Rants, Musings, and Mental Meanderings of a former Conservative Christian Mother. Standing Strong against ignorance, preconceptions, labels and excessive housework. Celebrating original thought, religious freedom, parenthood, free enterprise and chocolate.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Church and the Younger Generation

I came across an article citing a survey that states 70% of kids raised in church will "drop out" (their words, not mine) by the age of 23. The most frequently cited reasons for leaving came as no surprise to me:

"Church members are too judgemental"
"Church members are too hypocritical"
"I just don't relate with or connect to the people at church." (This is either in reference to the members or the pastor.)

Well, let me tell you after being raised in church since I was a baby, the first two answers are, regrettably, very true. There are a lot of hypocrites, and there are a lot of people who wear religion like some kind of badge so they can feel better about themselves and look down on others. I've dealt with these kind of people my whole life, and even if you are not a church-goer I can assure you they get on my nerves as badly as yours!!! So, why do I choose to raise my kids in church? Why do I continue to go in spite of all the stories I could tell about what "really goes on"? First of all, I have been very fortunate to have met up with some truly genuine Christians. I'm not talking about the people who feel they have to cram their views down everyone's throat (and in the process make some of their victims so bitter toward God they actually prevent them from finding God). I'm talking about people who are compassionate, loving, patient, and REAL. Their faith is real, their relationship with God is real, and they have a calm, contented air about them instead of that bizarre angry intensity that too many people mistake for religious zeal. Sadly, these types of Christians are rare gems, and in all the Christians I've known they are a very small majority. So, why don't I get discouraged with the larger group of fake, judgmental, arrogant, mean and critical group of so-called Christians? Simple. I'm not there for the people. My relationship with God is based on my PERSONAL experiences with Him, which are very real to me. (Can you tell I like to deal with reality? Ironic, since we're talking about matters of faith, but I digress...) Although I haven't always liked what He chooses for my life, I can honestly say, "God is no hypocrite!" God is the one constant in my life, and I separate Christians and their human flaws from God and His perfection. I do not expect perfection from someone simply because they claim to be a Christian, so since my faith is not in people, my faith is not shaken when people fall. Oh trust me, I get discouraged. I get mad. I get disgusted with things that go on. But none of that compares to the joy and peace I have in my faith and relationship with God. I couldn't possibly throw it all away because some people who claim to be Christians act like a pompous windbag or a devious fraud. You think you have some big scoop on someone who claimed to be a Christian, and yet they________________ ? Listen to me, honey, I could fill a big, fat juicy expose' book with all kinds of stories like that. It's not that I'm so great and spiritual that I am able to rise above this. Quite the contrary. God's faith is made perfect in my weakness. It is my very dependence on Him that causes me to cling to Him even harder when other Christians do things that are very un-Christlike. I believe the Bible is true. I believe Christ is the only way to Heaven after we die, and the only way to a fulfilled life before we die. I have chosen to spend my life getting to know more about the Lord and getting closer to Him, and doing all I can to make Him known to others through my life. And, frankly, I believe that I cannot do this without being actively involved in a local church so that I can be part of a greater outreach both in my local community and throughout the world through missions. After all, isn't that our whole purpose here? If we choose to worship God on our own terms instead of His, if we are honest, we find that in fact we are just cutting ourselves off from people so they can't hurt us... and in the process cutting ourselves off from being able to minister to others. Please don't think I look down on those who have chosen not to attend church. Everyone makes their own choices, and I am not responsible for your choices any more than you are responsible for mine. If your mind is made up, I'm not trying to judge you. This post is more to reach out to those who have been hurt by "Christians," who feel like Christianity is all just a big scam and not worth the effort, or who think living the Christian life is more trouble than it's worth. Please believe me. All Christians do not fit the negative stereotype. I'll admit, many of them do, some even unintentionally, but really the best advice I can give is: stop looking at Christians. They will disappoint you. Look at Christ, and all He has done. My sister and I were joking about this one day and she said, "People who have a bad experience in church say they will never go to church again, but if they have a bad experience in a restaurant do they say they'll never eat out again?" I'll admit, it takes a lot of effort to find a church that's a good "fit" for your family, and certainly no church is going to be perfect. But in the long run, it's worth the effort!


Sissy said...

One time my pastor was talking about how there being hypocrites in churchs was people's first excuse for not going and then he said he was glad for that because at least in the church they were hearing the Word of God and that was the only thing that could ever truely change their hearts. I do agree with you. We are not going to church to socialize with people but to get closer with Jesus.

Angela said...

Unfortunately, even if the hypocrites are being preached at, they usually assume the message is for someone else. I once heard a Sunday School teacher leave a training conference and say, "Oh, I only go to these things to support the younger teachers. I've been in church and teaching so long, it's not like they can teach me anything new."

I couldn't help but think to myself, Wow! It must feel so cool to have "arrived" spiritually!!! To reach that point where you can actually say you know all there is to know.

The truth is, as I heard a preacher put it, for every door of knowledge (about anything, not just spiritual matters) you open, you access a room of a thousand more you have no idea what is behind. The more you learn, the more you realize how much you DON'T know! Hypocrites have closed their hearts and minds, and in their narrow little self-centered world it's easy to feel like you know it all. Like you said, only God can truly change their hearts, since they certainly aren't going to listen to what others say.

I believe we should be able to learn something from any experience, and once we lose the attitude that we need to keep growing and developing (as a person, as a Christian, as a wife, as a mother) we become a stagnant, bitter person that no one can stand to be around.

As for the social aspect of church, it is nice to be around people who are somewhat like-minded, and I do get encouraged and blessed from my friends at church. BUT, I agree with you, the priority should be on getting closer to the Lord and serving Him through whatever ministries He calls us to be involved in. It's great to serve alongside other Christians, but we still need to keep our eyes on Christ first, or we will quickly fall away if (and when) those people we are close to and look up to make mistakes.