OEC Interview #10: Don’t Tread On Me

Welcome back to the Our Emptying Church blog series! Tonight we hit our 10th Interview with a Millennial!

Because of the personal questions I’ve asked, I’m keeping all the interviewees anonymous. This interview comes from a 24 year old Administrative Assistant who has been a constant friend and support for many years. She is brilliantly intelligent and somehow is able to maintain optimism through almost any situation. I hope you benefit from her story as much as I did!

–Did you grow up regularly attending a church?
Yes I attended church regularly until around the age of 12 when my parents got divorced, and then only periodically the past 12 years.

–Are you currently actively attending a church?   No

–What is your motivation for attending/ not attending?
Honestly, I think because I stopped attending at such a young age, church became an “uncomfortable” place for me. I was very shy as a teen, and avoided social gatherings. Also, I am a very independent person, and I was opposed to anyone telling me how to live my life. I did what I had to do, and nothing more. Church just always reminded me of how imperfect I was, and I wanted to avoid that if I could.

-If you have one, tell me about your church experience (the good, bad, and neutral).
I honestly don’t have many memories of church. I grew up going to a small Presbyterian church, but as a kid, church was boring. I would go to Sunday school and sing in the choir, but I never enjoyed it. It was just something that I felt like I had to do. I’ve had some fun experiences at various churches since then, but I never joined another church after I left the Presbyterian one. The Christian school I attended became my church. Chapel every Wednesday kept me accountable enough in my mind.

–Feel pressure to attend church?
Yes, but it’s internal. I used to feel outside pressure to attend, but not anymore. I don’t usually associate with people who try to pressure me to do anything.

–In 1-3 sentences, how do you perceive Christians? (i.e. loving, generous, anti-gay, fundamentalists, too political, etc.)
I perceive them as people who are, for the most part, trying to be Christ-like and loving. Unfortunately, yes most Christians, in my opinion, have become too political and unwilling to open their minds and hearts to new ideas, and therefore have alienated themselves unintentionally. Consequently, being “Christian”, I think, is slowly developing a negative connotation.

–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?  No, not at all.

–Fifty years down the road, do you anticipate significant growth in the church or significant decline? Why?
I expect there to be significant decline. I think young people are becoming more tolerant and the church is not budging. If the church doesn’t keep up with the young people, it will decline, no question. And it doesn’t help that our society and government are doing everything they can to remove God from our lives. It’s only a matter of time for the church to lose its impact and significance.

Do you agree that it’s only a matter of time before the church loses its impact and significance? I welcome your comments below.



This post is the sixteenth in a succession of the series Our Emptying Church. The purpose of this series is to explore why millions of Millennials are leaving the church. Check out these recent posts: Our Emptying Church, When Christianity Sometimes Looks UnChristian, Fake Smiles and Judging Eyes: OEC Interview with Millennial #1, Prioritizing Sin: OEC Interview #2, You’re Losing Us: OEC Interview #3, OEC Interview #4: One Last Chance, Our Beloved, Overly Political Church, Heroes in Disguise: OEC Interview #5, Good Church Folk: OEC Interview #6, OEC Guest Post: Mark and Tammy Edwards, Spirituality v. Religion: OEC Interview #7, When John Speaks: OEC Guestpost #2, Our Emptying Yesteryear Church, OEC Interview #8: A Lost Generation, OEC Interview #9, A Cookie-Cutter Church

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OEC Interview #9: A Cookie-Cutter Church

Welcome back to the Our Emptying Church blog series! Tonight I’m happy to share with you another interview with a Millennial. Because of the personal questions I’ve asked, I’m keeping all the interviewees anonymous. This interview comes from a 25 year old Communications Coordinator who has all of my respect for the beauty that she produces in this world. She consistently reminds me that gratitude sustains us in this world of scarcity. I hope you benefit from her perspective as much as I did!

Stain Glass

Did you grow up regularly attending a church?

Yes, my parents have always faithfully attended church. We were there on Sundays and Wednesdays, and I participated in most all of the programming for children and youth.

Are you currently actively attending a church?

Yes, I am. I joined a new church about three years ago during my last year of college, and recently I’ve become more active, taking on some leadership responsibilities.

What is your motivation for attending/ not attending?

Because I grew up with the tradition, attending is very comfortable to me. My motivation throughout the years has changed from pleasing my parents, appeasing God, and doing what’s considered right to seeking a welcoming community of (at least somewhat) like-minded people. Human relationships are my main motivation for attending these days.

If you have one, tell me about your church experience (the good, bad, and neutral).

I’d say my church experience has been a little diverse, at least in some ways. As a child, my experience was more about my family and learning the right way to live. I had a few friends at church, but I didn’t find as much community there as I did in school. Many times I felt like an outsider. I was very devout, quiet, and reserved, and it seemed that other kids and most leaders didn’t quite understand what to do with introversion. I had the best time at church when I was performing in the youth choir. During college, I visited a non-denominational church some with my friends. I enjoyed the services, but I didn’t invest in getting to know anyone. When I realized that, by all counts, the label homosexual applied to me and then started the process of coming out, I wondered how people at the non-denominational church would react, were we to get to know each other better. Instead of risking it, I started visiting a progressive church in the area that a couple of friends had previously invited me to. There I found a fully welcoming and affirming community, and, unlike the congregation of my youth, a true understanding and celebration of introversion, as well as the ability to freely explore questions and doubts.

What is the purpose of the church?

Ideally, to foster community that encourages and equips people to approach the questions of life.

Feel pressure to attend church?

Mostly I don’t feel pressure. When I do, it’s out of obligation because of the aforementioned leadership responsibilities.

In 1-3 sentences, how do you perceive Christians? (i.e. loving, generous, anti-gay, fundamentalists, too political, etc.)

I struggle with this question because on one hand I’m skeptical of generalizations. Christians are a diverse group of humans. But I also understand that the diversity of a group tends to get lost in our minds, especially when the group gets presented or tries to present themselves as homogenous. My perception of Christians is formed by personal encounters with other Christians, remembering my own former views, and messages in media.

I’ve encountered Christians who I perceive as very encouraging and filled with hope for the future.

I’ve also encountered Christians who I perceive as fearful, arrogant, immature, and out of touch with reality.

Sometimes I encounter all of these perceptions in the same person or group of people.

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?

It doesn’t really surprise me, and I’m not sure of the significance or implications of this information.

Fifty years down the road, do you anticipate significant growth in the church or significant decline? Why?

I haven’t thought much about it one way or the other. (I’m not very good with projections into the future.) I feel I need to be more informed to adequately answer this one.

What is your motivation for attending church? Feel free to comment below.

This post is the fifteenth in a succession of the series Our Emptying Church. The purpose of this series is to explore why millions of Millennials are leaving the church. Check out these recent posts: Our Emptying Church, When Christianity Sometimes Looks UnChristian, Fake Smiles and Judging Eyes: OEC Interview with Millennial #1, Prioritizing Sin: OEC Interview #2, You’re Losing Us: OEC Interview #3, OEC Interview #4: One Last Chance, Our Beloved, Overly Political Church, Heroes in Disguise: OEC Interview #5, Good Church Folk: OEC Interview #6, OEC Guest Post: Mark and Tammy Edwards, Spirituality v. Religion: OEC Interview #7, When John Speaks: OEC Guestpost #2, Our Emptying Yesteryear Church, OEC Interview #8: A Lost Generation

OEC Interview #8: A Lost Generation

Soon we will be wrapping up the Our Emptying Church blog series and I couldn’t be more grateful for the dialog that has occurred both here and on my facebook page. It’s not too late to join in if you are reading for the first time.

Tonight I’m honored to be sharing with you another interview with a Millennial. Because of the personal questions I’ve asked, I’m keeping all the interviewees anonymous. This interview comes from a 26 year old Assistant Manager who has shown me more grace than I deserve and has profoundly influenced me. When she could have judged, she loved. I am grateful to learn from her the ways of Christ. Her perspective in this interview is quite characteristic of Millennials; I hope you’ll learn from her as much as I have.

March 2013 (Asheville & Monteagle) 169
–Did you grow up regularly attending a church?

As my mom would say, we went to church “every time the doors were open”. We went to every service, and we participated in most events. And I didn’t go because I had to. I went because it made me happy, and I truly enjoyed it.

–Are you currently actively attending a church?

I am not. When I go back home to visit, I go to my home church, but I have not found one I love in the city I live in now. Granted, I haven’t actively been looking. I do miss it though. I don’t go now, because I have a weird work schedule in which I work most Sundays, and when I don’t work, I go out of town. But I know I could make it work if I really tried.


–What is your motivation for attending/ not attending?

I want to find a good church because I love God, and I want to find a place to worship him with others. I want to find a place where I can participate in different groups, and find others who love God too.
But I haven’t tried too hard to find a church. One reason for this (other than my work schedule) is because as I got older, I became a VERY liberal Christian. I believe in the core beliefs I was taught in church, but I stray very far from most Christians when it comes to current events and politics. I feel like they don’t always get those beliefs from the Bible, or the God I follow. They’ve made some things such a big deal that it turns far more people away from Christ than towards him. It is sometimes difficult to go to church when I feel like I can’t talk about those things or I will get yelled at or looked down upon. Or even worse, it is difficult when I know that many people there believe in those things that I feel do more harm than good to the church.


–If you have one, tell me about your church experience (the good, bad, and neutral).

Until college, church was my life. And it was a very good life. I went to church “every time the doors were open” from the first time I left the hospital as a baby til I left my home town for college. I participated in pretty much everything I could. I was in every choir, praise band, leadership team, search committee, Sunday school, bible study – you name it, I was probably in it at some point. I loved it. I don’t know who I would be today without the church because it makes up a lot of who I am. I would be a completely different person without it. The church never treated me badly. But I also grew up in what I called the “Baptist bubble”. All of my friends were Christians. It wasn’t really until I graduated college that I really made any friends that weren’t. When I went to college, I began to really notice what a negative impact the church made on the country with the stances it took at times. I have friends now that hate the church because of how they were treated, and it breaks my heart, because that’s not what Christ taught. We weren’t supposed to act like this, and show this much hatred. So to make a long story less long, I love the church, I love God, but I hate how the church treats people that aren’t regular church-goers.


–What is the purpose of the church?

To love God, and to make his love known. Everything we do should fall into one of those two categories. All we do should be a way to show him how much we love him – through worship, actions, speech, community, etc. Then we should share that love with others. That doesn’t mean to grab a bullhorn and yell hate from it on a street corner. That isn’t sharing God’s message. Through our actions and speech, we should show his love and how much he cares for all of us. There IS more to it than that, and there are rules we should follow, but I feel like that is something we don’t do until that person has joined the church. We don’t force rules on other people.


–Feel pressure to attend church?

I don’t. One wonderful thing my mother did was show me that she attended church because she loved it. I wanted to be there because she wanted to be there. Going to church brought us joy. Yeah, there were days I didn’t want to wake up and she made me go, but she never made me feel like it was a chore. I don’t think you should feel pressured to be there. You should want to be there, or there is no purpose. Are you truly worshiping God if you feel like your arm is being twisted to do so?


–In 1-3 sentences, how do you perceive Christians? (i.e. loving, generous, anti-gay, fundamentalists, too political, etc.)

Christians are really like anybody else in the way that there are incredibly kind people, but there are horribly rude people as well – they can be at both ends of the spectrum. They can be so selfless and giving in times of need. But I think they focus far too much on matters that make them look foolish, hateful, and narrow-minded.


–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?

It really doesn’t. There are a couple reasons for that. One is that the church doesn’t really have a place for people of that age group. In the church I grew up in, there was always a group or class to belong in until you graduated high school, but the next classes offered were couples classes for the newly married couples. There was nothing for anyone in their early twenties. If you were not a kid, married, or over forty, you didn’t belong anywhere. We feel lost in church at our age.
Another reason is that our generation is very mindful of the world around us. I think there is a strong urge to make it better, whether that be through mission work or through stopping the intense hatred. I think our generation feels the church is doing more harm than good on many fronts. They see the negative and they don’t want to be a part of that.


–Fifty years down the road, do you anticipate significant growth in the church or significant decline? Why?

It’s hard to say. I hope it grows. It has been declining quite a bit in my lifetime. It will be very difficult to grow if an entire generation is turned off of it. But perhaps there could be a birth of a different kind of church. One that is less focused on the rules and church politics, and more on finding the truth the bible has to say. I can only hope for a revival.
–Anything else you’d like to share about yourself or your experience?

The church has given me a lot in my life. It has taught me so much, it made me who I am, it gave me my closest friendships, and it introduced me to the Christ I follow. When my mother died, the church was there for me. They were my family and my support when I most needed it. I think the church is important. The problem comes when people use Christ’s name to spread hatred, and use it to further their own agendas. It comes when people blindly believe what they are told instead of reading the bible for themselves and seeing what it says. Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to love God, and to love your neighbor. The problems arise when we stray from those. When the church loves others like it should, it is a wonderful place.

Do you agree that Millennials feel lost at church because of their age? Do you hope for the birth of a new church?

This post is the fourteenth in a succession of the series Our Emptying Church. The purpose of this series is to explore why millions of Millennials are leaving the church. Check out these recent posts: Our Emptying Church, When Christianity Sometimes Looks UnChristian, Fake Smiles and Judging Eyes: OEC Interview with Millennial #1, Prioritizing Sin: OEC Interview #2, You’re Losing Us: OEC Interview #3, OEC Interview #4: One Last Chance, Our Beloved, Overly Political Church, Heroes in Disguise: OEC Interview #5, Good Church Folk: OEC Interview #6, OEC Guest Post: Mark and Tammy Edwards, Spirituality v. Religion: OEC Interview #7, When John Speaks: OEC Guestpost #2, Our Emptying Yesteryear Church

Spirituality vs. Religion: OEC Interview #7

We are almost three months into the Our Emptying Church blog series and I couldn’t be more grateful for the dialog that has occurred both here and on my facebook page. It’s not too late to join in if you are reading for the first time.

Tonight I’m honored to be sharing with you another interview with a Millennial. Because of the personal questions I’ve asked, I’m keeping all the interviewees anonymous. This interview comes from a 23 year old Digital Artist in the Gaming Industry; he is as kind as he is intelligent. I welcome his opinion on many things, but am honored that he agreed to do this interview. His answers were extremely characteristic of the Millennial generation, which is one of the primary purposes of this blog series. I hope you enjoy his perspective as much as I did.

–Did you grow up regularly attending a church?

Somewhat. I would go for a while, then stop for a while, go for a while, and so on. My father isn’t very religious or spiritual, but my mother is. However, I was raised on a farm; so, there was always work to be done, including Sundays. So, as a result my mother didn’t attend “regularly”. Therefore, I didn’t either. Faith, and religion, in general were common topics between my mother and I, though. So, I grew up in a very “faithful” manner and always felt I have had very strong faith, even though I didn’t regularly attend church.

–Are you currently actively attending a church?

No. I haven’t actively attended a church in quite some time.

–What is your motivation for attending/ not attending?

I have a lot of reasons for not attending. Ultimately, I just don’t feel that it’s necessary for me right now. But, also, partially because I disagree with the “weight” of church. I tend to feel like it’s something I’m supposed to do because others think it’s necessary, while I don’t personally always feel that it is. Now don’t get me wrong, in general I think church is great. The concept is wonderful. But, I don’t feel like I’m any more faithful just because I go to church. I feel like I attend mostly because others want me to, and not because I FEEL like I should or that I should for my relationship with God to be any stronger. And, ultimately I feel that is all that it should be about: your relationship with God, not everyone else. Also, the general judgment I feel emanating from many religious people is a major turn-off to me. I still remember hearing a lady talking negatively about a boy who went to church wearing shorts, and she made it sound like it was the worst thing he could have done. And, I was sitting right beside her and hadn’t been to church at all that week. But, she didn’t think anything about me not going, just that this other kid had went wearing shorts. I feel like there is simply too much focus on the material things and not enough on what is truly important and what I would consider “Godly”. And, lastly, is the general close-mindedness I have come to associate with church and the judgment I feel is bestowed on those that do not share similar beliefs. Now, don’t get me wrong, close-mindedness isn’t exclusive to church of course; it’s just one place that I tend to feel it in. I want to be very clear that I don’t think negatively of the people that go to church. I simply have an open-mind, and I feel like that isn’t always viewed well inside the average church. I like to form my own thoughts and ideas based on my own conclusions, and oftentimes those don’t align with what others think. Ultimately, that leads my views to align somewhere outside of the common denominations I’m familiar with. So, I don’t feel like I really fit-in.

–If you have one, tell me about your church experience (the good, bad, and neutral).

Overall, my experiences have all been fine. My feelings toward church aren’t really negative or positive. I just don’t feel like I belong with any particular church. Like I said, I didn’t attend regularly, though. So, I mostly went when I felt like I needed it. And, in those instances I always got out of it what I needed.

–What is the purpose of the church?

In general, I like to think of it as a place to educate in the ways of the religion/denomination and to bring those who believe similarly, closer together, while also giving them the chance to worship and be part of something greater than themselves. So, by that definition it sounds like a wonderful place. And, I honestly think it is… If it is what is right for you.

–Feel pressure to attend church?

Definitely. I think, those who attend church regularly tend to feel very sorrowful for those who don’t, which as a result creates pressure. However, just because someone doesn’t attend church doesn’t necessarily mean they are any less spiritual. On the flip-side though, I do understand the reasoning behind them feeling that way. A metaphor could be that someone who isn’t going to school, typically isn’t expected to be “learning” on a regular basis. So, in that line of thought it makes sense to feel like someone who isn’t going to church isn’t spiritual. That line of thought is flawed though because there are so many other variables that are unknown to others, and ultimately that leads back to the general close-mindedness I feel from the group as a whole.

–In 1-3 sentences, how do you perceive Christians? (i.e. loving, generous, anti-gay, fundamentalists, too political, etc.)

In general I perceive Christians to be righteous. However, I think that can also be the problem. The fact that morality is subjective means that someone can be righteous and feel their actions are morally correct, while in other eyes they may not be.

–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?

Unfortunately, it does not. The business world is a very fast moving and diverse place. To succeed I feel like you have to be very open-minded and learn to adapt to constant change. But when I attend church, I feel like I’m forced to step back a bit. As a result I think it creates the feeling of not fitting-in. Also, the media could have some effect on that. Typically the media focus purely on the “bad”. So, the religions (and Christians) you typically hear about through the media are the ones that create very negative impressions for the group as a whole.

I can think of countless other reasons why this also may be the case, but I’ll just leave it there.

I do however wonder if those same people would consider themselves to be at all “spiritual”, even though they don’t necessarily consider themselves to have religious affiliation. I think of the two terms differently, and I wonder if others do.

–Fifty years down the road, do you anticipate significant growth in the church or significant decline? Why?

It’s hard to say. Right now I’m leaning more toward decline, just based on the fact that it seems to have declined significantly in the last 50 years already. As of late, I simply haven’t seen anything favoring growth.

–Anything else you’d like to share about yourself or your experience?

I want to say one last time that just because I don’t attend church, doesn’t mean that I think negatively or any less of anyone that does. It also doesn’t mean that I think people should not attend church. Again, I think church can be great. The most important thing is simply that each of us is doing what is “right” for ourselves.


As always, I welcome graceful dialogue in the comment section. If you are a Millennial, I would especially love for you to affirm some of these sentiments? Do you feel that morality is subjective? And how do you personally differentiate between spirituality and religion?

This post is the tenth in a succession of the series Our Emptying Church. The purpose of this series is to explore why millions of Millennials are leaving the church. Check out these recent posts: Our Emptying Church, When Christianity Sometimes Looks UnChristian, Fake Smiles and Judging Eyes: OEC Interview with Millennial #1, Prioritizing Sin: OEC Interview #2, You’re Losing Us: OEC Interview #3, OEC Interview #4: One Last Chance, Our Beloved, Overly Political Church, Heroes in Disguise: OEC Interview #5, Good Church Folk: OEC Interview #6, OEC Guest Post: Mark and Tammy Edwards

Good Church Folk: OEC Interview #6

We are a month into the Our Emptying Church series and I couldn’t be more grateful for the dialog that has occurred both here and on my facebook page. It’s not too late to join in if you are reading for the first time.

Tonight I’m honored to be sharing with you another interview with a Millennial. Because of the personal questions I’ve asked, I’m keeping all the interviewees anonymous. This interview comes from a 24 year old fellow biologist who consistently amazes me with her ability to juxtapose loving biology, loving the earth, and loving people. Her graciousness has helped me through some long and hard days.

–Did you grow up regularly attending a church?

No. My parents didn’t do the organized religion – not atheists, just not organized.

–Are you currently actively attending a church? No.

–What is your motivation for attending/ not attending?

I do not subscribe to the beliefs of any particular religion, Christian or other. I have met countless wonderful folks who belong to a faith, but I’ve never been able to fully get behind one. I do like the music they perform in church. Just last week, I attended a Bach concert with a choir and cellists. It was lovely.

–If you have one, tell me about your church experience (the good, bad, and neutral).

I have had many good church experiences. Twice in my life I considered myself deeply religious (Christian) and went with friends. Everyone was very inviting and accepting… to a point. Many times I found that in times of questioning, they back away a bit. I’ve never been fully able to have a conversation about deep beliefs without some resistance or grief.

–What is the purpose of the church?

I see it as a type of sanctuary, where folks with a common denominator go to experience their beliefs together. It keeps the faith alive in a way, knowing that you’re not the only person who believes that life should be lived in a particular way.

–Feel pressure to attend church?

Perhaps when I was younger in the Bible Belt of Tennessee. Anymore, I feel absolutely no pressure to attend.

–In 1-3 sentences, how do you perceive Christians? (i.e. loving, generous, anti-gay, fundamentalists, too political, etc.)

My experience overall with this group is that they are nice, genuinely caring folks. There are the extremes – those who don’t think about what they claim to believe, those who are overtly converting the heathens of the world, etc. – but for the most part, they seem loving. I have not met but few strict Christians who are not in some way judgmental of other non-Christians, but they exist.

–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?

No. When this religion was established, life was not nearly as pleasant as it is now – people were mysteriously dying and nature was cryptic. I think that the need for such a strict religion is declining. We are learning more about how things work, where we came from, where we are going, and who we are. In the Christian sense, I am with partial to the “God is dead” philosophy. This is not to say that the idea of God is fundamentally wrong, but that the religion is losing participants does not surprise me.

–Fifty years down the road, do you anticipate significant growth in the church or significant decline? Why?

As suggested in the above answer, I anticipate a decline in church membership.

–Anything else you’d like to share about yourself or your experience?

These answers come not from an atheistic, apathetic view, but an all-encompassing one. I do not believe strictly in one belief over another, and tend to view life through more philosophically terms than religious ones. I believe in whatever gets you to those gut-wrenching answers in life – why we’re here, who you are, what happens to us when we die. If it’s Christianity, Buddhism, Wiccanism, Paganism, Chocolatism, whatever… more power to you.

 

As always, I welcome graceful dialogue only in the comment section. Can you identify with this woman’s story? What are some aspects of the church that keep you in it or keep you out of it?

This post is the eighth in a succession of the series Our Emptying Church. The purpose of this series is to explore why millions of Millennials are leaving the church. Check out these recent posts: Our Emptying Church, When Christianity Sometimes Looks UnChristian, Fake Smiles and Judging Eyes: OEC Interview with Millennial #1, Prioritizing Sin: OEC Interview #2, You’re Losing Us: OEC Interview #3, OEC Interview #4: One Last Chance, Our Beloved, Overly Political Church, Heroes in Disguise: OEC Interview #5

 

Heroes in Disguise: OEC Interview #5

Welcome back to the Our Emptying Church interview series!

Tonight I’m honored to be sharing with you another interview with a Millennial. Because of the personal questions I’ve asked, I’m keeping all the interviewees anonymous. This interview comes from a 25 year old social worker who has dedicated her life to helping at risk children. She spends her days working tirelessly to help children who have been neglected and/or abused. Her heart is my heart and it’s a total joy to know her. I hope you’ll appreciate her vulnerability in this interview as much as I did.

–Did you grow up regularly attending a church?

Yes

–Are you currently actively attending a church?

No

–What is your motivation for attending/ not attending?

Let’s be honest, it’s lack of motivation. I’m just lazy. My work week is hectic, when Sunday rolls around, I just want to sleep. And I know there are evening services, but I can’t even make myself go to those. So, if I’m honest with myself, it’s laziness. And, to be more honest, if church was a priority, I would get there. But, if you look at my life, apparently, it’s not a priority.

–If you have one, tell me about your church experience (the good, bad, and neutral).

The church I went to growing up felt like a family… probably because my entire family went there. After college, I just felt like I needed to go out on my own, find a church that didn’t know me as that kid they’ve known since I was born and singing in church musicals. After that, I found a hard time finding a place I “fit”. I’m pretty blunt, and some places could not handle it. With my job, I see a lot of tough stuff, experience some of the worst things life can throw at a person, and when I started asking hard questions and having doubts, the churches I went to could not handle it. So, I’ve seen good and bad.

–What is the purpose of the church?

I think it has a lot of purposes. I think it should be a community for people, a support system to everyone. It should be the example of how Jesus loved the earth, through our actions. That means serving people, praising God, and holding each other up.

–Feel pressure to attend church?

Oh yes. My family asks me all the time if I’ve found a church. It’s a big deal that I’m not going right now. I know it’s terrible, but I’ve started lying and just saying that I’m going.

–In 1-3 sentences, how do you perceive Christians? (i.e. loving, generous, anti-gay, fundamentalists, too political, etc.)

Some are wonderful, good people who up hold the vision God had of the church. Some are struggling, just like the rest of us, to figure things out. Some are selfish, greedy, and hateful people who misrepresent Christ in every fashion.

–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?

A little. 30% seems like a huge percent to have no religious affiliation at all.

–Fifty years down the road, do you anticipate significant growth in the church or significant decline? Why?

I have no idea. I’m hopeful that the church will grow, which means I would actually have to get my butt out of bed and get to church…

–Anything else you’d like to share about yourself or your experience?

I’m a social worker who works with kids who have been abused and neglected. I think this work has made me more cynical and less… full of faith. I think that is part of why I have trouble going to the church and believing in someone as powerful and good as God. Just part of my story…

 

As always, I welcome graceful dialogue in the comment section. Can you identify with this woman’s story? What are some aspects of the church that keep you in it or keep you out of it?

This post is the eighth in a succession of the series Our Emptying Church. The purpose of this series is to explore why millions of Millennials are leaving the church. Check out these recent posts: Our Emptying Church, When Christianity Sometimes Looks UnChristian, Fake Smiles and Judging Eyes: OEC Interview with Millennial #1, Prioritizing Sin: OEC Interview #2, You’re Losing Us: OEC Interview #3, OEC Interview #4: One Last Chance, Our Beloved, Overly Political Church

 

One Last Chance: OEC Millennial Interview #4

I hope you are enjoying this series, Our Emptying Church, as much as I am! On a personal note, I have been completely humbled by the stories I’ve heard in doing OEC interviews. I am indebted to these beautiful and brave men and women for their vulnerability. In the days leading up to the presidential election, I’ll be continuing to post about why Millennials are leaving the church. Stay on this journey with me.

Today I’m honored to be sharing with you another interview with a Millennial. Because of the personal questions I’ve asked, I’m keeping all the interviewees anonymous. This interview comes from a 27 year old man who has dedicated his life to helping folks. I’m so grateful to be able to see his story unfolding.

–Did you grow up regularly attending a church?

Yes—Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and most Wednesday nights

–Are you currently actively attending a church?

Yes

–What is your motivation for attending/ not attending?

Connection to other people who are searching for the same things that I am—meaning, love, hope, & community.

–If you have one, tell me about your church experience (the good, bad, and neutral).

I have had good, bad, and neutral, and I might add crazy, too… several times.
I grew up in a very traditional Baptist church where it seemed, as I grew up, that most of the people there were fighting any kind of modernity. Looking back, I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that the church was HUGE from the 1950’s to the early 90’s and then the membership roll dropped off drastically. I think a lot of the generation that saw the “hay-day” and then experienced the drop off blamed it on modern thought—everything from the adoption of Contemporary Christian Music to people not wearing 3 piece suits on Sunday mornings. So, as the side that wanted tradition and the side that wanted church to be relevant got more entrenched, the situation got meaner and meaner and more and more people got hurt. I was 13 when my family left the church, and, while it was a real wake up call for me about the amazing things that the church could be, it was also an immensely hurtful and damaging experience. For quite a while I was turned off completely by anything that had to do with church tradition, history, or doctrine.
I’ve also had several good experiences—life altering experiences—with the church. I’ve also had more let downs and some straight crazy stuff.

–What is the purpose of the church?

The purpose of the church is to carry on the work that Jesus started—to reap what he sowed. Our job is to recklessly love all people and be a safe place where literally everyone is welcome. We are to be Christ’s body on earth—feeding the poor, caring for the widow and the orphan, celebrating with those who celebrate and mourning with those who mourn. The church exists to lead people from being the prodigal son, through being the bitter son who stayed at home, and ultimately on to becoming like the father who puts his own dignity down and runs to embrace those outside its walls.

–Feel pressure to attend church?

I did for a long, long time, but quite frankly I don’t care enough anymore about other people’s opinions on the matter to make me feel guilty about attending or not.

–In 1-3 sentences, how do you perceive Christians? (i.e. loving, generous, anti-gay, fundamentalists, too political, etc.)

Many (I hesitate to say most at this point in my life) of the Christians I’ve known know everything and are rarely if ever wrong about anything. I’ve known many Christians who are far too political (and I know that I’ve been guilty of this myself) and judgmental (I put myself in this category as well) and are focused on defending their personal beliefs at the expense of others. I have also known many Christians who would give you the shirt off their back without hesitation. Some Christians that I know are the most loving, the most humble, and the most generous people I’ve ever met.

–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?

Not one bit. I don’t think necessarily has as much to do with people being out-and-out atheists as it does with the fact that a lot of Millennials don’t want to be associated with one organized religion, because often they don’t want to be associated with the people who practice it. In many ways I would put myself in that category as well. I am completely comfortable calling myself a Christ-follower, because I want to be known for what Jesus stood for, but I certainly don’t want to be known as a Baptist, Protestant, Catholic, or whatever, because I don’t want to be immediately branded with the negative connotations that many of those labels carry.

–Fifty years down the road, do you anticipate significant growth in the church or significant decline? Why?

For much the same reason, I think we’ll see a decline in the number of people who want to identify themselves with a particular religion, but as the church learns to love better I think we’ll see an increase in the actual population of the church (which may not be quantifiable).

-Anything else you’d like to share about yourself or your experience?

The church, like almost every other gift that God gave us, has tremendous potential for either good or bad. I think the reason I haven’t given up on the church altogether is that I still believe in what God promised the church could be if we would just check ourselves at the door. I believe that the church is in many cases, and can continue to be the strongest force for good on planet earth. I can’t completely quit on the church because I believe too strongly in God’s intention to make it a place of healing, deliverance, and true community. Ultimately, I continue to hope in the church because I continue to hope in him.

 

Do you have a similar story about nearly leaving the church?

This post is the sixth 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 #1, Interview with a Millennial #2, OEC Interview #3: You’re Losing Us

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