And so is keeping it.
There’s been an article circulating about “why millennials are leaving the church“. Leaving aside the argument about what exactly a “millennial” is (I believe there’s an additional generation gap between people who’ve used a floppy disk and those who haven’t), why does anybody leave the church?
For me it was dating.
In the late 90s early 2000s there was a trend going around christian circles of “kissing dating goodbye”, of only considering dating as a path to marriage. This is kind of a drag for a guy in high-school and early college life. Note, I’m not talking about sex, just hanging out, having a good time and getting to know a person.
Dating someone who doesn’t believe in God can lead you to drift away from your faith. It doesn’t have to, but God didn’t talk about not being “unevenly yoked” for nothing. For me I wasn’t making a conscious choice to leave the Church, but my actions were making the choice for me. After a particularly bad relationship ended I realized I needed to repair my relationship with God, and that’s ultimately what led me back to the church (and happily to my future wife).
That’s my personal experience, but I know plenty of people who leave the church for the reasons outlined in the article (seems too judgmental, interested only in superficial change, not engaged with social justice, anti-intellectual). But even though these are common ideas in the culture about what the church is, I think it’s important to realize that not all churches are the same.
What is a church? It’s not buildings, or denominations, it’s people. Whenever two or more Christians are gathered together that’s a body of Christ. “Millennials” are not a single homogenized group, and neither are Christians.
My church is concerned with social justice, both in serving the poor in our community through schools and a food pantry, but also for reaching out to the “exurbs”, communities with no name, no government to support them. We’re multicultural, intellectual, traditional and non-traditional together. Yes, our pastor does wear jeans and sandals, but it’s not a hipster act. He even listens to NPR.
My dad works (as an IVCF staffer) with graduate students and faculty at OSU, helping them to not only grow in their faith, but share it with others. These are serious scientists in chemistry and physics (one of his former students is now working at Fermi, another at Argonne). It is possible to reconcile science and faith.
But most importantly Jesus is definitely in the house, in our life groups, in our ministry, in our daily prayer life. And it’s not just us, trust me.
There are bad churches, just as there are bad groups of people. Not everybody who calls themselves a Christian is a nice person to be around. But we millennials are not a group who let one bad experience, or even a series of experiences, color our view of Christianity as a whole.
That would just be BS.