such an interest science. Since we are discussing different dogmas and narratives, the statement you made in class, “I think God created everything,” should read “I think ‘a’ God created everything,” because an understanding of biology would only speak to how “he, she, it or they” did it assuming there is a creator – but would not identify a specific deity.

      Your statement, “I do think there is a human universal need to find purpose” is in interesting one because it raises a larger question, namely what IS that purpose? Philosophers have been debating that for centuries, and nobody has ever come up with an answer. Sure, humans may WANT to find out what their “purpose” is, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there has to be one. The most common theistic responses are “we can’t know,” which is to me nothing but dodging the question and inconsistent with people who so often claim to “know what god wants,” and “our purpose is to worship god,” which is problematic for me as a father. I have two daughters, and if someone ever opined that I had fathered them only so that they could worship me and give me unquestioning obedience I would find that repulsive… so if that is indeed our “purpose” it seems we are better and more moral than any being with such an agenda. I’m familiar with the argument that we do not decide what is moral and what is not, but once again I find that to be sidestepping the issue.

      When we deal with science as is the case with your biology class we are in effect agreeing to abide by the scientific method which defines it, so statements such as “I THINK that need for purpose is a built in call-back to our creator,” and “I THINK Christian dogma puts God at the center of the universe, while humans continually attempt to put themselves idolatrously at the center” are based more upon personal bias than upon any sort of basis in fact. As you know when a scientist says “I think” he is in effect putting forward a hypothesis, and it is then incumbent on him to demonstrate to anyone who is interested, on demand and unequivocally, that it is indeed correct.

      Your study of chemistry, physics and biology are certainly relevant to the discussion and I applaud you inquisitive nature, but I was really hoping that you would address the cosmological points I made about the significance of the human race in relation to the universe as a whole – because it is questions such as those which really give insight into what our “purpose,” if any, might be.

      Regards

      • Hello Andy,
        I am afraid life in space is crowding in on life in cyber-space. At the the time I don’t think I even said, “a god.” I think I said, “If a sheep eye is not an accident, neither is anything else. I have to find a religion that explains this.” Last night I was typing in the middle of a systematic theology course, so specificity was limited by multi-tasking. :-)

        Generally speaking there are two lines of inquiry into “is there a God?” The evidential and the philosophical. I have a friend, an old student from a youth group who is an Arizona State University philosophy professor: Owen Anderson. His area of expertise is the philosophical argument. He is convinced that a theistic deity is an obvious conclusion to anyone who starts with an open mind. He is far brighter than I. He blogs at Summa Bonum: http://thehighestend.blogspot.com

        Another good source for this conversation is a colleague: Lucas Mix. He is a member of the Society for Ordained Scientists. A year and a half ago he had a series of blog posts on the relationship between the scientific worldview and the theological one. Here is a post of his as an excerpt. Like Owen, he is of far, far greater intellectual capacity than I: http://dacalu.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/time-and-eternity/

        Identifying the purpose really is answering a question with a question. I merely raised the universal desire for a purpose as an evidence for a purpose. In the same way the apparently universal desire for worship seems to transcend time and cultures…and a sense of right and wrong. Although there is disagreement on how those should play out, their presence in humans seems near universal in a way that is not adequately explained through natural selection…much in the same way the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and a universe that should be running down, should not lead to increasing complexity. It all reminds me of a CS Lewis quote: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” ~C.S.Lewis

        Hope you have a good day. I am off to the races…

  21. Pingback: Here’s to the Hoary Heads! | Blueprints

  22. I have often wondered if man started as a fish progressed to a monkey to a human, when and why have we not developed into something better?

    • Ralph, that’s a misrepresentation of evolution. You probably know that your question is a strawman, but it does make for a simple and easy way to dismiss something you clearly do not understand and (probably) have not tried to understand. I recommend you read On the Origin of Species (which is actually quite readable) as well as some more current material such as The Greatest Show on Earth before making a judgment about what is and what is not true… or at least possible. That is the honest way to approach ANY question. I certainly would not want to be on trial, have the prosecution present its case, and then sit there as the jury renders a guilty verdict without the defense getting an opportunity to present its (my) side – and that is in effect what happens when someone makes a judgment about something without weighing as much information as possible. I would say that a person who decides in favor of evolution, but has never read scripture or investigated the supernatural, is equally guilty of being intellectually dishonest – wouldn’t you? Of course you can take the easy way out, say “god did it,” and go about your business… secure in the “knowledge” that 72 virgins await you in Paradise (I say that tongue in cheek, since Muslims are equally loathe to embrace evolution because it threatens THEIR narrative as well). I realize objectively reading and thinking and experimenting tends to give some people headaches, so they avoid doing those things at all costs… and I also realize those endeavors have the potential to lead people to conclusions they would prefer not to think about… which I suspect is the primary motivation for their eager embrace of willful ignorance (please do not view that as an insult – it simply means that while someone has the intelligence and resources to learn about something, they choose not to). Have a wonderful day. Now if you will excuse me, I have some evolving to do… hopefully into “something better.” (grin)

      • Hi Andy,
        I will move to your post after this, but I think that was a bit much in response to Ralph being humorous…in much the same way an atheist puts a fish with shark fins eating an ichthus on the back of their car.

  23. Good morning mattarino,

    I appreciate the difficulties of multi-tasking – I too am doing it… right now!

    Yes you did say, “If a sheep eye is not an accident, neither is anything else. I have to find a religion that explains this.” The first part, saying a sheep’s eye is not an accident, confuses me. Specifically what is it about the sheep’s eye which convinced you that it could not have formed via evolution? You never made that clear. And in any case the eye (sheep or otherwise) likely evolved through a series of intermediate stages – from a photosensitive cell to an optic nerve surrounded by pigment cells and covered by translucent skin and so on (in the interest of brevity I am not going to list the entire transition). All of the steps are known to be viable because all exist in animals living today, and the increments between steps are slight and may be broken down into even smaller increments and natural selection would under most circumstances favor the increments. I do understand that, viewed in its current state, the eyeball is quite complex… but evolution in no way proposes that it simply “popped into existence” as it is now (although creationism does). Once again, what observation in biology class led you to your conclusion?

    The second part is equally confusing to me, since virtually all religions (and as you pointed out, you have investigated many) have a creation story which would “explain it.” Of course Genesis simply says man was molded from clay and had life “blown into him” via his nostrils, and no mention is made of sheep or their eyes let alone the way they were designed and/or the mechanism by which they were constructed. We just basically have to accept “poof!”

    I appreciate the links to Professor Anderson and Mr. Mix, and will see what they have to say once I can fit it onto my dance card.

    I get that you were attempting to “raise the universal desire for a purpose as an evidence for a purpose,” but that is an invocation of circular reasoning. How is DESIRE for something (in fact anything) EVIDENCE for it? I can think of a thousand examples of how that logic is fatally flawed right off the top of my head. A man loves a women and desires that she love him back… but she doesn’t (although he might convince himself otherwise and become a stalker). A man desires the get rich scheme he sees on TV to be possible… but it turns out to be a scam. People desire eternal life… but that desire alone doesn’t mean it is true, likely or even possible. People desire the Bible to be true, that is not in and of itself evidence for its truth. And so on. In the end desire is only proof that we desire. It’s like when someone points to a tree and says that its existence is proof of (a) god (take your pick), when the logical answer is the existence of a tree is proof… that a tree exists.

    You are correct when you say that, “universal DESIRE (there’s that word again!) for worship seems to transcend time and cultures,” but that is explainable. It is human nature to want to know “why” and “how,” and until scientific explanations are discovered man has long been content to the supernatural (which requires no evidence and can be fabricated from whole cloth) to explain things. It is also natural for things to desire things which are probably unattainable such as a winning lottery ticket or life everlasting…. and in the end it is that desire which makes us easy prey for con men.

    I was disappointed that you used the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics as an analogy for your point, because that is probably the most misrepresented natural law of all. You said, “a universe that should be running down, should not lead to increasing complexity.” Why do you think it should be running down, since that is the basis of your premise? Your statement tells me that you almost certainly believe that the second law of thermodynamics does not permit order to arise from disorder, and therefore the macro evolution of complex living things from single-celled ancestors could not have occurred – but that is not accurate because it is only the over-all entropy of a complete, or CLOSED system that must increase when spontaneous change occurs (people tend to forget that we exist in an OPEN system, because we receive outside energy from sources such as the sun) – and in the case of spontaneously interacting sub-systems of a closed system some may gain entropy, while others may lose it. The second law of thermodynamics says heat will not spontaneously flow from a colder body to a warmer one or, equivalently, that total entropy (i.e. a measure of useful energy) in a closed system will not decrease… but this does not prevent increasing order because as previously mentioned the earth is not a closed system since sunlight (with low entropy) shines on it and heat (with higher entropy) radiates off. This flow of energy, and the change in entropy that accompanies it, can and will power local decreases in entropy on earth. Plus there are many examples in nature where order DOES arise spontaneously from disorder. For instance snowflakes (with their six-sided crystalline symmetry) are formed spontaneously from randomly moving water vapor molecules (unless of course you believe a “designer” fashions each and every individual snowflake!), and salts with precise planes of crystalline symmetry form spontaneously when water evaporates from a solution. In any case I’m certain your love of science will allow you to correct your view of the second law of thermodynamics accordingly! :-)

    It all reminds me of a Carl Sagan quote: “You cannot convince a believer of anything, for their belief is not based on evidence (as you yourself pointed out, the two lines of inquiry are evidential and philosophical), it is based upon a deep seated NEED (or DESIRE, if you will!) to believe.”

    Have a fantastic day!

    • Hi Andy,
      I have 30 teenagers on their way to my house, so I have to be a bit brief, but I will try to hit your questions.

      1. Sheep eye: We had just finished the evolution unit and the idea of beneficial mutation. This is hopelessly simplistic, but I took one look at the eye and realized that there are a half dozen tissue types-none of which work without the entirety of the eye. It looked to me like someone was playing with the pudding, so to speak.

      2. I actually never had the thought that evolution and long time were not involved-just that there was an outside influence guiding the time.

      3. My investigation at that point was not into creation stories but into finding a meaningful religion that explained my humanity. I did not assume that creation stories were to be historic. They are the product of non-western, non-literal minds. My assumption, as an 17 year old (and I think was generally a good inclination) was that they were stories constructed to find meaning, not intended as science texts.

      4. As I looked at religions I realized that my biggest need was to find a religion that explained my inability to behave as I knew that I should behave. I was not the kind and loving person that I thought I should be. I wanted to be, I tried to be. I knew that I was far short of what my heart wanted me to be…what the Christian story calls conviction of sin.

      5. Mix and Anderson are great. They speak science far more fluently than I. I think Rev. Mix might be teaching at Harvard now. Dr. Anderson is a perpetual recruit by Princeton, but he “is a Phoenix guy” and we really need him at our little church plant so we won’t let him go, anyway.

      6. Speaking of speaking science, my science classes were stimulating, but they were 30 years ago. I have spent 30 years hanging out with high school and college kids. You are engaging in a level of discourse that is way above my little youth pastor brain.

      7. Desire: On this one I think my thinking is ok. I desire to love a woman because that desire has a function: perpetuation. A desire for wealth: comfort, security, meet needs. The desire for purpose indicates that a fulfillment is in order. Otherwise desire for purpose serves no purpose, and would cease…in a closed system.

      8. I will answer your question with a question: Why is it human nature to want purpose and to know why? It serves no evolutionary purpose to construct meaning. It seems to be the same question begging that you say I am engaging in.

      8. My knowledge of entropy is correspondingly corrected. I was merely saying that I do not believe we have a closed system. I do realize that is a faith statement, in the same way that saying natural processes are all there is. Science knows what it sees and can repeat. Science, by definition, cannot measure that which is immeasurable.

      9. I would suspect that the imminently watchable Carl was generally right, both for the Christian and the Atheist, or Agnostic, both of which are faith positions.

      10. In a play on Aquinas, I went from understanding seeking faith to “faith seeking understanding.”

      Where does the desire to believe come from? It seems another indicator of a higher something.

      In an interesting turn of events I was reading an old article from the NY Times in 1998 in which an author, AN Wilson, reputed to be an atheist called the Bible, “The Good Book of Few Answers.” I googled him to find out what else he had written and this was the first entry: “Why I Believe Again
      http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2009/04/conversion-experience-atheism

      So apparently, I am not the only one who can have conversion experiences. :-)

      Kids have arrived and they are blessing the food. If I want hot dogs I had better sign off.

      Thank you, Andy, for the interesting dialogue! I confess this is much that I have not thought of for years, but that it blesses me to do so.

  24. I realize that I have already commented on this page, but I have been obliged to return many times in order to respond to others’ comments on my own comment (which has been quite a pleasure for me!) In glancing through a few new comments, I recalled that you were considering making this the topic of a PhD dissertation. I sincerely hope you do, or else I’d be tempted to do it myself, but sadly, my degree is not in Psychology or Sociology or Religion, but Astrophysics, which has a much narrower field of impact, heheh! So no worries, I won’t steal your ideas. However, it has raise several very important questions that I think the research would have to explore and I’m curious what results you anticipate. Let me see if I can explain my thoughts in a coherent manner. For the sake of brevity, I am going to abbreviate non-youth-group churches as NGC’s and youth-group churches as YGC’s.

    1) Could the increased exodus of young people from YGC’s as opposed to NGC’s be attributed to family dynamics and church-oppression rather than the actual theology being offered? It seems conceivable that churches where youth are expected to remain with their parents during services rather than getting separate instruction are more likely to be churches that hold a much more rigid, absolute-family-authority philosophy. As such, youth in these churches might be more likely to be sheltered from outside influences and strongly discouraged by their families from independent thought or pursuits such as higher education at secular universities (speaking as someone who came out of this sort of culture). Obviously, not all NGC’s are like that and some YGC’s are. But do the statistics weight the results in that direction? Are youth in NGC’s sticking with their religion in higher numbers simply because they are less likely to be exposed to other opportunities? Might it be because they are more likely to be raised with absolute-authoritarian values? Exploring what percentage of YGC and NGC youth go to secular universities might offer a hint on this, at least, as well as surveying their current and past beliefs on family and church authority.

    2) Is there a significant demographic influence in the data? For example, it seems likely that YGC’s may be more concentrated in urban areas and NGC’s may be more concentrated in rural areas. Do rural youth leave their faith in smaller numbers than urban youth? Could that be what is accounting for the difference between YGC and NGC retention numbers? What about poverty-level? If you compare YGC’s and NGC’s with identical income profiles in their congregations, does that decrease the disparity in retention numbers? Are middle-class youth more likely to leave the church than their lower-class peers, or is it the other way around? Could that account for the disparity or does it widen it?

    3) Are NGC’s less likely to be mega-congregations? Is this smaller, more personal atmosphere the cause for the decrease in church defection? If you compare only small YGC’s with small NGC’s and large YGC’s with large NGC’s, does the disparity between them decrease?

    4) Is this disparity seen in all churches or just in primarily-white churches? Do primarily-black churches have the same trends, or are they different and simply being masked in the data by the fact that they are negligible in comparison to the majority data? If the trend is different, what cultural/demographic differences might account for that?

    These are just the first pressing questions that came to mind in considering this. What do you think? Are these questions issues that you would like to address? Do you already have any data that might answer them? What do you anticipate might be the answers? I’d love to hear and discuss! All the best!

    • I think you may be on to something! You articulate important questions children’s pastors like me struggle with as we minister to families. This is definitely worth pursuing. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

        • It is! I think it is an approach worth researching. I believe the Gospel is timeless and heart changing. I am certain my call is to bring it that word to people where they are and to live in a way that doesn’t contradict that word. If I don’t constantly engage in thought exercises like you laid out, I can’t keep up with where people are culturally and spiritually. I admire your work and hope we are on parallel tracks as you search for knowledge of the observable universe and I search for an understanding of the unseen world within the human heart. I appreciate you.

    • Hello Galactic,
      You have added much to the dialogue! I am not really certain what the data would say. I have an idea that segregating youth leaves them with an affiliation bond with the youth group and the youth pastor rather than the body of the church and the pastor of the church. I also suspect that age-appropriate activities which are segregated from the larger body set up a dynamic of entertainment driven/”what’s in this for me?/Attractional model stuff. I talked about that a bit in a post last spring: (http://thegospelside.com/2013/02/11/the-church-is-christs-bride-not-his-baby-mama/)

      I will take a couple of quick stabs (since my really busy week has left me finishing my sermon on “The church isn’t a restaurant, it’s culinary school” on Saturday night):
      1. Maybe. On this one I suspect not in major metropolitan areas in 2013. That kind of control might exist in small towns and rural areas. In AZ, which is not the Bible belt, the local Youth Minister’s fellowship tells me that 25% of churches have full-time youth ministry. In our Episcopalian churches in AZ it is 5%. The most conservative churches generally have youth ministry. The most progressive, least authoritarian churches generally have youth in the sanctuary because they have not invested in leaders for youth.
      2. I think demographics including economic, ethnicity, region, etc all have an effect. Some great work has been done in the National Survey of Youth and Religion, the largest survey work done on the religious beliefs of American youth. One example is African American youth. In general, African Americans stay in church at higher rates than Anglos and Asians. African American churches have lower numbers of paid youth workers than other Protestants for economic reasons. So youth are more likely to be in the sanctuary.
      3. I would suspect that you are quite right about the relational aspects of being connected to adults helping students stay in church. I wrote a post about that once: “Mormon Bishop to the mega-church” post.
      4. I think that is a great question!

      Big research projects are time consuming and expensive. I might limit the querying to young adults from 28-32 who report having attended a church “regularly” (2-3x a month) as a teenager and ask: 1) Do you attend church regularly today? 2) Did you attend a high school youth program in high school? 3) Did you attend a parachurch youth program in high school.

      That way I would figure out if there really is a correlation between non-attendance and youth group attendance, and factor out parachurch involvement (Young Life, for example, has more than a million students involved each year).

      Thanks again for being in this.
      Matt+

    • Hi PJ,
      I agree with you-Parenting is a huge deal. That post was the summary of a talk to youth pastors at an Urban Youth Workers Training day. They are able to control the controllables: what we do. We can’t control larger societal things. It was not intended to be a list of all that is, merely all that leadership can do. Yet, even there I would argue for a much greater investment in equipping parents.

      • As I look back in time, Parents just let their children do what they want. Today we are very informal, Do what you want and let our children do what they want is the attitude today.. Children love an orderly life. Years ago the cab driver had on a uniform, opened the door for you, carried your luggage,, when you greeted a lady you tipped your hat. It seems as though respect for others is not even considered. And so they come to hear Gods word and cant sit quietly for thirty minutes?. I was sitting once in church next to an elderly person with my boy and he was wiggling , moving around. I tried to have him stop but wasn’t successful. After church the elderly couple called me over. They said to me, a CHILD WILL SELDOM HOLD STILL BUT HE WAS QUITE that’s what counts. I accepted that and learned they were wise couple.
        I was in a café recently and there was a sign that said point blank, If you and your children cant behave you will be asked to leave. I know when we went to church I was to be still unless asked.
        But what lacks most I believe today is how many parents give thanks at the table, read the bible after words, Talk about what was read? Pray with our children and listen to their needs. Just coming to church Sundays is not enough, its the home where children see the workings of GOD and learn who He is. Parents CANT wait to get home to watch a football game or what ever, What has happened to LORDS DAY?

        • I agree with you that parenting can have a lot to do with whether or not children stay in the church once they are adults. However, I would not be too quick to point the finger at just parents who let religion slide in their everyday lives. Often the most overbearing religious parents are the ones that drive their children furthest from the faith. Speaking from experience here, I was raised to be utterly respectful, single-mindedly devoted to God, chaste, Bible-savvy, and steeped in religion. Now that I am an adult, I barely talk to my family and have no interest in Church. I am definitely not alone in this. There are certainly worse things than watching a football game on the “Lord’s Day”. I do think you included one very important thing in your list of proper parenting: “listen to their child’s needs”. That seems to often be missing in the highly-religious parenting world, and I think that is definitely part of the problem. The rest of the problems are too numerous to count, most likely. However, I think it’s worth noting, that “Good Christian Parenting”(TM) is not at all a guarantee to raising Christian adults. It’s easy to point the finger at the theoretical parents that are just not being good enough parents, but when the “perfect” family’s children walk away from the Church and vow never to return to that loathsome place, then what? The solutions may not be so simple.

          • Hi Galacticexplorer, thank you for your courage in sharing your struggles with your family and Church, not to mention your opinions. I hope you continue to seek God and know he loves you! There is a person named Colin Cook, a Christian counselor, who admittedly struggles homosexual desires. He lives in Englewood Colorado and hosts a radio show called ” Faith Quest”. I think you can find it on the internet. Maybe it might help give you some insight. I don’t have gay struggles, there are other sins I struggle with, never the less I have found him insightful and useful in his scripture teachings.

            On another note, I just want to make sure that parents don’t get the majority of the blame either. I am a mother of 4. I try my best and know I am not perfect, but I do try to raise my children in the knowledge of the Lord. At some point they are responsible for what they do. I believe God gives people the basic understanding of wrong and right, however we are all sinners and are stuck in bondage with out Jesus. I know we are judged according to what we know and what has been revealed to us. I also know we are forgiven and redeemed by the power and blood of Jesus Christ.

            I have seen youth who disobey and disrespect their parents who do there best, love them and discipline them. And on the other hand youth who seem to be pretty respectful and decent, considering abusive or very neglectful parents. I don’t think choice or influence is everything.

            I believe God make us who we our and we have the choice to be reborn through Jesus Christ and he makes us into a new creation. Also, what we feel, our flesh, desires, is not who we our. Who we our is hidden in Christ. Feelings are subjective, indicators of what our body feels, our body is corrupt because it has not been redeemed. Remember, flesh and blood cannot inherent the kingdom of God. This is why, we are given a new body, a resurrection body, like Jesus from the grave. As Christians we will have to deal with the flesh in till we get our Resurrection bodies, then we will have bodies that will be perfect and will not desire things against God’s will.

            • Hi Hannah,
              Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your warm yet theologically traditionalist views. Many in these comments do not know that you (and millions like you) exist.

            • You are so correct, believe, repent, confess,be received into HIs family.. The GREATEST FREE GIFT ON EARTH IS “GODS GIFT” . You either ACCEPT IT OR REJECT IT. Your choice, everones choice. The difference between believer and an unbeliever Is the belevers sin is FORGIVEN forever. Adult or child makes no difference. To me that is why some young people or adults stay and others leave. They have made the decision to Follow Him, Accept Him or not to, their choice.

            • I do not “struggle with homosexual desires.” I have homosexual desires, I embrace them, I am in love with a woman, and I am now engaged to her. Other than that, I agree with you that parents certainly cannot be blamed completely for their children leaving the faith. I hope I conveyed that in my comment: that even super-religious parents have children that flee the faith, even as barely-religious parents do too. In the end, no parent can MAKE their child be a Christian… and sometimes the harder they try, the worse it gets. It has to come from us, and from our hearts. However, there are certainly things that parents can do to be a better Christian witness for their children; evicting them from the home and emotionally abusing them for being gay as my parents did certainly didn’t help.

              As I am fairly non-religious by now, I don’t really believe in things like “crucifying the flesh” or “dying to myself” to be “born again in Christ” (I still remember all the lingo though! :P) I don’t believe I should just go and do whatever I want without regard to anyone else either, but I think that if God created me, then he must have created my conscience to go with me. I also think that if he created me gay, then I was meant to be gay. On the other hand, if he created me to be purposely broken, and then put me through hell and laughed at my attempts to fix myself and then did nothing when I asked him to fix me, I would not serve him. I would fight him to my dying breath. Fortunately, I don’t think God is like that anymore. I have found happiness in this world, and I have found the means to spread that joy to others. That is all that matters to me now. And, I believe, that is also all that matters to God.

            • This is a reply to all of us: Galactic, Ralph, Hanna, others…

              I appreciate the respect with which this dialogue is taking place. The internet is a very easy place to lob bombs.

              Each of us has a different understanding of God’s will and Scripture’s teaching in many matters…especially in regards to sexuality. I am grateful for the care with which we are attempting to engage in this conversation.

              I am hearing in each voice is a sincere love for God and an assumption that each other loves God as well…whether we are struggling with the church or not.

              It seems to me that there are three possible responses of a Christian to same-sex orientation: 1) To say, “I don’t believe that it is God’s will to be with someone of the same sex. I will live celibately.” 2) To say, “I don’t believe that it is God’s will to be with someone of the same sex. I will live in a heterosexual.” or 3) “I believe God made me with same sex desires to express them in a God-honoring, monogamous, faithful way.”

              Those are different…and difficult.

              I trust that Jesus, the friend of sinners, is working in each of us to make us more like him.

  25. Counterfeit Revival is a book that opened my eyes to what is going on in many churches. This article has helped me see more about the Counterfeit religion being pushed in many Youth programs.

  26. Pingback: Want vs. Need: A (Relatively) Young Adult & The Church… | Homilies, Prayers, and Bread for the Journey...

  27. My exodus from the Catholic church was during my “marriage classes” prior to my wedding. The entire class was told, and I quote: “In the last few decades, the population of white people as a percentage of our population has been declining. You should have more children to preserve your culture. You don’t want to be a minority, do you?” Mind you, there were two Asian-born people in attendance.

    Of course. The words of one man do not represent the largest sect of Christianity and I cannot hold the church accountable. I’ve heard the defense against it… FROM THE PRIESTS OF THE CHURCHES THAT COMMISSION THIS RACIST.

    So as a Catholic, I am supposed to go to Catholic mass on Sunday and listen to a man who has NO idea what my life is like as a husband, a father, and a provider tell me how I am a bad person for having goals that exceed my needs? How I’ve “lost touch with Jesus”? And you’re defending racism, covering up inappropriate relations with young boys, and lets not forget to fill that collection plate when it comes around… the priest’s Mercedes payment is due Tuesday.

    I don’t care if church took was held at Disneyland. I’m not going. My wife isn’t going. Our son will not go.

    • Hi Brian,
      Thank you for writing. I would be finding a new church home if I were you as well! Racism in Jesus’ name is unconscionable. I am the vicar of a multi-ethnic church plant and have written a little pile of posts speaking to racism in church. I would be interested to get your feedback:

      http://thegospelside.com/2013/05/20/phds-and-prisoners-the-weirdest-coolest-thing-i-have-ever-been-a-part-of/

      http://thegospelside.com/2012/09/28/why-i-introduced-more-color-into-my-worship/

      http://thegospelside.com/2013/03/13/rappelling-race-and-your-role-in-the-redemption-of-the-world/

      and last weeks: http://thegospelside.com/2013/08/30/the-latino-challenge-for-an-all-too-white-church/

      You can find more in the “Things discussed” under “multi-ethnic church”

      • mattarino:

        I mistakenly put “you’re defending racism” and was not referring to you. I was referring to the priests in the churches of the area I used to live.

        Even with racism aside, I felt a very significant disconnect between my values/issues/needs and those of the priests. In their sermons, everything I did was bad, the devil’s work. The only way to be good was to give everything all the time to everyone. Anything else is grounds for damnation. The sense of entitlement, elitism, and just outright disrespect for anyone not on that path made me sick.

        Christianity is still alive and well today in some form, even if not in churches. I am respectful of those who choose to stay with Christianity and I hope they find what they are looking for. I have managed to be a good husband and father and even maintain a relationship with God without the church.

        Morality exists without religion, and religion does not always guarantee morality.

        • Hi Brian,
          I was picking up that you were talking about your church. I was expressing solidarity with you on the topic. Actually Christianity is alive and well in many churches.
          I know you are not, but I grieve for you when you say, “I have managed to be a good husband and father and even maintain a relationship with God without the church.” The church is supposed to exist to support and encourage those good things, not to get in the way of them.

          It is something like saying “I have learned how to survive in the desert without drinking.” There are animals that have adapted and survived, but it is a dog-gone shame they had to. :-)

          Peace to you in your journey. My prayers are with you that you find a group who will support and encourage you in the good work of being human you are doing.

          • I’ve read this whole thread, and there’s a lot here of substance. I would like to give to you a different view. This post of yours is where I decided to respond.

            Don’t feel sorry for those of us who choose a solitary method (for lack of the correct word) to embrace our relationship with God. I revel in my relationship with Him. I do attend a church with my fiance, because that method of expression of her love is what brings her peace and closer. It does nothing for me. But, my love for her, and more importantly, my love of her love for God, compels me to go. Pretentious people, who wear their membership as a symbol of superiority are ignored. I feel sorry for them. I pray for them.

            It’s not just about my own happiness. But my soul compels me to seek a solitary relationship with God. I hear Him, he hears me. No trumpets. No hallelujahs. No fanfare. One man, in a relationship with his Maker. Do I misunderstand? Of course. I’m human. I misunderstand what’s being told to me every day. So I ask. Sometimes I understand the answer, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes the answer comes when least expected. Sometimes I’m too dense to ever understand.

            There is more than one way. I’ve come to believe that the facets of God are limitless. Some travel the road to and with Him. Some travel through the wilderness to and with Him.

            Don’t feel sorry for those of us who travel the wilderness. The road was once a wilderness.

            • Hi Mark,
              Thank you for taking the time to comment. Someone a couple of days ago said something to the effect of, “faith should be both/and vs either/or.” I thought their was a great deal of wisdom in her comment. We should all seek a walk with God as an individual! That does not equate to dropping all of the difficulty of being part of a community. Community can be torture: mutual surrender, conflict, others stacking hands with you in prayer…none of those things happen alone. The community of faith is not a substitute for walking with God in the stillness of the cave, it is designed to give it shape. It sounds to me as if the beauty of your relationship with your fiance is that you have the opportunity to strengthen each other’s walk’s with God: She draws you toward community and you draw her to the prayer closet. That is the way great relationships work: our differences draw us together. We defer to one another’s strengths and protect one another’s weaknesses.

              Blessings as you both walk in faith.

    • To start I will pray that you and your family would find a church that doesn’t have all these man made rules. Get a bible , read it, believe it, nothing else. The bible was written for us to understand. God gave us the 10 commandments to try to follow, and no one Except Christ was able to follow them. Yet if we would follow them this world would be a better place. Don’t give up, look, for a place, church.that hasnt added all these crazy rules. God Loves you, and wants you to try to follow Him , not some man made rules.. This is all about a PERSONAL relationship between YOU and GOD.

      • Ralph:

        I find contradiction in your statements to “believe it” and not to follow “man made rules”. Lets not forget that the bible was written by men. As a student of Catholic education from kindergarten through high school, I have read the bible in its entirety more than once. The bible itself can be a useful tool in moral guidance. The stories often define good and evil and although I do not have a direct example, I am sure that the bible has influenced my own moral compass for the better.

        I stand by my original statement that morality can exist without religion. It even exists without a god. To be clear, I am not an athiest. I am agnostic. Although I am grateful of your prayers, I do not ask for them. Instead I ask for your understanding, or at least your respect for my choices. It is what I offer all people, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

        • Brian,
          I respect your desire to have a life of morality without religion (although I think that you are incorrect in that regard, and have several state university philosophy professor friends who can make that case much more forcefully than I can).

          I do have trouble that after asking for that respect you immediately post something designed to inflame Ralph, who expressed nothing more than a desire to pray for you and for your good.

          Surely you are aware that everyone can find someone online who isn’t articulate or prepared and looks like a goof for any side of any argument.

          Ralph didn’t dropped the sexuality card. Why are you?

          • Sexuality is quite obviously a large topic of debate for anyone and is, in my opinion, a very good example of the conflicting nature of institutional Christianity. I did not intend to “stir up controversy” or even continue discussing it.

            I’m not trying to “troll” or try to get people to un-believe. I am just a voice from the other side of fence explaining that from my perspective (personally), there is no fence. I am a good person, just as you and Ralph and most of the world. We have differences, but we are equally human.

            Throughout my tenure as a Catholic, I was taught that as a Catholic, I am better than non-Catholics, and worse than other Catholics who give and do more than me. That was the source of my original hiatus, and was only reinforced ten-fold by my attempted return prior to my marriage.

          • mattarino:

            To answer your question directly about dropping the sexuality card, the video underlines my point about the bible itself being contradictory. To “read it, believe it” *implies* that I should support slavery and be forbidden to wear clothes made from two different materials. As a believer in the good of humanity, I took for granted that Ralph does not own a slave or support slavery in any way, and that he wrote his reply in poly/cotton blended garb.

            It is difficult to find public media that reflects my own opinions of the bible that does not involve sexuality.

            • Hi Brian,
              I appreciate your reply. The video guy’s “the Bible says slavery is a natural condition” is false. It doesn’t. It assumes the cultural reality of slavery, and, contextually is remarkably egalitarian in its views when compared to the cultural context it was produced in. That fact and the breakout passages such as “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female” are why it was Christians in England and the US who fought to end slavery…while many people making money off of it (religious and non-religious alike) fought to maintain it. There is a good book on this by William Webb: “Slaves, Women and Homosexuals.”

              It is interesting that you are throwing most of the red herrings…blind belief, sexuality, slavery and blended fabrics. (The only one you have missed is the “shellfish argument”).

              I heard Ralph to be implying that a church that teaches the New Testament would be focussing on Jesus, Jesus’ love for humanity and his sacrifice on the world’s behalf rather than sitting around telling people who is in and who is out and playing a game of “who’s in hell this week?”

              I think those churches are out there in numbers…and are a place of love and support for many people.

            • hi ,
              GOD IS LOVE. Man did not do as GOD asked Him to in the beginning. God gave Adam as a help mate which He knew man needed,(A sexual partner). It was meant to create a close relationship, different from animals. But then Man would be smart and created all kinds of other things, Including their RULES telling people not to marry etc, are not found in scripture, really going against all nature. All these things are to be questioned, if that is not in the bible should we believe it ? There is but one mediator between man and God that is Christ the Lord, giving us a direct line through prayer requests to God, no one ever qualified for that except Christ. Yet again in some cases MAN has chosen, to please himself , changes that to have control and make a person believe that’s how it should be. This has caused problems with many sexual problems within some churches. Then in the new testament It TEACHES separate yourselves from them, those that don’t follow scriptures. Now GOD teaches the church to do this. But as we know today because of this false teaching , also not doing anything about it, we have sexual problems in some churches. THESE men are guilty and should be responsible to members or non members that have been harmed. Yet if they REPENT to God and the church HE will forgive them, BUT THEY ARE STILL GUILTY before the world. These are all problems caused by man made rules. SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD. MOST, if not all Church related rules changed from the bible ARE NOT Gods Way. If you belong to Christ, FOLLOW HIM ,not man.

  28. mattarino:

    I certainly hope that there are more of those churches that you are talking about out there than the ones I have had experience with. Because whether or not I agree with the teachings of the church, there are many that do, and many that attend. As I said, I do not wish to dislodge anyone’s beliefs, rather, as a citizen of the world, I only wish that those who do believe are not being guided in the same way that I was.

    Being involved in this conversation does give me a little bit of satisfaction that the way in which I was brought up is rare and that there are more relevant and positive churches than what I have been used to. It does not, however, entice me to come back.

    I will raise my child without religion. Instead, I will educate him in theology and let him choose his path when I feel that he is old enough to do understand on his own.

  29. Hi Mattarino,

    I am a mother of four, two are teenagers.I have been reading along all the comments about why Youth are leaving the Church, along with shared testimonies. I also shared something earlier today, in response to what galaclicexplorer said, and in response to some of the struggles she has shared, and I don’t see it up hear. Any way, a few things have accrued to me; one is that it seems that a lot of churches and doctrines have made the gospel into a formula, a set of rules, name it claim speeches and such, another is that It seems that the Church has become more of a institution. The early Church was more informal, more like a close knit family. I think it was more practically lived day to day. Their theology was their life, they lived out the scriptures. I believe that the major struggles and persecutions made their faith more alive, because it forced them to rely on God more and not themselves.

    I didn’t grow up in church, and I wasn’t saved in church either. God used a neighbor friend of mine, she gave me a bible, my family and hers became friends. It was this that God used to save me. That and my former ways didn’t work. I was a practicing witch and paganism, which led to some really messed up stuff. Also, I had a bad family life growing up.

    I didn’t find any answer to the questions I was looking for or the understanding I was longing for in paganism or craft. In fact it just messed my life up more. The problem is sometimes Christians like to make these formulas, rituals, theories like the rest of the worlds beliefs do, put God in a box, control him, make him totally manageable. But you can’t do that to God, he doesn’t work that way. He is a relational God, but he has the control. That is the thing Jesus did the work.

    I think we as Christians should invite the fact that we live in a messed up world, that the Church is messed up, not saying there isn’t hope, and our bodies are messed up too. That is reality, however, the fact that Jesus has already won is something amazing because we have something to look forward too, restoration. When Jesus rose from the dead, he won and we won through him. We will have the same kind of body he has, a Resurrection one. He will restore the earth too, and all of creation.

    Maybe, instead of trying to hide how mess up we are we should ask God to heal and help us. It really is Him doing the work any way. But before we point fingers, we need to look at our selves first, then we can make sure that what we are doing is really trying to help build up the Church, not tare it down or others down. Satan is the real enemy, and it is so easy to be deceived.

    • Hi Hannah,
      I appreciate where you are coming from. Surely formula and dogma without love, community and deep gratitude to God is a waste of our time.

      The church is supposed to be the community of those who know we are train wrecks and are asking God for help. The idea that we would have any sense of superiority is ludicrous. We are those who define ourselves by our awareness of brokenness and our desire for redemption through Jesus’ action in his death and resurrection.

      By “pointing fingers” you might be referring to my critiquing the church in the article. If so, you should know a bit more about the context of the post, since it wasn’t an open letter to the Church: http://thegospelside.com/2013/08/12/o-yeah-and-other-things-i-wish-i-would-have-said-on-cool-church/

      Thank you, Hannah, for sharing your story! I think it helps others to understand where you are coming from. My story, at least in part, is here: http://thegospelside.com/2013/08/16/todd-adoption-and-a-briar-patch-a-glimpse-of-god-at-work/

      • Hi Mattarino,

        I read your other posts you mentioned, I can Identify with your letter “Todd, adoption and a briar patch glimpse of God at work”. When I mentioned “pointing fingers”, I was trying to be more general about us Christians,myself included, not you or say that we shouldn’t Judge at all, or share opinions or views. I was thinking more along the lines of Matthew chapter 7, and 1 Corinthians chapter 5. I think it is important to self evaluate our actions, just in general, to make sure what we are doing is edifying. I also believe, we should speak the trueth in love, sometimes we should say something and we don’t. This can be very damaging, because there might be something that needs to be addressed. Not saying something when we should can be just as damaging as saying something with the intent to harm someone. I find that sharing beliefs and personal convictions, not to mention opinions, can unintentional stir up emotions. I don’t think this is bad, I think it can be good. It might be an opportunity to grow, heal, get to know someone or our-self better. God I think, likes to take us out of our comfort zone. I am not the best at writing or a theologian, just an average person sharing my views.

        • Hi Hannah,
          You did very well with sharing your views! Your are thoughtful and express yourself well. A blog is an interesting thing. I thought that I would be mostly writing about walking with Jesus, youth ministry and Anglicanism when I started. A friend who attended a talk I gave to inner-city youth workers asked that I post a summary of it. That became “Cool Church.” I had no idea it would go viral. It appears to have struck a nerve on several levels: 1) staff at church-lite churches who are either questioning or defensive about those starting to question. 2) people who were in either church-lite churches or controlling fundamentalist churches and have left for nothing. 3) evangelical atheists: people trolling around the internet looking to tell religious people they are dumb. The market speaks, though. So I end up spending more time writing about what people are talking about.

          Thanks for writing. I do appreciate the desire to engage in discussion in love and kindness, and for the building up of the body.

  30. Pingback: » Teenagers and Market-Driven Ministry Theological Matters

  31. Pingback: Market Driven Youth Ministry by Dr. Richard Ross | Geoff Whitten

    • Totally! However, some people in real pain wanted to talk about the complexity of their relationship with the church. Over the course of the conversation the “pain over the church” thing has turned into a couple of hundred comments. I had no idea it would keep going. In retrospect I should have started a separate page to have the conversation.

          • Sorry. That was somewhat innocuous. My “pain killer” was learning how to reach up to God rather than attempting to bring Him down to me. I guess I used a poor choice of words.

            • I am a musician and struggled with the concept of worship for many years. Finally, one Sunday morning I had my epiphany. This may not be helpful to anyone, but it was a defining moment in my life.

              As a musician, I played in clubs on Saturday nights and in church on Sunday mornings. One Sunday while playing a prelude I realized I was using the same riffs I was playing in the club a few hours earlier. My epiphany was that I had no separation between worldly and Godly. Without that separation, worship was nothing more than am entertainment venue. It was self-serving for me and entertainment for the congregants. I found I needed that separation and have been at peace with myself and God since that morning.

              This is not to say that “cool” churches are wrong. Each of us need to find what elevates us to God. There is, however, a distinction between worship and praise. I refer to my previous comment re. “the sole of the foot and the soul of the man”. Elevation is the key to the puzzle.

  32. Pingback: Church - too cool? - Christian Forums

  33. The churches of Christendom are filled with hypocrisy and false teachings.
    (Not to mention the various “marketing ploys” to try and fill the coffers [pews] that distracts from the REAL message of the Bible [which is from the loss of (rebellion in Garden of Eden) to the the restoration of (after Armageddon) God's Kingdom - in case you do not know])…

    The answer is not some new “revival” or “campaign” to save the churches… The answer now is the same it always has been – TO GET (READ/STUDY) AND TEACH AND FOLLOW GOD’S WORD. The churches do not do this as they are more concerned with numbers, profitability, politics etc…

    It is not hard for Satan to lure people away when the church reads from the Bible truths such as “love your neighbor as yourself” but then does the exact opposite in practice , such as, preaching [encouraging] the young men and women to volunteer for military/army services like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya… (WWI, WWII and Vietnam – for you older ones)…

    IT IS LIES AND HYPOCRISY… Kids can see through such obvious and blatant fallacy and Satan will take advantage of their loss of trust/faith…

    Anyone who realizes the lies and hypocrisy in Christendom’s false/nominal churches is a fool if they continue to follow them…

    Jesus – himself – gave a “litmus test” for finding the true Christian congregation…

    (John 13:35)
    “By this all will know that YOU are my disciples, if YOU have love among yourselves.”

    Did YOUR church display this in WWI? how about WWII? Vietnam? Rwanda?

    FYI – Germany was over 80% Catholic when they were exterminating Jews during the holocaust
    (the USA/Britain sent Catholics to kill Catholics in Germany)
    FYI – Rwanda was over 30% Protestant when they were butchering each other in the more recent genocide…
    (Again, Catholics killing Catholics and Protestants killing Protestants.)
    FYI – the USA has slaughtered OVER 250,000 CIVILIANS in Iraq alone since the invasion.
    (Catholics and Protestants killing innocent babies, women, children and older ones.)

    What are they doing today…?

    Do they have other false teachings…?

    • I understand your anger, but should a Hitler be allowed to go unchecked? If only all mankind could abide by, “Be still and know that I am God.”

        • If God is in control then how does it go unchecked? It is unsaved people killing unsaved people is what it boils down to.
          Christians are to love God and love neighbor. How do you love and kill at the same time?

          • Hi Ted, I will weigh in on your question to Faren since I don’t see a response from him yet:
            1) Christians are to love God and neighbors. 2) Christians are individuals. Nations are not Christian or non-Christian. They are political entities. (We have often seen what a train-wreck this confusion causes whenever political institutions start thinking they represent religion – this is true with Muslims in the Middle East and Hindu’s (India, Bangladesh) and Buddhists in Sri Lanka as well as Christians.) 3) In Christian doctrine “God’s control” is not deterministic and/or immediate, but providential. In it humans are supposed to render justice…help the Samaritan, stop the crime in progress. This is where “just war theory” originates. That is where Faren’s statement, “should a Hitler be allowed to go unchecked” comes from. Is it just to allow other’s to do unjust things when you could stop them? You see someone hurting a child. Do you walk by? No. The moral person stops the violence.

            That is my first take on a response to your question, Ted. Faren, sorry if I jumped over you. Feel free to weigh in.

            • If all the “killing” in history was by the “unsaved”, we would not be having this exchange. The “saved” would have become extinct long ago.

              I had not responded because I did not want to keep spinning away from the topic of the blog.

            • Hi Matt, what I meant was that it is true that so called Christians “in name only ” do go about killing each other all day long. It is the true Kingdom Christians that do not Kill.

              What do you know about war Matt?
              I know that military indoctrination is designed, among other things, to turn an otherwise harmless private citizen into a stone cold killer. It takes a man and trains him to do what he knows deep down is wrong. Nations are made of men Matt so it is a weak to argue we can do whatever the state tells us to do in blind submission. Men will be held accountable. When we meet Him we can’t say the devil made me do it.

              Just war theory is now evidently obsolete. In just war theory you are never justified in attacking your enemy first. Only retaliation, and only in kind at that! America now believes in preemptive strikes. What theory is america using now: I’ll get you before you get me?! How can a christian be a part of that? I’ll punch you before you punch me? Is that how we are to live?

              Early ante-Nicene Christians didn’t go about killing- they went about being martyred.

              Here is what shed light on it for me Matt, this is why I agree with Jacob.
              Why is it wrong to kill an abortion doctor Matt?
              Abortion doctors go about killing defenseless children all day long; shouldn’t we be a good Samaritan and stop the doctor?
              It is wrong to kill them (doctors and unborn babies) isn’t it. Why?
              Is it because the state says not to kill them (doctors, but it is ok to kill babies)?
              Or is it because it is wrong to kill any body?
              Legal is not equal to moral. (unborn babies are still babies aren’t they?)

              To use the logic you imply it would be proper to kill the abortion doctor for the same reasons it is moral to kill Hitler. (what is the difference between Hitler and an abortion doctor?)

              Maybe it would be moral to revolt against the American government because they sanction unborn baby killing.

              Help resolve this logical inconsistency Matt.

              I’ll tell you the truth: It is wrong to kill the abortion doctor because it is wrong to kill.(period) I pity the abortion doctor. He is on the road to perdition. I also pity the man who choses to live by the sword!

            • Hi Ted,

              Thanks for the clarification. I am with you in being pro-life…all the way pro life: as in anti abortion and anti death penalty. For that reason I cannot muster emotional support America pulling first-strike wars.

              I am not a politician. I assume presidents, for example, are under pressures that we do not understand, as no matter how they campaign they tend to move toward center when they govern. I also assume from scripture that they, like we, will answer for their actions. Perhaps that is why they age so drastically in office.

              Thanks!

            • Kill or not to kill…
              This maybe personal. Between God and that person…like Abraham and Isaac & God.

              I believe that God is Omnicient, Omnipotent and Omnipresence.

              We have nothing to fear or worry. This great infinite God is in control. We are ALL created by God. We are ALL part of God, children of God.

    • Hello Jacob,

      Thanks for commenting. I have read your comments a couple of times but remain really fuzzy on where you are coming from. You advise people at the top of your comment to read the word of God and respond in obedience and then you go on to talk about the way that others reading scripture and attempting to obey it have been involved in wars.

      Are you saying that all current churches are apostate, but people reading scripture by themselves are in a good place? Are there specific churches that are ok according to your critique, or are all apostate?

      It seems that you are advocating the study of scripture but then saying that those studying scripture have it all wrong in the way they live. So I am confused.

      Would you mind clarifying please?

  34. I find it amusing how some things take on a life of their own. Most recently are two commercials: “Hump Day” and COWEIEIO Dagnabit”. These commercials have overshadowed the product.

    To an extent, the original thought of this blog seems to have been lost. So, “Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt! What blog is it?”.

    Sorry! I just felt the need to interject a little humor. Forgive me or absolve me.

  35. “All we like sheep have gone astray.” :) I was not being critical. You do a wonderful job of maintaining this blog. I am just always amazed that no matter the topic, some people have an agenda to address. If you started a blog about checkers strategy on “The Andy Griffith Show”, someone would turn the conversation to abortion or Obamacare. So be it. I guess we all have agendas.

    Getting back to the original subject, perhaps “big box church” would be a better description than “cool church”. All I can say is, “Do whatever necessary to get you closer to God.” If it works, Great!

    As for me, I find solace in hearing “The Doxology” approximately 11:20 every Sunday morning. Some find that boring. I find it to be the one consistent thing in my life for the week.

    Rock on!

    • Hi Faren. I was assuming tongue in cheek. The “Cool Church” thing was one of my first posts. It was as seminar at an urban youth ministry conference. Here is the story of it: (O Yeah)

      The funny thing is I actually started using your suggested term last October: (Why the big box church works for the over 35 but not the under 25).

      I think I will start a blog on the Andy Griffith Show. Both because I love it and because I want to see how long it will take for Obamacare and abortion to get broached. :-)

      I am a big fan of the Doxology. Do you attend a Presbyterian church? They are usually the guaranteed way to find the Doxology.

      blessings.
      Matt

      • Yes, I attend a Presbyterian church. It was predestined. :) It has nothing to do with “The Old 100th”. What is boring to some is comforting to others.

        • Either way, I welcome you in your role as regular participant/gospelside-guido. As a child of the Covenant, a role of blog mafioso must seem strangely Roman, but you pull it off with aplomb.

          In the Black church you would be dubbed the “Armor Bearer” for the blog. :-)

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  37. LOVE COVERS A MULTITUDE OF SINS. The love of God is what’s supposed to draw a crowd. You wonder why the church is deflating? It’s quite simple, the people aren’t feeling the love. Remember the greatest commands. You are the conduit through which everyone is supposed to experience the love of God. Lead by example.

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