There has been a lot of response to Rachel Held Evan’s article on CNN about why Millennials are leaving the church. Some of it has been really good like Naked Pastors post. Today the Naked Pastor led me to another article by Hemant Mehta who states one of the reasons millennials are leaving the church is the evangelical atheists who propose such good arguments, especially online.
What I found interesting in Mehta’s article is that he is dead on. There is so much atheism out on the web and in mainstream culture the Church is decades behind. This sentence struck me, “Pastors are no longer the final authority on the truth, and millennials know it.” It struck me because I have never thought I was a final authority of truth. I do realize that a generation or two behind me pastors were the final authority in the towns they grew up in. The gray and blue hairs in the congregation may still look to the pastor as the final authority as well. Reality is now younger generations, through a quick YouTube search, can poke holes in theology and Biblical interpretation to through many clergy off guard.
What this does is points right back to my thoughts on why millennials are leaving and what the local church can do about it. Authentic worship and ministry comes from a place of self awareness. The pastor and church has to be so self aware that they understand their limits and that holes exist. The world is no longer black and white but 1000 shades of gray. For the black and white world living with the unknown, living in the midst the holes, living in gray isn’t comforting and attractive. They would rather have a god and church that can fit in a nice box and be tied up in a bow. They want all the answers to all the questions in order for there to be order in life. However when one tries to cram God and Church into a box you have to remove authenticity. You have to remove some things in order to make it fit and people can see that coming from a mile away, especially those of the millennial generation.
To get to an authentic place is as easy as admitting we are all on a journey. A journey that will bring us close to God at some points, so close you can touch him. Then there will be times when we feel distant and abandoned. None of that changes God, but we are changed. How do we honestly deal with the all the emotions and growth that happens in that journey. How do you deal with doubt, self-righteousness, wonder, and mystery? How do you deal with personal and social holiness in real and honest ways.
Life is a journey and Christianity provides meaning to it, yet how many clergy and laity can actually speak to it, profess it, and not be afraid of people poking at it?