As part of our drive to bring you the best content out there, we often come across very interesting and thought-provoking pieces from the minds of others. Today, we feature the second and last part of an article called ‘Dear Church’ by Jonathan Aigner, written as an open letter to the church from the generation frequently referred to as the millennials. We’d love to hear your comments, views and opinions about the things expressed by the author.
Here are a few things that might just work with some of us. They may seem crazy. They may contradict everything you’ve heard. But, as one of these millennials, this is what would work for me, and for a lot of the people I know who have left.
Don’t expect a “worship style” to do your dirty work. Contemporary worship hasn’t worked. The longer we extend the life of this failed experiment, the more we see the results.
In my experience, contemporary worship brings in three groups. Baby boomers who are still stuck in their rebellion against the establishment, parents who mistakenly think that contemporary worship is the only way for their kids to connect to the church, and a small percentage of young adults who’ve never left and who never knew anything other than contemporary worship.
In modeling worship after commercial entertainment, you’ve compromised your identity, and we’re still not coming back.
And even if we did, would there be any church left? Would there be anything beyond the frills, the lights, the performance, the affected vocals? Would we still see a cross? Would we still find our place among the saints who have come before? Would we find reminders of our life-long need of grace?
Or would we have been hooked by something altogether different? Would we merely find your answer key for the great mystery of faith?
Don’t give us entertainment, give us liturgy. We don’t want to be entertained in church, and frankly, the church’s attempt at entertainment is pathetic. Enough with the theatrics. Enough with the lights, the visuals, the booming audio, the fog machine, the giveaway gimmicks, the whole production. Follow that simple yet profound formula that’s worked for the entire history of the church. Entrance, proclamation, thanksgiving, sending out. Gathering, preaching, breaking bread, going forth in service. Give us a script to follow, give us songs to sing, give us the tradition of the church, give us Holy Scripture to read. Give us sacraments, not life groups, to grow and strengthen us.
Week after week, season after season, year after year, let us participate in the drama of the gospel. It’s not supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to produce intense emotional response. It’s a microcosmic, disciplined, anticipatory remembrance of who we were, who we are, and who we are to be. We need this. We need these heartfelt rituals in our lives to keep us returning to the fount of grace, to mark our way back home.
Be yourself, and you just might shake us out of our technology-induced, entertainment-craving slumber. Keep giving us Jesusy versions of mainstream entertainment, and there’s no hope. You can’t compete. You’ll lose every time.
Don’t target us. In doing so, you’ve marketed and advertised yourself into oblivion. We’re left with homogeneous congregations of approximately the same ages and backgrounds who are just there for what they can get out of the church. No wonder we’ve left. Just be the church. Be yourself. Use your regular old liturgy. Offer your regular old sacraments. Sing your regular old songs. Cast a wide net, and let whosoever will come. Trust me, we’re more likely to show up when we don’t feel like fish snapping up the bait.
Be inclusive. Tear down silos. Save us from ourselves. We don’t need more youth group lock-ins, more Sunday School options for each age group, more senior adult outings on beekeeping and genealogy. We need more of each other. We need to look into the faces of old and young, rich and poor, of different colors, races, and ethnic backgrounds, so we can learn to see Jesus in faces that don’t look like us. So we can remember that the kingdom is bigger than our safe, suburban bubble. That’s right, we need community, not bound together by age or economic status or skin color, but wrought with the hammering of nails on a wooden cross.
Our internet connectivity is just fine. The rest of our lives is a different story. We are hopelessly disconnected. Church, you can be a powerful remedy if you stop posing as a Fortune 500 company scheming to sell a product.
Welcome the toughest, deepest, grittiest, most desperate, most shocking questions. We have lots of questions. More and more, what we see in the world doesn’t jive with what we grew up hearing from the pulpit. You have done more damage by requiring politeness, by refusing to engage, by brusquely rebuking honesty and vulnerability. You’re better than that, church. At least you should be. You should be a safe place for struggling, grappling, doubting.
Allow us to be real with each other, to avoid the temptation to gloss over the crap going on around us with easy, tidy, Jesusy clichés‘. You’ve always taught us how the world is black and white, just like The Andy Griffith Show and I Love Lucy. But, and excuse us for noticing, the world is mostly gray, gray like Ricky Ricardo’s dinner jacket and Barney Fife’s nightstick. Let’s embrace that grayness together.
So no more three points and a take home. No more self-help. No more marriage and parenting advice. No more anger management pointers. We don’t need you to be our therapist, we need you to be our church. We need you to grapple with us, to push back. We need you to show us how to be the hands and feet of Christ, to struggle with us in making it more on earth as it is in heaven.
It’s not too late, church, but your tactics aren’t working.
It’s time for a new strategy.
It’s time to be uncool. To be radical. To be different.
It’s time to be yourself.