There are a lot of books and articles about the vast number of Christ followers in my generation and those coming behind me who are leaving the church. The numbers are staggering and while I don’t have all the answers – I have one.
We, as The Church, have to stop saving face.
Just in the last week alone, I have had 3 conversations with different college students in my city (all attend different churches) who feel like our churches/ministries are not meeting their needs because the culture feels surface level/fake and they are craving real/authentic community.
And I don’t believe that we are the only city that is experiencing this. This has been going on in this country for years and what we are seeing now in the rising numbers of those claiming to be non-religious, atheist, and agnostic is a product of our sin of faking it (let’s call it what it is – dishonesty) for generations.
The flip side of this issue is that our young people who are staying in church feel inadequate in serving/making disciples because the examples that have been set have been filtered versions of ourselves instead of the real and raw reality of our sinful nature/God’s grace in our lives.
Our churches/ministries are too busy saving face while our young people are craving authenticity. The consequence of our facades is that it provides a false reality of what a grace filled community of believers actually looks like and they have convinced themselves that they are not enough. That feeling of inadequacy is the main stronghold that is holding them back from fulfilling God’s call on their lives to serve His Church and make disciples.
They are gauging the quality of their relationship with Jesus on the facades that we portray.
And they’re exhausted trying to keep up.
This way of church benefits no one.
And I don’t believe that it’s just our young people who are exhausted. I don’t believe that it’s just our young people who are seeking this kind of community. I believe it’s something that all generations are craving because God created us for community.
We have to take a deep dive into our own hearts and examine the part we play in promoting true community by showing up real and raw, sinful and broken vs. filtered and put together.
Here are ways that I believe we can cultivate a culture of authenticity in our lives and in our churches:
• Cut the programs in our churches and build community within our homes. We hear church leaders say all the time (and it’s true) that the church is not a building but the people. Let’s hit pause on creating more programs to bring people into our churches and let’s create community around our tables. Those who are unchurched are much more likely to come have dinner in our homes than come to our church. I believe that more people would open up their home if their schedules were not so bogged down by tired church programs. Let’s free up our people to build genuine community with one another. I believe it will make a stronger gospel impact than more church programs.
• Encourage vulnerability, not just transparency. Rebekah Lyons has shared on multiple platforms the difference between transparency and vulnerability. “Transparency is being honest about where you’ve been. Vulnerability is being honest about where you are.” And Church Leaders, we have to be the ones to say “Me First” to begin making everyone else feel like this is a safe space to say “Me, too.”
• Build each other up as a way to build the kingdom. We have to be a group of believers who build each other up and empower one another to step forward in obedience in using the gifts that God has given each of us. So many times, we walk through life feeling defeated by the enemies attacks of who he says we are when we need brothers and sisters to step in and remind us of who God says we are and how he has called us to be a part of building God’s Kingdom.
• Stop tearing each other down and start speaking truth in love. When I was growing up, my dad attended church with us on occasion, mostly on holidays and if I was singing on a Sunday. But at some point, something changed and it wasn’t until I was older that he told me that he couldn’t sit in a church building with the same people who were talking about him outside of church. My dad had a drinking problem for years and he didn’t try to hide it. But instead of talking about his sin to each other, I wish that someone had come and talked to him with the loving kindness that God calls us. Our words have the power to build up by talking to each other in love and grace about the sin patterns we see in each other’s lives – linking arms with one another, walking toward repentance – rather than tearing them down by talking about them to everyone else.
• Stop talking about the problems within our churches and start asking God how we can be a part of creating appropriate changes – or possibly how we should change our hearts toward the issue. We will never see a perfect church here on earth. It won’t happen. If our churches are the people like we said than we can guarantee that they will be imperfect because we are imperfect people. But we can ask for God’s wisdom when we see things that make us feel uncomfortable. We can ask God to show us what we can do to be a part of the solution. We can ask God to change our heart if the issue we see is really about us and not about building the kingdom. Talking about it will get us no where but praying about it will bring us peace and guidance on how to move forward in obedience.
I’m a firm believer in two things when it comes to church.
- The Ministry of the Church should lie on the shoulders of all church members and not solely on those in leadership.
- The Culture of the Church is a direct product of the ministry being done by all members outside of the church.
Let us all practice cultivating a life giving culture of authentic, grace filled community in our hearts and homes and see the impact it makes on our churches.
I believe in us, Church, because I believe in the God who sustains us.