Church isn’t working for me…. So say, in a variety of ways, a number of folks I’ve been talking with over the past months. Often these people are in their 20s or their 50s; they are people of faith who grew up with and still love the Church, but find their experience with churches lacking to some degree. In part that’s because they’re agreeing with some of the postmodern critique of some aspects of evangelical influence on church; in part it’s because they’re facing situations in life for which those around them don’t seem to have answers that are sufficiently robust; in part it’s because they want more (a complaint that is easy to ignore but one that can also describe a deep, sincere and non-cantankerous desire).
So they step away from regular attendance with a particular congregation; they might visit a range of churches in their wider neighborhood, or gather some friends for food and conversation, or explore through books or other experience traditions with which they have little familiarity. They’re characterized more by longing than by hostility. And so far, at least among the ones I’ve met, they exhibit a lively spiritual interest–as it relates to Jesus, the Spirit, Scripture, God’s creation, human need in every dimension….
It might be easy to ask what’s missing from ‘church’ that such people don’t feel connected, or to criticize such folk for drifting away rather than setting an anchor. But it might be more profitable to inquire as to whether we’re at a time and place where a wider view of ‘church’ is warranted, and what it will take to create environments that welcome and nurture such people.