A friend and source of mine who I trust implicitly on these sort of things recently told me that in study after study after study of the young adult age group in the western world there is a consistent reason arising as to why they are leaving churches in droves. Have a guess what it is.
They disagree with the preaching? Nope. The music is not to their liking? Nope. They felt judged by people when they walked in with their black Sabbath t-shirt and ripped up cons sneakers? Nope. They hated the cliques in the youth ministry? Nope. (For those with kids) There wasn’t a crèche available? Nope. They can’t stand that churches don’t support ‘marriage equality’? Nope
THE consistently number one reason consistently given by gen Y for why they were done with church was…….drum-roll please…………they found it boring. Boring. Are you kidding me?
Now the easy thing do at this point is to say something like “well of course, these days they’re constantly overstimulated and desensitized by video games, iphones and other tech.” But the moment you say this you’re also revealing that deep down you actually don’t think the Gospel is revolutionary enough to compete with the best that the world can offer. Also, such a response misunderstands the depth of the word ‘Boring.’
What if some of our conservative values are killing us? Notice I didn’t say biblical values. No, conservative values. What if there’s an enormous amount of conservative values that are as biblical as Miley Cyrus?.
I grew up in Churches, I’m a pastor’s kid and I wouldn’t be here today without some of the amazing people that I met in them. But I also remember the general gist of teaching in the youth ministries that I grew up in could be summed up as: “be careful”. Be careful who you hang out with, be careful what you say, be careful what you do, where you go, whatever.
But here’s what Jesus says: Matthew 16:25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me (important qualifier there) will find it.
Now before I get taken off in handcuffs for twisting scripture, here’s the point I’m trying to make:
In my experience in youth ministry so far, kids are not ending up hanging out with the wrong people, falling to substance abuse, being filled with disillusionment and even turning to crime because they are being reckless, but because in the midst of a social narrative that says; “fit in or else,” they are being careful to do just that.
In an outcomes based society people are always carefully constructing their lives to achieve a certain set of desired outcomes that have been sold to them as the answer to the meaning of life. We know implicitly that life’s meaning has to lie somewhere in the realm of relationships and so people are therefore careful to make sure they don’t upset the relationship apple cart.
I am staggered how much effort, how much meticulous planning goes in to constructing a public persona in order to, again, fit in with one’s chosen social group during the teen to young adult years. The onset of social media and the rise of cyber bullying has only added fuel to the fire.
This is what young people are running from as they walk into our churches.
If they are there, they have only made such a brave step because something within them is telling them that the meticulous lifestyle planning aint workin’. They’re done with careful.
So happens when someone in this spiritual, emotional and psychological space comes in to an atmosphere where folks are saying ‘don’t do this and don’t do that’?
You guessed it, they think something like this: “Man this works exactly the same way as everything else, it’s just the rules that have changed.”………Boring.
Being a Christian in NOT about being careful. There is a holy recklessness that says “I don’t care that Jesus is over there and there’s a raging sea in between us, if he says to me ‘come’ I am willing to risk drowning (that is risk my life) to find out whether he is fair dinkum or not.” I’m not here to be careful, I’m here to be care free because I trust that he is careful with me.
Being careful means fitting in, but we’re called to be reckless enough with ourselves to say ‘I don’t care if I get bullied for standing up for Jesus.’
At our deepest level, we need an adventure.
Our lack of pursuit is what is killing us. Jesus didn’t mince his words about the challenges of choosing to follow God and yet he attracted people wherever he went. Why would it be any different today?
Lastly, are you feeling like your faith and passion for God has sort of ground to a halt? Try a little holy recklessness today, you learn deeper lessons in the deep end.