I’m 26 years old and most of my friends want nothing to do with church. In their minds, they know what church is about and they want nothing to do with that. This is my challenge. How do I communicate God’s love in a context that tunes me out the moment they hear the word God or the name Christ?
Some time ago I realized that much of the struggle lies in the source of the information. My friends are not judging the faith based on their reading of scripture. Most of them aren’t reading the Bible at all. They’re reading you. They’re reading me. They’re reading the church of their childhood or the church they see portrayed through the media. The church won’t engage modern science. It’s a depiction of judgment, hypocrisy, boredom, abuse, lunacy. It’s simply inaccessible.
For those of us in the church, we know all too well the unfortunate reality of many of their preconceptions. The radical decline of Christendom has left the church in a state of survival. Churches have turned inward, catering to the desires of their members and holding fast to modes of tradition. The hostile, post-modern climate in which we now find ourselves facilitates a church culture in which the children of Christendom now feel as though they are the guardians of tradition.
This scene is not unlike that scene that falls as the backdrop for Christ’s ministry. The Jewish people, having suffered through years of persecution and being forced to forfeit their religious rights, were finally free to once again practice their traditions. They were so afraid of losing the right to practice their faith that they built a wall around the law. This figurative wall is the symbol of protection. The people weren’t concerned with evangelism or mission work. Instead, they viewed themselves as protectors and upholders of the law and this was of the upmost importance—more important than the redemption of the lost. If people on the outside didn’t understand or agree, that was ok, they simply had no place within the people of God. This is the mindset the Christ was fighting against.
Is it possible that we, witnessing the decline of our churches and feeling our religious freedom slipping away, have fallen into similar mindsets and patterns of behavior? We see culture, science, government, and media as a threat. Instead of engaging the world, we react to it. We build a wall around our tradition. We have become exclusive and at times oppressive in our defensiveness. We operate out of fear rather than the love and power of God.
There needs to be a change in the way we think and operate. The shift is more than tactics and strategies. It is a cultural shift. This is why I love Fresh Expressions. Fresh expressions of church help break down that wall and meet people right where they are. Let’s let go of our defensiveness and cultivate a new culture finding fresh and exciting ways to empower the marginalized and cater to people on the outside rather than to our own traditions. Through it all, we will never compromise the essential Gospel message but we will give a voice to the voiceless breaking down our church walls and flooding our communities with God’s love!
Dwayne is the youth and young adult pastor at NextGen Church in Princeton Junction, New Jersey. He is also the President and co-founder of Stand Out In A Crowd Incorporated.