Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

December 11, 2013

Millennials unimpressed with "churchy" phrases

Pat Smith
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Have you noticed that many young people aren’t going to church? The subject has been discussed a lot in recent years. It seems that a number of young people are simply not going to church even if they have been “raised in the church.” Some say it’s because of sports or that they must work on Sundays, but more blame the many forms of communication available today.

Everyone seems to have an opinion, but few know what to do about. Is it even important? One local church recently divided the congregation up into groups of fewer than 10 specifically to discuss it. What came out of those discussions was a multitude of ideas. But, are those interested in changing this pattern of nonattendance able to see the dilemma clearly?

Addie Zierman wrote a book titled, “When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over.” It was named one of the Best 101 Books of 2013 – one of only five in the ‘Religion’ Category. One reviewer stated, “She’s doing the hard work of redefining faith in a world that is significantly less black and white than she once believed it to be.” It’s an account of how she was raised in a loving religious family and went to church faithfully while growing up. As an adult, however, her faith became less than perfect. After years of doubt and searching for the truth, she finally returned to the church. The book is about her climb back to a faith she could accept.

Kristin Lenz wrote a column in the Washington Post titled, “Five churchy phrases that are scaring off millennials.” That word Millennial is described as a member of the generation of children born between the years 1977 and 1994. That would put the ages of the generation from 19 to 34 but many will say that it takes in far more than just that particular generation. Many of the younger people who have attended church all of their lives are leaving the church but, others are also no longer attending. Should we just accept it and pay little attention to it?

Kristin Lenz wrote this about her generation, “We grew up on easy answers, catchphrases and cliché, and if we’ve learned anything, it’s that things are almost always more complicated than that.” She had asked her readers for the five church clichés that they tend to hate the most. Three of the responses are below.

“The Bible clearly says…” That generation grew up in the age of information technology, and can easily access a constant stream of commentaries, sermons, ideas, and books. Because they have so many methods of communication – email, Twitter, Facebook etc. – they can have discussions with those considered Biblical scholars, good and knowledgeable people who have vastly different views of the Bible that those they learned in Sunday School. They’re aware of the Bible’s intricacies. They know the words are biased to a particular time that we don’t completely understand. They know that the scholars will never all agree.” To hear a pastor say, the Bible clearly says…, when it is not at all clear does not inspire faith.

Another phrase is, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Not only is that phrase not in the Bible, it could indicate that if life gives you more than you can handle your faith is lacking. That could indicate that if life has become “more than you can handle,” then your faith must not be strong enough. They know that life so often feels like entirely too much to handle.

A third phrase is “God is in control – has a plan – works in mysterious ways.” That may be true, wrote Lenz, but it isn’t a phrase that we want to hear when something goes horribly wrong in our life. We are drawn to the Jesus who sits down with the down-and-out woman at the well. Who touches the leper, the sick, the hurting.

Lenz wrote, “You’ve heard us say that we like Jesus but not the church, and it’s not because we’re trying to be difficult. It’s because the Jesus we read about enters into the pain of humanity where so often the church people seem to want to float above it.” That last statement is questionable though. You probably know many church members who give plenty to the hungry, sick, victims of tragedies and forgotten people all over the world. Most likely, this whole subject deserves discussion. There is another side to the story though. Chip Ingram’s “Why I believe,” is definitely worth a read.