What's wrong with ch_rch today? Could it be u?

There has been a lot of discussion over the past few years about why younger people are not returning once they graduate high school and why younger adults are checking out of church as well. A whole host of reasons have been given to explain this phenomenon: A lack of relevancy in today's church, this younger generation expressing a much greater need for community than church can offer to them, and a shift in theological perspectives.

It is likely that all of these reasons, and many more like them, are partially responsible for the church exodus from many in the younger generation. What is not apparent is whether there is one dominant reason that people just aren't all that crazy about church today. Let me be up front - I don't have a clue as to what that primary reason could be, or even if there is one. All I know if what I hear from those who find themselves less than enthused about going to church today.

Recently I had a conversation with a man who had not been to church in seventeen years. Growing up as the son of a pastor, he told me that there weren't many days that he was not "forced" to be at the church, including Friday nights when all his friends were out having a good time. Throughout his childhood he had expectations heaped on him that he felt were unrealistic and he faced what he considered unfair judgment from those he considered to be hypocritical in their treatment of him. Now a thirty-five year old father of two children, this man was still bitter about his experiences, yet he had never lost his faith in God.

What do you say to someone like that? Do you invite him to come to your church because your church isn't like that? Or maybe you secretly roll your eyes, assuming that the problem is him and not the church in which he grew up. Regardless of how you view this situation, what so many in the church today don't do is take a close look at themselves and ask, "Could I be part of the problem?"

I realize that we live in a postmodern culture where so many want to rewrite the laws of truth, and that at no time should the church ever compromise its stand on the authority of Scripture. Yet I also believe that today's church is still entrenched in a methodology that is more polarized than it is engaging.

As one who grew up in a church culture that was more formal in nature, I have a healthy respect for the traditional church. But what about those who have felt abandoned by the church? Or those who like the idea of Jesus but are completely baffled by the perceived requirements of being part of a church today? Do we just assume that they need to get over it and jump on board or are we willing to take a closer look at how we receive them when they come through our doors?

Maybe the problem isn't that people are disinterested and unwilling to accept truth. Maybe the problem is that we've unknowingly manipulated people to fit into our mold of what we believe should be acceptable for church. I believe more than ever that today's culture is screaming for relationships that are real and attainable. While church can and should provide some of most meaningful relationships possible, none of these men and women will know the joy of these kind of relationships unless we love them where they are and not where we want them to be.

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