Do Still Waters Run Deep?
According to the Barna study, the second criticism young people have of the church is that their experience of Christianity is shallow. Fully a third (31%) said that “church is boring”. They also said “faith is not relevant to my career or interests” and that “the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough”. And, 20% of the young people who had attended church said “God seems missing from my experience of church”. I can see the truth in these statements.
- Church is boring. Let me rephrase that: Church can be boring. Don’t act all shocked, most of you agree with me. Arcane liturgy that no one really understands, boring sermons and even more boring music all serve to make worship a snoozefest. And, that is most certainly a bad thing. But, in reality, none of these things are the problem. The actual problem is a lack of engagement. Liturgy can be arcane when no one bothers to explain it. Sermons can be boring when the people delivering them don’t connect with their audience. Music can be boring when it doesn’t meet people where they are. None of this has to happen. But, it will as long as we doing things this way because it’s the way we’ve always done things.
- Faith is not relevant to my career or interests. I don’t really get this one. Maybe it’s because I’m looking at it from a different place than a 20-something or maybe I had better teachers than many of these young folks. I don’t know. But, I’ve long felt following the Jesus way is extremely relevant to my career and interests. At least it is if you’re doing it right. And, maybe that’s the problem, because a lot of churches are teaching a brand of faith that doesn’t bear even a passing resemblance to what Jesus taught.
- The Bible is not taught clearly or often enough. That sounds strange considering that a lot churches either have “Bible” (as in Piedmont Bible Church) in their name or refer to themselves as “Bible-believing”. But, I think the real key to this statement is the word “clearly”. Teaching an ancient document like the Bible is difficult in the best of circumstances, doing so clearly and effectively in a couple of hours each week doubly so. Keeping things interesting takes things to another level.
- God seems missing from my experience in church. I think God inhabits every experience we have, often we just don’t see it. Unfortunately,churches play up dramatic conversion stories because they’re good theater. Good theater, however, doesn’t always make for good theology. Especially when you consider that a) not everyone has an dramatic conversion experience and b) highlighting these stories cause people who haven’t had one to think God isn’t around and,therefore, feel like shit. I speak from experience. I’ve never had that big God moment people talk about where God knocked me to my knees (or, in the case of charismatics, laid me out completely). Hell, I’ve never even felt my heart “strangely warmed” a la John Wesley. I want to feel these things…, badly. I’m finally figuring out that it might not happen. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
I understand why young people say their experience of Christianity is shallow. That’s because it is. If we’re dropping the ball on this one, it’s that we’re not teaching kids they are the person in charge of the depth of their faith experience.