>My friend Rachel Held Evans – the amazing author and blogger – posted this on Facebook:
Lots of folks are talking about the future of young, disenfranchised evangelicals. I’d love your thoughts on this. What is driving them away? Where are they going? (Working on a post that explains the phenomenon from my own perspective – as a young, disenfranchised evangelical myself!) 🙂
I started to respond and it just took off! So i thought that I would post it here and see what anyone else had to say.
For me it comes down to two things: epistemology and dualism.
The evangelical epistemology is rooted in an individualism that does not resonate with the worldview/cosmology that the Bible was written in. This Bible is suppose to be God’s Word (an elusive concept) and does not ultimately (long term) provide the coherence of worldview, the continuity with tradition or the cohesiveness of experience (burning bushes etc.) that satisfy.
It feels disconnected after a while if you are thinking about it at ALL.
The dualism of us/them, in/out, heaven/hell, right/wrong, creation/evolution, republican/democratic, et al. is so disjointed from our experience of the world that it becomes untenable to continue pretending that we believe something just because we were “told”. It seems ridiculous. It gets to be embarrassing. SO instead of undertaking the arduous task of deconstructing without destructing – and then subsequently rebuilding… many just walk away. Plus, where would you live during the renovation ?
When you take these two and multiply them by things like the evolution of Finney’s new measures (alter calls) and the ‘christian music industry’ that many people have not heard about but somehow can SENSE the formulaic nature of modern christian religion … it gets – not just incrementally but -exponentially more challenging to hold onto it.
For me this gets no better when we try to ‘return’ to the past with yearly schedules, antique liturgies, and outdated lectionaries. That is no better. It may FEEL more mystical for a time but… in the end there is no more congruence with our ‘real life’ than being an End Times- Rapture ready – Bible thumper waiting to go to heaven who sings passionately on Sunday that God would ‘come down’ – as if God was not already ‘down’ and that the Copernican view got rid of the 3 tiered universe.
That’s the kind of realization that leads people to walk away.
[I was so fired up I forgot to mention two other huge issues: hermeneutics (knowing how to read books like Jonah or Revelation) and gender issues.]
– So that is why I think that many young people are walking away… why do you think that this is happening.
March 13, 2011 at 5:49 am
>I'll post my response to Rachel's question for the sake of the discussion here:I definitely feel disenfranchised by church, and I struggle daily with how I fit in. A large percentage of m…y church (75% ?) is enthralled with our Sr. pastor's sermons, and for them that's all they need. It's not nearly enough for me. I really enjoy and am challenged often by his sermons, but that won't sustain my faith or journey alone.To be frank, I generally continue attending my church for one reason: so my kids have a peer network within the faith. I don't mind one bit their Sunday School lessons are more "fluff" than substance. All the better so I can share with them the real biblical stories at home when I can try to answer as many questions as they will have about why God seems so mean to everyone else by the Israelites…I, on the other hand, don't find that peer connection on a Sunday morning, likely for the first statement I made about the preaching being all most people think they need. I don't find others, on Sunday mornings, looking for the same things I am: dialogue not monologue, discussion not answers, intentionally community not informal chatter.So where are we going? Honestly, I don't think we are going very far at all, if anywhere. Most of us, I think, are trying to make do with the best we can. We are keeping quiet instead of speaking up, attending passively instead of volunteering for leadership positions. The hierarchical tradition of our church is killing our passion, and the intra-denominational battles over survival and control are killing our trust. Worship wars are burning us out. If worship doesn't turn into a pep rally for God (like a republican victory cry), it feels like a forced set of songs simply to apply the theme of the sermon as a not-so-subtle undertow.If I was able to plan out a new model of church community, it would be this:Weekly 60-75 minute worship-only gathering – a pure, straightforward emotional and spiritual connection with God. That vertically focused refresh that we all need. All types of music welcome, liturgy welcome, scripture reading welcome. But no sermons.Weekly small group gathering – over a meal, focused on sharing each other's life-burdens, loving each other as we are. There is no need or expectation to be the biblical historian, the doctrinal challenger, or the context interpreter. Simply come as you are and live among each other. Discuss what's on your heart, open up to others about the faith challenges you experienced, pray for each other about the hurdles that lie before you.Regular (probably monthly) larger gathering of small groups and worshipers over a large feast that allows the small groups to share with each other their experiences, connects the larger community together, and gives everyone a chance to be spiritual fed by a pastor. Here the sermon becomes dialogue and discussions at the tables, and small groups share how they've seen these faith themes existing in their life stories, or how applicable that is to a challenge they've been praying about.For now, I sometimes go to a megachurch worship service and just be anonymous for that 75 minute worship refresh. They do worship excellently and without distraction, and I can merely focus on God, my relationship with him, and pour out my burdens to him. I love my small group, and we do work very similar to how I described above. But the third piece is still lacking.
March 13, 2011 at 6:28 am
>Yes. But also, it is also simply because there is no built in position for young people- especially young single people- in the system of the church, involvement, and ministry. The young adult ministry programs usually don't cut it, because it's using the same model as high school youth group for older 'kids', if they have young adult ministry programs. Young adults want to be leaders in the church, and this worldview deconstruction-reconstructing activity leads to a lot of inspiration and new ideas that can not be accomplished in the current model of the church with a non-deconstructed worldview. Young adults want to change the world but are powerless to do so because it would deconstruct everyone else's worldview as well. It is difficult and impossible as church leaders to predict and manage panic and hysteria like what happened in the 1960s, 1970s for example.
March 13, 2011 at 1:27 pm
>I think the late Michael Spencer's book "Mere Churchianity" says it better.It's like pecan pie without the pecans, Christianity without Christ.If you haven't taken the time to read it, do.
March 13, 2011 at 5:43 pm
>Great response to the question, Bo! I agree…and will link. 🙂
March 14, 2011 at 5:28 am
>This was from A.D. The young people that have been brought up in Christian homes that are walking away are usually doing so because they are turned off by all the mud slinging both within and without the church. It all just gives them a bad taste in their mouth. One young man I know that has walked away is reading A Reason For God (Tim Keller)and thereby seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. He hasn't gone back to church, but it's a start. He will have tofind a church he can feel "safe" in though. But I know many others, and this seems to be the common theme.
March 14, 2011 at 5:29 am
>This was from M.L.P Another reason is that many people see so much hippocracy among Christians, especially among the clergy. There is too much infighting going on. Rome has tried to hide the terrible practice of child-molestation by so many of its priests in just about every country, so is it surprising that thousands are walking out every week. Then there is the situation where RC priests are forbidden to marry, yet Rome welcomes married Anglican and Lutheran clergy into its ranks, even if they are married. This is double standards. So why are thousands of RC priests entering the Anglican Church in South America – to be able to be married, they are men, so why not? Also, there are so many women walking away from Rome as it places women in a subservient role. I was one of them. The young people see so much that is wrong with the world, the Church is just another institution that is in need of drastic reform, in people's minds as well as rtheir souls.