In the comments of my previous post about the lack of commitment from young adults in the church, “Cold Feet in the Church”, Eddy stated that he does not believe that young people are not too non-commital, it is that they find nothing worth commiting to. This statement reminds me of some of my favorite lyrics from U2 in the song “Acrobat”:
And I’d join the movement
If there was one I could believe in
Yeah I’d break bread and wine
If there was a church I could receive in
Ignoring where Bono may be now in regard to these lyrics, I think he has hit on something many young adults (and others) experience that echoes Eddy’s comment. If I can speak from my personal story for a minute, when I was a student in the university, I found that myself and many of my friends in our college fellowship really wanted to be a part of something greater than ourselves. I am hesitant to speak for a whole people group, but I can say with all honesty that we wanted to commit to a movement in which we could both lose ourselves and discover who we were. I came to believe that churches can be a part of that movement, the larger movement of God’s reign. (Our theology states this well: in Christ we die to ourselves and rise again and the Church, the body of all believers, reenacts this truth in its celebration of baptism.) Churches can be local signposts of God’s grand movement throughout history and creation.
The question is, however, are churches truly those signposts, pointing to God and God’s kingdom? Do they present a redeemed way of life in which radical commitment is not an option, but a way of life? As I argued in the previous post, churches have bought into the consumer model. Churches adopt an attractional model much like that of retail stores. Is brand loyalty truly what we want in our congregations? Do we want the commitment we have to our faith communities to be the same as our commitment to shopping at The Gap? What happens when some other store—or in our case, some other church—offers the trendier option? We switch our loyalties.
In relaying the results of a new survey published April 18, researcher George Barna states,
It is obvious that most Christians in the U.S. do not see much value in a communal faith experiences…. This is partially because the typical church model esteems attendance rather than interaction and immersion, partially due to the superficial experiences most believers have had in cell groups or Christian education classes, and partially attributable to our cultural bias toward independence and fluid relationships.
If the values of churches are not that much different than the surrounding culture, what is there to commit to? Committing to a group that caters to one’s needs seems shortsighted. How does that group continue its existence if what it nurtures is a group of consumers? And is getting what we want or what we feel we need the message of Christ? No, it is the message that God’s kingdom is near and that we need to repent. Many Christians I talk to (of all generations) have grown tired of the anemic consumer gospel that is alive and well in our culture. The trouble is that we, and I include myself, have difficulty finding ways of working against the pervasive consumer mindset. Committment and sacrifice, while being something that I deeply long for, is also extremely scarey because it is costly.
Are our churches receptive to God’s activity in our midst, which may mean that we will be challenged in our commitments, values, and allegiances? Are we as little bodies of the body of Christ receptive to the conviction of the Spirit to use the gifts God has given us for the least of these? (See Matthew 25—I find it amazing that the parable of the talents [v.14-30] and the story of the sheep and goats [v.31-46] are next to each other.) Are we being signposts of God’s in-breaking kingdom, announcing and practicing justice, mercy, wholeness, peace, and welfare? To borrow from another part of Matthew’s Gospel, are our communities being the cities on the hill that bring light into darkness and draw people into the life of God?