In continuing with Our Emptying Church, I’m honored to be sharing with you another interview with a Millennial today. Because of the personal questions I’ve asked, I’m keeping all the interviewees anonymous. This interview comes from a 23 year old woman who I think may just have one of the most beautiful smiles ever. I hope you’ll appreciate her grace and vulnerability as much as I did.
–Did you grow up regularly attending a church?
No, I wasn’t raised in a faith-based home and my family also moved a few times throughout my childhood. Both circumstances made it difficult to be involved in a church community.
–Are you currently actively attending a church?
I’m still seeking a church to get involved in. I’ve been quite the church-hopper as of late, but it’s been a challenge to find a community that shares the same theologies and that have the service opportunities I’d love to share in. However, I am getting my bible study fix, so I find some community there.
–What is your motivation for attending/ not attending?
Within the last two years, I’ve been spiritually challenged to examine two complex, very personal subjects: Calvinism theology and my sexuality. On theology—after thorough study, I’ve discovered that Calvinism is just not an interpretation that I personally subscribe to. Although I don’t mind attending churches where Calvinism is taught, it’s been difficult to find a church that doesn’t in an area where the interpretation is widely accepted. On sexuality—I am homosexual, and many do not know. However, it’s been to the avail of my learning as I’ve observed from the sidelines the relationship between the Christian community and the LGBTQ community. I’m disheartened to know the damage to our witness and to non-believers caused by our very real and false prioritization of particular sins. I’m disheartened to know the hesitancy and fear of judgment (and distancing) that I often experience when sharing my sexuality with another believer. I can’t imagine that for someone outside the church. However—not a justified reason for me to not attend, only to attend more, converse more, and pray more for change.
–If you have one, tell me about your church experience (the good, bad, and neutral).
I have had many excellent experiences with the Church, and I have also had many experiences that I wish had been different. The latter experiences I try only to learn from, as I know I cannot expect perfection from my flesh, so why expect more from others who are very much like me? But experiences like having an older lady, whom I didn’t know, take my hand during prayer at a morning service, or having a loaf of homemade bread left by a bible study group on my porch as a thanks for stopping by, or seeing a church open its doors to the hungry regularly, or seeing a homeless shelter and rehab center built and sustained with the congregation’s monetary donations… I have so much hope for us as an imperfect community, who, in so many ways, I believe truly wish to pursue what Christ intended.
–What is the purpose of the church?
To open the doors for the sick, which is all of us; to extend grace and the love that is the Gospel, and never close to a faint knock.
–Feel pressure to attend church?
No, not particularly. Only when I haven’t been in a while.
–In 1-3 sentences, how do you perceive Christians? (i.e. loving, generous, anti-gay, fundamentalists, too political, etc.)
At times, I catch myself perceiving Christians (including myself) in every way listed. I think it’s easy to see the name of Christ demonstrated by behaviors that define all of those titles, and more.
–In October 2012, a study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life revealed that thirty percent of Millennials (age 18-31) identify as having no religious affiliation. Does this surprise you?
My first thought is no. The religious communities that do exist are so wedged apart by opposing theologies and proclaimed truths, and in such an individualistic culture, our lack of unity as a collective faith-based community only further promotes what I think is being pursued by many of the “information age” as the desirable (but false), Unitarian, individualistic truth: all paths lead in the same direction.
–Fifty years down the road, do you anticipate significant growth in the church or significant decline? Why?
I can’t say. I surely hope that more decide to know the presence, ways, grace and love of Jesus, God the father, and the Spirit.
-Anything else you’d like to share about yourself or your experience?
I cannot say the negative experiences I’ve had with/perceptions I carry of the Church or Christians leave more of a lasting impression than the love, acceptance, brother and sisterhood, and genuine care I have come to know only through my relationships with other believers. To those who have always extended warm welcomes and open hearts, with no other agenda than to care because Christ did for them, thank you always!
As always, I welcome graceful dialogue only in the comment section. Can you identify with this woman’s story?
This post is the forth in a succession of the series Our Emptying Church. The purpose of this series is to explore why millions of Millennials are leaving or will leave the church. Check out these recent posts: Our Emptying Church, When Christianity Sometimes Looks UnChristian, & Interview with a Millennial