I was standing in a worship service but I had never felt so far away from God. The words to the song were coming out of my mouth but I did not have a clue what they meant. My thought process went something like this:
We are an inanimate object, like literally? Right then.
This song doesn’t once mention God? I could sing this to a guy or something and it could sound like a love song- not a good one but that’s beside the point.
The whole time I was thinking this I was standing there and singing. I probably even raised my hands a little. To anyone looking on it must have seemed as though I were the perfect Christian who in that moment was in a close communion with God- at that moment they could not have been more wrong.
That day has stuck with me. We all have those moments where we feel like we are detached from God. Days where the worship service feels routine, or where we fail to feel a connection with God even when seeking Him in prayer. We can then feel as though we are faking our Christianity, and are flimsy ‘Paper Christians’. ‘Paper Christian’s’ are people who on paper seem to be the perfect Christian, faithfully attending church, participating in the services and keeping in good standing with the community but are in reality just ‘not feeling it’.
There are numerous people who feel this disconnect. Not everybody who feels it decides to stay; many leave. The lack of connection they are feeling with God causes them to question a number of things especially in relation to the church institution including the role and value of the church, the place of the worship service in the Christian faith but most importantly they question the existence of God himself.
Often though this disconnect can be exacerbated by interactions with people within the church. According to a study completed by LifeWay research, 37% of people who had left the church left due to disenchantment with the establishment.
There is currently an exodus of millennials from the Christian church, according to one study 59% of youths who were raised within the Christian church have left. These individuals have not necessarily left the Christian faith but have stopped regularly attending a church community. Honestly, looking at the statistics alone is outstanding but when I apply it personally it becomes even more so. I can think of numerous people that I know or have known who have decided to leave the Christian church and many more still who are seriously thinking about it. I myself attend a church which is very scarce on youth, with myself and my two brothers comprising about half of the regular youth attendees. This is a disturbing reality, as Christianity is always one generation from dying out, due to the risk of the younger generation not accepting the faith.
A BROKEN BODY
So why is this exodus happening? Here are a few common ideas:
- Millennials are often not, or feel as though, they are not heard within the church. Any suggestions they make are felt by millennials to be completely trampled, this is a little disheartening to say the least. Say you want to add a new song to the worship service and this is immediately combated because people are reluctant to change the way the service has always been. A resistance to change means that eventually people will give up trying to make it happen and that is the moment when people lose their passion. Many people give up on making their dream happen.
- Millennials are a people of action! Within the church there is often a lot of talk and no walk. Like maybe we’ll pray for people involved in a struggle but the church may take no practical steps to help these people, this can seem hypocritical to most young people and make them wonder why they are there in the first place.
- Something that I’ve heard happen at my church is that they pray for the “young people and children as they are growing up in an increasingly sick world…” the problem is that despite this sentiment, many from the older generation are unwilling to become mentors. I am so blessed to have numerous mentors at my home church who have helped me to develop in my faith. Due to the divide in many churches between the youth and the older adults there is little to no opportunity to enter into a mentoring relationship.
- Churches can feel anonymous- I walked into a large church with some friends and looked around, the sheer amount of people there was insane. They kept to their own groups however and by the end of the service I remarked to my friend just how easy it would be to walk away from this church and never return. Many youth feel as though if they just walked out of a church they would not even be missed, many of them are somewhat right.
- The people- the church is perceived by the younger generations to be full of hypocrites and by all accounts it is.
So with so many reasons to leave, why stay?
I believe that having a faith in God and practicing this through worshipping in a Church community is a personal and deliberate choice. After that experience I made a conscientious effort to take ownership of my spiritual life. I realised that I was relying on weekly programs and bible studies to feel like I was connected to God.
Attending church is vital to our spiritual health, although watching the church service via live stream is tempting it is important to be physically present. The author of Hebrews emphasises the importance of attending a church in Hebrews 10:24-25 writing “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, 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.”
We develop our faith through action. It is in my interactions with others rather than reading the Bible or prayer (although those two things are certainly important!) that I find myself furthering my faith. Speak out! Take action within the church where you feel that you can. If you want to lead a Bible study group, find a way to do that, if you want to preach, develop this by writing sermons and speaking to others about your intentions. It is when we are intentionally using our spiritual gifts that I believe that we can become the most in tune with God.
Yes the church is a broken institution, but that is why it is beautiful. It is a broken place for broken people, but it forms a mosaic of sorts, as God, the “perfector of our faith” is able to put each piece in place to form something remarkable. So do not give up on your faith because of the actions of others, push on, be relentless. As cliche as it sounds, be the change that you want to see within your community of believers. In order to fulfil the Christian’s mandate to “make disciples of all nations”, we must be united in our faith and that begins with reviving the institution in which our faith is supposed to thrive- the church.
 Hebrews 12:2
 Matthew 28:19
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