What the “Nones” Are Looking For
With that out-of-the-way, let’s take a look at a thoughtful article I came across. The author tries to thoughtfully bring home this message in, what I thought, was a loving way. The article was called, “Dear Church, Here’s Why People Are Leaving You. ((Dear Church, Here’s Why People Are Leaving You, faithit.com, John Pavlovitz, January 13, 2016.))
Pavlovitz lists 5 ways he thinks the church is failing in attracting younger people (I really do invite you to read the complete article, it’s not that long, but is very thoughtful.):
- Your Sunday productions have worn thin.
We can be entertained anywhere. Until you can give us something more than a Christian-themed performance piece—something that allows us space and breath and conversation and relationship—many of us are going to sleep in and stay away.
- You speak in a foreign tongue.
People don’t need to be dazzled with big, churchy words and about eschatological frameworks and theological systems. Talk to them plainly about love, and joy, and forgiveness, and death, and peace, and God, and they’ll be all ears. Keep up the church-speak, and you’ll be talking to an empty room soon.
- Your vision can’t see past your building.
Rather than simply stepping out into the neighborhoods around you and partnering with the amazing things already happening, and the beautiful stuff God is already doing, you seem content to franchise out your particular brand of Jesus-stuff, and wait for the sinful world to beat down your door.
- You choose lousy battles.
When you want to, you can go to war with the best of them. The problem is, your battles are too darn small. Fast food protests, hobby store outrage and duck-calling Reality TV show campaigns may manufacture some urgency and Twitter activity on the inside for the already-convinced, but they’re paper tigers to people out here with bloody boots on the ground.
Every day we see a world suffocated by poverty, and racism, and violence, and bigotry, and hunger; and in the face of that stuff, you get awfully, frighteningly quiet. We wish you were as courageous in those fights, because then we’d feel like coming alongside you; then we’d feel like going to war with you.
- Your love doesn’t look like love
It feels like a big bait-and-switch sucker-deal; advertising a “Come as You Are” party, but letting us know once we’re in the door that we can’t really come as we are. We see a Jesus in the Bible who hung out with lowlifes and prostitutes and outcasts, and loved them right there, but that doesn’t seem to be your cup of tea.
The author goes on to say, “We’re so weary of feeling like nothing more than a religious agenda; an argument to win, a point to make, a cause to defend, a soul to save.”
So I post this article to the Facebook group, “United Methodists for Truth: Doctrinal Discussion for All Who Are Unafraid”, and within a few minutes, the first comment is:
“An interesting perspective. I wonder how flexible he writer, or those he’s representing, would be were a church try to reach them on their terms. It seems like he expects a church to accept him without expecting change. Baffling.”
I replied to commenter, “There is exactly the issue the author was writing about. You immediately make a judgment, then start setting conditions on your welcome.”
The original commenter goes on to note, “You and the author conveniently ignore Jesus’ constant admonition to “sin no more” that accompanied His welcome.” My response to that is to point out that if one reads the stories of Jesus encounters, this was not part of his welcome. He met the people, heard their stories, offered help, then sent them on their way with this blessing. Jesus met them where they were and who they were, without conditions first. There was no checklist, which is precisely the point the author is making.
Then another regular commenter chimes in. He says he is a long-time pastor, and as best I can determine, he is apparently involved in the UMC in Mississippi. He partially agrees, but then says some of the most arrogant and condescending things I can imagine:
The author is clearly unchurched from the words written. A few of the points were valid. When did the great commission say come sit in our pseudo-coffeehouse, or come to our rock concert and if you have time later there will be an inspirational speaker to make you feel good about yourself? I believe it said “Go yeah therefore…” not, “fortify behind stained glass walls and wait.”.
And yet two things really stick out to me. 1) a confessing non churched person writing an article for Faithit. Say that out loud as written. Is it saying “faith it” or ” faith hit”? 2) Seems to me the whole thing is tongue in cheek non churched individuals becoming self appointed church consultants. That is not a very convincing position of experience, wisdom, knowledge, or skill from which to speak from. I go to the mechanic because he is the expert, not me. I would be foolish to insist on telling him how to do what I don’t understand. Why then should I listen to a non churched person tell me as a professionally trained, and professionally educated pastor with over two decades of experience how to pastor? Not gonna happen with much intensity. It’s not that I know everything there is to know on how to pastor, but I do know more than one who never has been a pastor and certainly more than one who is not even churched. I don’t recall anything in scripture saying “And a clueless post-modern safe space insisting hipster will lead them because they are stupid and desperate…”
So, the first reaction to this is not contemplation, it is, I agree with a stricter more conservative liturgical stance, but I’m going to try to discredit this entire article, including the name of the blog on which it is posted, because I don’t like what he has to say.