As I talk to and visit with people who are my age and younger that are not attending the church about spiritual things, I tend to find a familiar pattern repeating itself over and over again. Usually I share what I do for a living, and then people say “I used to go to church but…”or they say “I believe in Jesus, but I just can’t handle the church thing because…” Surveys have been done over and over again among people who are not currently attending church. Nine out of ten have a very high regard for Jesus. Many would call themselves believers in Christ. Unfortunately when it comes to attending worship somewhere they generally would agree with an acquaintance of mine who said, “I love Jesus...I just don’t have a lot of high regard for his representatives.”
When I hear comments like that I am torn. There is a part of me that really gets angry at the people that tell me these things. My blood pressure rises and I want to pummel them with accusatory questions like: So do you think you are perfect? What makes you the grand arbitrator of all that is right and good? Is this about what the church has done, or you not wanting to be accountable to what the church teaches? Are you really so arrogant to think that you are a better person than those that are inside the church? Why? On the other hand, often simultaneously, I am angry at this network of institutions we call the Church. I start running another set of questions through my head. They sound like: Is the church as we know it really what Jesus intended as a community to build his kingdom? When in the bible did Jesus really say, “Come and join a local church institution so that you can spend all your free time doing religious activities.”? How is the church different than the world when it is all about gamesmanship and politics? So, most of the time I am stuck. I try to listen empathetically, and when given the chance I share my story about how church communities have formed me in a positive way and a little of my vision of what I hope the church can be.
Then I start to think. What would it be like if we started to be sensitive to what it might mean to be a church for the De-churched? A church that is a place for healing of those with church hurts? A place where people burned out on religion can meet Christ and Christians in an authentic and forthright manner, without watering down the good news of Christ.
After that I start thinking this....is there any way that I can do vocational ministry in a way that supports helping others connect with Jesus (which I believe is my life's purpose) without also being a representative of religiosity (which I have more and more of a hard time with)?