I have been preaching throughout the Book of Acts this year. I can’t help but notice the great emphasis on planting churches, in particular by the Apostle Paul. I find it most helpful to study what the “original” Church looked like so as to better determine whether I want to be part of something that looks and sounds like the original.
During this same time, I concluded reading a book entitled, “The Rise of the Nones” by James Emory White. The author sites numerous research findings depicting myriads of Millennials (ages approximately 18-30) who are saying good-bye to the organized church and religion as they know it. “Nones” are those individuals who declare that they are not affiliated with any religious organization.
I believe some of the reasons are valid and other reasons are excuses for continued uncommitted relationships and non-accountability. Yet the fact that untold numbers are leaving the Catholic Church, in light of recent scandals, revelations of abuse of children and adults, cover ups and dispensing cash settlements and “hush” money, is it any wonder our young people have said, “Enough!”.
Not only has the Catholic Church suffered losses, they are now running a huge marketing campaign to the lost millennials which states, “Come Back. We’ve Changed”. The Protestant Church is also experiencing similar unrest. Mainline denominations and “mega” churches are all feeling the pain.
Millennials are turned off by hypocrisy that they have witnessed in the Church, celebrity status of some leaders, corruption, greed, and abuse unchecked. Many millennials have also said, “Enough” with Protestant Christianity also.
One illustration, of what they are seeing and hearing and sometimes experiencing, is as follows: A recent Mega Church pastor and his wife were purchased a $1.8 million home in North Carolina by the leadership of the church, while the pastor purchased a $200,00 Lamborghini for his wife. He justified his purchase by saying the car was not purchased with church money.
Having grown up in the 60’s and 70’s, I too became disillusioned with organized religion and the Church. I would murmur to myself, “If this is the Church, you can have it!”. My point is that this is not something new that has not occurred before. It was during the 70’s and early 80’s that I witnessed a great move of the Holy Spirit. Some called it the “Jesus Movement”, where thousands of young people came to Christ and experienced a revolution in their relationship with God and His Church. I believe God can do this again, even in the USA!
Just as there are good lawyers and some bad lawyers; good teachers and some very poor teachers in our school systems, so there will be some good, biblical Christ-centered churches with godly pastors and leaders and some bad ones. We must all guard against the mentality that generalizes “ALL” being bad and recognize our own hearts that they may be using that as an excuse to “do as we please” vs. what God has commanded. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. “(Hebrews 10:24-25)
Recently, my wife heard a pastor speaking on the radio of the necessity of Christ’s Church and how the Church is His idea! He first spoke of God’s design of the ark that He gave to Noah. He talked about how the ark was God’s idea to save His creation and to also sustain them. But the ark “smelled”; it was dirty and uncomfortable sometimes – but it was God’s design just the same! Much like the ark, the Church today can be messy at times, but it is still God’s design while we are here on earth. Let us adjust our expectations of Church! Let us become Participants vs. Spectators!