Thursday, November 13, 2014

To Young Folk Not in Church

Your parents stopped coming largely not because of some grand disagreement with the people or their ideas.  They stopped coming because they could and rebellion and rejection were popular in my youth.  Everyone was required to be an individual.

Church isn’t about being an individual – church is about being part of a group or community.  So for my generation, it was one of the first things to go.  Clubs followed pretty quickly.  Schools – public schools – are following rapidly in their wake as home schooling and enclaves of education of the like-minded becomes the order of the day.

Whether these trends are good or bad remains to be seen.

But to the young folk of today, before you decide church isn’t for you, investigate it more thoroughly than you have.  Base your rejection on more than one sample.

Speaking for your grand- and great-grand-parents, here’s a few things you might want to consider:

1. It’s not about entertainment.  It never was.  We were bored in church when we were kids too.  But in spite of ourselves, we learned something just because we were there:

a. we learned that it isn’t always about us – and it shouldn’t be.  Maybe we were bored.  But someone in that church was hearing what they needed to hear.

b. our being there to witness it made a difference in their lives and in our lives too.

c. the discipline of discipline requires discipline, which we were learning in spite of ourselves.

2. Listening is a learned behavior.  And we learned how to listen in church.

3. We learned things we wouldn’t have learned anywhere else, like

a. the reasons we are moral beings

b. how to get it right and how to get it wrong

4. We learned how to live inter-generationally, as we all mixed together in church like we do nowhere else – these days, not even in our own families so much.

5. We learned how to care for others by how we were and weren’t cared for – mostly by how we were cared for, in spite of what the headlines may tell you.

6. Oh yeah, and then there’s God.  God is everywhere or nowhere.  It’s kind of the deal.  And yes, we all can spend time with God without other people (which, after all, is actually what church is – a gathering of a group of people around the worship and following of God).  What we cannot do is learn much from ourselves by ourselves.  Even internet worship is a community inhabited by other people.

7. And the truth is, some things (actually most things) are done better with other people.  God is one of them.  Even monastics, anchorites and ascetics lived and worshiped in community, community with God as its center.

Finally, consider this: for every headline you read about how church got it wrong, there are literally thousands upon thousands of examples of how small enclaves of people all over the world, calling themselves church, got it right.  It’s not news.  But it is true.

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