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 source 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. This is the first part of that article. The second and last part will follow later this week. We’d love to hear your comments, views and opinions.
A lot’s been made over the millennial generation and their religious life. Why they go to church. Why they don’t go to church. What they want. What they hate.
I’m going to do something different here. I’m not going to cite Barna. I’m not going to quote Rachel Held Evans. I’m not going to link to any articles or blog posts.
I’m just going to tell you what’s true for me, and what I’ve seen to be true of others like me.
I am one of those rascally millennials, by the way. One of those enigmatic, paradoxical, media-dependent, coffee-drinking young people swept together under this millennial umbrella. Except coffee tears up my stomach, so I dropped that stuff.
I was born when a former actor was in the White House. I was crushed the day slap bracelets were banned from my elementary school. I remember hiding in my room with my five-inch TV to watch Friends and Seinfeld and the Simpsons, and all the other shows I wasn’t allowed to see. I don’t remember what it’s like to not have a home computer. I can barely recall a time before cell phones. I’ve never left home without one.
I’ve always been in church. I’ve never left, though I’ve come close several times. I would have left in high school if I’d had the option, but in my house, attendance at my cool, hip, contemporary-worshiping, youth-group-glorifying, moralism-preaching, theology-eschewing McCongregation was a non-negotiable.
So I went. Through every repetition of “Shout to the Lord,” every True Love Waits commitment ceremony, every rapture-ready dispensationalist Bible study, every sermon series on how to make myself into a good, moral, well-behaved person so that I wouldn’t tick off God and bring condemnation to America.
But I was always a misfit. Always a skeptic. Always a doubter. Always an outsider.
Today, you’re my livelihood, and putting food on my table overcomes the gravitational pull of my mattress on a cold, rainy Sunday morning. Or a hot, dry one. Or any other one. But that pull is still there. It’s always been there. It’s never left.
The truth is, my relationship with you is still love-hate.
I love the theology, but I hate the expectations of pseudo piety.
Love the gospel, hate the patriotic moralism.
Love the Bible, hate the way it’s used.
Love Jesus, but hate what we’ve done with him.
Love worship, but hate Jesusy entertainment.
And those other kids I went to church with, I’ve come to find that many of them were misfits, skeptics, and doubters, too. Some of them still go, but more of them have left.
Some of them left because they had no desire to conform to an outdated cultural norm that demanded we keep up appearances by parking our butts in our regular Sunday pew.
They didn’t believe, and didn’t believe they needed to pretend that they did.
Others have left because they grew keen to the bait-and-switch tactics. They’ve left because they didn’t fit in, and couldn’t pretend anymore. They left because the Jesus preached from the pulpit didn’t look much like the Jesus of Nazareth. They left because all the bells and whistles and hooks and marketing rang hollow.
They left because they had been constantly catered to, constantly kept busy, but had never been taught how to be a part of the church.
The programs won’t bring them back.
The coffee won’t bring them back.
The show – the lights, fog machine, the contemporary worship that we think is essential – nope, that won’t do it, either.