Minding the Gap
There’s something that doesn’t sit right about a church when the message sounds more like an advertisement for the church than about being drawn closer to God, when worship is the best part of the morning, and the message snaps you out of the presence of God.
You’ve heard it many times before, seen the research many times: there’s an age gap missing in the church, and each year that gap grows bigger and bigger. I’ve noticed that every year, more and more of my friends stop attending church. Especially those who grew up in the church. Ironically, or perhaps not, those who grew up in the church are more likely to abandon church before they are thirty.
In 2012, Christian Piatt offered seven reasons why young adults quit church. I agree with his reasons. But I want to add my own: we want authenticity, realness. We want to feel close to a God we’re allowed to doubt, we’re allowed to question in a sanctuary full of broken people. Broken people coming together to worship the God who can truly restore.
We don’t want perfect. God already dealt with perfect. We don’t want the church of politics, divided by hate instead of united in love. We want the imperfect. The broken, the sinners, the ashamed.
We want to find God in a place of integrity, transparency, honesty, grace, and truth. We want a place where we can form relationships with God and each other.
There’s something beautiful about proper worship — true worship. Worship that does more than fill a room with voices singing of how great our God is. Proper worship, at least as I’ve come to define it, is those moments when you feel the Spirit move, whether in a room full of people or when you’re by yourself. True worship is the extension of grace to all.
Church is not a business; it’s a relationship. It’s not a building; it’s a group of people doing life together.
Church is about the people, not about the number of people, but about the relationships formed. Church started out with Jesus and 12 others. And Jesus knew these men intimately and fully — they weren’t numbers to him. Church should be like that: a place where you can know others and be known, and a place where you can stand unashamed with who you are. Jesus loved the man who would betray him. Do we love those sitting next to us in the same way Jesus does? Do we even know them enough to love them that way?
When we can’t find authenticity in the church, when there’s no room for doubts and questions and brokenness, we make our own communities. Some good, some bad. Communities where we can be lost, hurting, seeking, questioning, and breaking. Where we’re free from judgment.
We want to find the love of God in other people; we crave to see how God has worked in other people’s lives. And we want to be able to share that same God with others.
We do not come to church to be entertained, to have things nicely tied up with a bow at the end of the service, to receive a pat on the back week after week for what we do within the church. We come to feel close to a God who knows what it’s like to be broken, to be shamed, to be rejected. We come to hear about difficult topics. We come to tell our truths, even the ugly ones, in a place so filled with the love of God, in a place so filled with the knowledge of who Jesus is that we leave the building as more of a church than when we entered.
In her book Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans writes, “Imagine if every church became a place where everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable. Imagine if every church became a place where we told one another the truth. We might just create sanctuary.”
Sanctuary: a noun meaning a refuge. How wonderful that sounds.