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

Our Emptying Yesteryear Church

Welcome back to the Our Emptying Church blog series!
I’d first like to thank the great and very tech-savvy Abbie Culbertson for the new look on the blog!

For the past five months, we have been exploring why Millennials (ages 18-30) have left or will leave the church. We’ve had several blog posts, some significant interviews with Millennials, and enlightening guest posters.

We are specifically addressing the six most common reasons why the number of religious unaffiliated Millennials is on the rise (in order, they are: antihomosexual, judgmental, hypocritical, too involved in politics, old-fashioned, out of touch with reality). So far we have covered: too involved in politics and antihomosexual, and now let’s jump into old-fashioned and out of touch with reality.

Now before we begin, I would like to freely admit that I may not be the best source on all things pop culture, the latest trends from Vogue, or even who the Beibs is shacked up with. Born in the wrong decade, folk music is the beat that I dance to and I don’t really have a clue as to what iPhones are capable of. BUT, for whatever it’s worth, I am a hippyish Millennial who still dearly loves our emptying, old fashioned, out of touch with reality church.

In his book, UnChristian, Christian researcher, David Kinnamen, writes:

“[Non-Christians] think Christianity is out of tune with the real-world choices, challenges, and lifestyles they face. Only one-fifth of young [non-Christians] believe that an active faith helps people live a better, more fulfilling life. … Christianity is perceived as separated from real spiritual vitality and mystery. It seems like a religion of rules and standards.”

It is sadly ironic that some Millennials see Christianity as lacking spirituality, but I understand this as religion and spirituality are two very different entities. Millennials value their spiritual identities and are willing to find these outside of their upbringing. In an ever expanding technological realm, they have more access than any other generation to various philosophies about life and existence. They are willing to break away from the protective religious institutions that they may have been raised in to explore new alternatives that tend to include people rather than exclude them based upon an identifying feature. Millennials also tend to embrace mystery and shy away from dogma that claims to have all the answers about the complexities of life. Simplistic solutions and answers to life’s complexities are viewed as old fashioned and out of date. Educating the mind with dogma instead of engaging the lives of Millennials will not sustain this generation’s commitment.

According to Kinnamen’s research, 78% of non-Christian affiliated Millennials polled (n=440) perceived Christianity to be old fashioned. Remember these young adults polled probably do not go to a Christian church and so they are basing their perceptions on experiences with Christians, the media, etc. Perhaps they have read some of the Old Testament which was written during a primarily agrarian society as compared to a very technologically heavy modern day society and have trouble reconciling the commands from an older time. Additionally, some sects of Christianity still deny certain church and familial positions to women, which is a taboo protocol in today’s culture.

In addition to seeing the church as yesteryear and old-fashioned, the data suggested that Millennials also don’t believe the church has a deep sense of reality and ability to meet the needs of a young generation (72%, n=440). Such examples would include the heightened emphasis on virginity until wedlock and the assertions that one is less than whole if one falls off the bandwagon. Teaching such a stringent moral code leaves one choice for followers and that is celibacy; however, many do not live in such a black and white environment. The church has left teenagers utterly unprepared to live in a culture where promiscuity is becoming a norm (as the 1950s ended, 30% of young adults approved sex before marriage, whereas now 75% do).

Substance abuse, eating disorders, addictions to pornography, unwanted pregnancy, spousal abuse, struggles with self-worth, these things greet us in the morning and a religious do/don’t list doesn’t help cope.

The church has been responding to the fact that she is losing Millennials. Different sects have responded differently. Pastors like Joel Olsteen have downplayed theology into what has become known as the “prosperity gospel.” Give money, pray, have faith and you’ll be blessed with wealth and prosperity. A far cry from the teachings of Jesus. But I assert the same may be true for some conservative evangelical theology as well. Some mega-churches have poured thousands of tithing funds into creating spectacular light and sound shows which even have smoke machines. Southern Baptists recently voted to change their name to: “Great Commission Baptists,” as a way of separating themselves from the association that they once had with supporting the institution of slavery in the south. I wonder how much a name change will do. Is it enough to attract Millennials who didn’t have a problem with the name, but with the theology or exclusivity?

Smoke machines and a name change mean little to me.

Fancying up a service with frills to prevent boredom does not engage me, instead, I want to know if you accept me, do I belong in this place, what are you doing to fight trafficking, how do you love people, do you know the most recent data on suicides and depression, do you completely ostracize me as a scientist, can you find holiness in coffeehouses and bars, do you welcome my doubts, do you encourage my critical thought, will you let me partake of communion if I am not a member of your church?

You may be thinking, with all this criticism, does the church do anything right? And how can the church love Millennials in an authentic way?

I wonder if we all need a little denominational humility. Especially the absolutists among us. That we would admit and embrace that we can learn from folks that believe a little bit differently than we believe. What if we were partners and not competitors?

Perhaps a move away from the country club mega church is in order too. How much does it cost to maintain the church light bill? How about the water bill? Do the bar-b-ques and potlucks outnumber the soup kitchen meals? Do members know more than 20% of other members in the church? I don’t mean just names, I mean their stories. We know Millennials need authentic community. How can the body have an authentic community of 3,000+ people who have trouble remembering the names of the couple that sits two pews behind them?

I may have offended you with the post. I willingly take that risk. It will take honest dialogue to try to understand this generation of Millennials. Be encouraged by dialogue, for it means we care. It will take the willingness to admit we don’t know everything and that we may be wrong about some of our interpretations of scripture. But in our inability, we keep loving.

Because in all of our uncertainty, this we know, the greatest command of us is loving God our neighbor.

 

Do you perceive the church as old fashioned or out of touch with reality? Do you know Christians who have perpetuated or eliminated this perception?

This post is the twelfth 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

When John Speaks

During the span of the Our Emptying Church series, I’ve been in several thought provoking conversations with folks both in person and online; I’ve received messages, emails, texts, phone calls from all ages of folks who have been able to identify with something in the series. For this reason, I am continuing the series because it is stimulating such dialog, which I’ve been learning, is essential. I welcome you to comment below in a public forum, or for a more private route, shoot me an email under the “Contact” tab about your thoughts and/ or experiences. You can also catch up with me on Twitter if you are of the tweeting variety! 

Our first guest post was from Mark and Tammy Edwards, a couple who has dedicated much time, love, and energy to loving Millennials. John
Our next guest poster is John Davis. John recently joined the counseling field and is soon-to-be a Licensed Professional Counselor; he has worked in the mental health field as a recreational therapist for several years. John is a man of careful words, words that work for peace and equality. When John speaks, I listen. I’m honored to have his perspective illuminate the Our Emptying Church series. Remember that it is at the juxtaposition of disagreement that we learn from each other.

**Editorial note: In this post, John references the takeover of the “Moral Majority,” which is a specific instance in conservative evangelic church history during the 1980s. Because I believe this is important to understand when talking about modern-day Millennials (18-30 yr olds) and the church, I will soon be welcoming another guest poster who specializes in church history to explain this church cultural change for us.

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One thing I’d like to point out is that Millennials do not hold a patent on disillusionment with the church. This has been a phenomenon that has occurred in waves both in this country and across the rest of the world. The counter-culture movement of my generation showed a strong element of disillusionment with the church (although many of the same movement found new ways to embrace it).

I left the church many years ago. The reasons are complicated, but I’ll do my best to put a few of them into words. For many years in the 80’s I immersed myself in the church. I found in it acceptance and a sense of purpose. If what I heard from time to time from leaders or peers gave my conscience a twinge, it was a small price to pay. The desire to belong and be accepted is one of the strongest motivations humans have. We seek it from our families of origin, our teachers, our mentors, and our churches. If it seems lacking in one area, we seek it out elsewhere. What I could not perceive at the time was that that acceptance offered by the church was conditional, and that fear of stepping outside the bounds of that conditional acceptance frequently created an atmosphere of falseness, of acute awareness of appearance, that could sabotage the kind of spiritual growth that can only flourish with honesty. I won’t say that this was the rule, but it was far from the exception.

Over the years I began to hear thinly veiled messages of intolerance from church leaders. I can remember studying the belief systems of cults in Sunday school (some of which were Church of Christ, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witness). While some sensitivity was used in the presentation of this information, the fact that the word “cult” was used attached a denotation of dark and arcane practices to them. I heard, over and over, messages of horror and judgment in connection with abortion or homosexual relationships. People who were involved in such things were portrayed as the most degenerate of sinners and, at times, subhuman. And I will never forget the time that I heard a respected pastor stand before the congregation on a Sunday night and present a sermon based on Israel’s conquest of Canaan. He claimed that the Canaanites were so debased and sinful that they were irredeemable (similar language with which homosexuals and pro-choice people had been described). And he used these words: “God was calling on his people to perform ‘social surgery.'” I still shudder when I think on those words and their implication. I’m sure many in the Third Reich used similar rationalizations to justify their actions. It would be bad enough to have such ideology limited to the congregations where they were presented, but this has not been the case. Especially since the 80’s and the advent of “The Moral Majority,” churches such as the Southern Baptist Convention have become a vast political juggernaut intent on legislating their narrow view of morality onto the entire culturally and religiously diverse American public. **And you wonder why (David) Kinnaman’s research turned out the way it did?

Time to rush in where angels fear to tread: the infallibility of the Bible. As you know, I don’t subscribe to this line of thought. The God of my understanding would not order his people to commit genocide to provide for a “promised land.” The God of my understanding is not the misogynist that Paul is. There are many other passages that I could cite that depict a very judgmental and intolerant God, and that is not who I worship. Having said that, the Bible expresses in ways I have read nowhere else some of the greatest spiritual truths in the human experience. Also, having read passages from many different older versions of the Bible, I find that the same passages have radically different meanings (most often tailored to the cultural audience of the time). And one studying the history of our modern Bible may find it difficult to maintain its infallibility when they discover the political machinations behind what got included and excluded from the Holy Canon. So I find the Bible not perfect, but nonetheless a powerful book and a repository for some true wisdom and excellent rules for living. Alas, the absolutism of most denominations will not allow for this. Either the Bible is infallible or it is a complete lie. Where else in human experience do we find such absolutes? I subscribe much more to Joseph Campbell’s philosophy. The divine can be found in myriads of stories that we revere and preserve from generation to generation. They do not reflect absolutes, but lessons to teach us about the world, each other, and (most importantly) about ourselves.

Next, let me discuss tradition, dogma, and ritual. Believe it or not, I am a great believer in these things. However, I believe that they can ONLY hold meaning to 1) those who established them or 2) those who have found deep meaning in them and made them their own. I believe that there should be as many different ways to worship as there are people on the earth. I can think of few more heinous spiritual practices than that of indoctrinating a person in dogma. The best kind of learning is experiential. If you can demonstrate the truth of what you believe, or let me experience it for myself, THEN I have learned something. And once a truth is learned, it should be tested to see that it holds up. A belief that has simply been accepted, that has not been taught by experience or tested for its veracity, is a weak belief. As for tradition, these tend to morph from generation to generation and then be touted as absolute spiritual or historic truth. Let us take for example the so-called “War on Christmas.” Ample evidence suggests that Jesus was born in the spring or summer months (even in Israel, shepherds don’t have their flocks in the fields in wintertime), yet many Christians stubbornly insist that the entire last month of the year should be devoted to little else but celebrating Christ’s birth. I love Christmas, but I also realize that the season means many different things to many different people. Their belief or non-belief does not diminish my love of the holiday and what it has (very uniquely) come to mean to me. Another example from the same holiday: the “keep Christ in Christmas” campaign. This was launched in protest of many people’s use of the term “Xmas.” It was ignorantly believed that the “X” was a heathen attempt to remove Christ’s name from the holiday. The “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, translated as “Christ”, and was first used by the early church to accentuate, not eradicate, Christ’s role in Christmas. In this case, church tradition is attacking itself!

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Does this addition of church history change your perspective or further help understand the influx of Millennials leaving the church? I welcome graceful, constructive dialog!

This post is the eleventh 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

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

The Fighting Church: Thoughts on Homosexuality and Christianity

Welcome back to the Our Emptying Church blog series! For the past three months, we have been exploring why Millennials (ages 18-30) have left or will leave the church. We’ve had some significant interviews with Millennials and are about to hear from some pretty great guest posters.

We are specifically addressing the six most common reasons why the number of religious unaffiliated Millennials is on the rise (in order, they are: antihomosexual, judgmental, hypocritical, too involved in politics, old-fashioned, out of touch with reality). Several weeks ago, in light of the coming presidential election, I addressed the church’s involvement in politics and today I wish to jump into the church and homosexuality. I realize this is an emotionally- infused topic, which is why I will attempt to write with honesty, objectivity, and grace. It is also why I only welcome graceful, constructive dialog in the comments section of this blog. It is certainly okay to disagree so long as it’s done in a constructive, kind manner. I don’t intend on changing your stance; however, I do hope to provide a little more perspective on why the church is overwhelmingly seen as anti-homosexual by Millennials and why, in my opinion, we are leaving the church because of this perception.

In times past, the church has not only offered strong objection to the gay lifestyle but made it an object of scorn, disdain, and dehumanization. Hostilely opposing the gay community hasn’t just become a cause of Christianity, it has, for some Christians, become intertwined in their identities. In his book unChristian, generational researcher, David Kinnaman writes:
“…hostility toward gays– not just opposition to homosexual politics and behaviors but disdain for gay individuals– has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith.” Kinnaman’s research showed that 9 out of 10 Mosaics and Busters (ages 18-41) who are unaffiliated with the church viewed Christians as anti-homosexual.

I see a lot of fear floating around these days and fear tends to make us dehumanize folks.

And there’s a big difference in disagreeing with someone and demeaning him/her.

I wonder if this distinction is a little too muddy in the church.

Millennials are wondering too.

As of late, post-presidential election in particular, I’ve been hearing and reading claims of religious persecution… that some Christians feel their rights have been infringed upon by recent legislation, ACLU lawsuits and the such. I think it important to remember that there are men and women murdered for their faith everyday and that our history is stained with story after story of religious martyrs. These are events of persecution. Being bullied, having Bibles thrown at you, being told regularly that God hates you, or picket signs stating your eternal damnation may constitute the term “persecution” too.

I think it’s important to try to step out of yourself and look objectively. How do you love people? How do you love those that you fear or disagree with? How do you love the LGBTQI+ community? Do you fear working for causes like ending HIV/AIDS? Would you entertain the idea that the legality of gay marriage is actually a civil and human rights issue?

Evangelical Christians have been heard loud and clear that homosexuality is a sin, that it is an unacceptable lifestyle, and that gay couples should not be allowed to marry each other. I’m not sure we Millennials need to keep on hearing it, as we already know where these folks stand. I’d love to hear a little more about how the church is going to fight sex trafficking in Tennessee. Can you tell me how many counties in Tennessee have reported a case of minor sex trafficking in the last two years? Can you even tell me what sex trafficking is? Perhaps we should talk a little more about such things instead of continuing to fight and legislate a culture war.

As stated above, the intent of this post is not to dive into the few Bible verses that mention homosexuality or to change your views on the ethics of the subject, those are personal and you are responsible for researching your own beliefs, but you are similarly responsible for your actions in loving people. Trying to establish Christianity’s primacy in American culture by voting for bans on gay marriage isn’t really a victory for Christians at all. In it, we are completely disenfranchising a group of Americans, of humans. Millennials see this and they are tired of the culture wars. They are tired of the control that Christians seem to feel they must have on all things culture.

I say this as a Millennial who still dearly loves the emptying church.

Teach me how to be a strong woman. Teach me about the women of the Bible. Teach me about human trafficking. Teach me how to hug someone I hate. Teach me how to prevent diseases through education and vaccines. Teach me how to meditate on scripture. Teach me how to trade the sword for the plow. Teach me how to change my heart. Teach me how to rid myself of arrogance and pride. Teach me how to lead by serving. Teach me how to speak with grace. Teach me how to preach. Teach me how to fast for a cause. Teach me how to persist. Teach me to weep for the hurting. Teach me how to take care of the earth. Teach me sustainable farming. Teach me how to live with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control. Teach me how to embrace life’s seasons. Teach me how to pastor. Teach me how not to hate. Teach me how to rid myself of prejudice. Teach me how to get off the couch after a broken heart. Teach me how to love. I beg you. There are so many hurting people in this world… teach me how to love them like Christ, not how to fight a culture war, I beg you. Teach me.

For those Christians who cannot condone homosexuality, yet who still love folks and treat them kindly regardless of their sexuality, thank you. You teach me a great deal. Thank you. I’m sorry that you are sometimes labeled bigoted for your personal beliefs. I know that’s unfair and hurtful.

Let us find the grace that we beg God for and extend it to each other. Let’s put a name to a face and listen to each others stories; I bet we’ll begin realizing that we aren’t so different after all. When we consciously chose love, I sincerely believe we send a loud and clear message to Millennials, much more so than a picket sign or buying waffle fries at the Chick-fil-A.


Feel free to post any constructive thoughts or experiences below.


This post is the ninth 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

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OEC Guest Post: Mark & Tammy Edwards

As part of the Our Emptying Church series, I’m very happy to welcome Mark and Tammy Edwards as guest-posters to the Our Emptying Church series. If you are from the Hermitage area and are high school or college-aged, you likely know these two as they have dedicated their lives to loving this diverse, often eccentric group of Millennials.


From being on staff, to volunteering, to starting college worship services, to hosting multiple Bible studies in their home, to being pushed into a swimming pool fully clothed, to chaperoning crazy teenagers at youth camp, to teaching students, to praying for students, to meeting students for ice cream or coffee or sometimes both, these two have consistently loved Millennials. I’m not entirely sure where they get all their energy, but somehow, they seem to always have it and share it selflessly. Just barely qualifying as Baby Boomers, Mark and Tammy have been married for 25 years and have two very cool kids. I’m grateful for the many hours, days, and years that they’ve loved on Millennials, that they loved on me. I hope you’ll enjoy their perspective as much as I did. I asked them to shed some light on generational differences between Boomers and Millennials and how we can love each other in spite of those differences. You can catch up with Mark and Tammy on Facebook or through their ministry Slic Skate Church.

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We began working with Millennials through a former church we attended, mainly because our son was entering college. At that time, there were not many churches in our area that had a College/Career Ministry. You went straight from the Youth Group to the Singles Ministry.

Baby Boomers need to not see church as a place only for perfect people. A great majority of Millennials have tattoos, ear gauges/piercings, and come from broken homes. Baby Boomers tend to look down on this group of people, based on how they look. Millennials are a more caring group not only about the people in their lives, but the lives of people suffering from injustice in foreign lands. For Baby Boomers, it’s often all about the money, status, materialism, etc. Millennials are not really concerned about these things. They tend to have a heart for all people, not just people who look like them, have the same color skin, and go to their church. Being a part of a religion is not important to Millennials. They feel they can have a faith and not be a part of a church body. Sometimes I feel this is a cop out to the hypocrisy they claim is why they do not attend church. Millennials could learn from Boomers the importance of corporate worship and serving in local churches.

I think a big reason Millennials do not see importance in attending church is because Christians do not show the love of Jesus in such a way to make them want to attend church. Sometimes my non-Christian friends are kinder to me than my Christian friends! If there is no true life change shown by people who claim to know Jesus, what is the point??

Boomers also are not open to all walks of life. Absolutely will not open their hearts to the gay community whatsoever. This generation even will abandon their own children that claim this lifestyle (which blows my mind!). Millennials are more tolerant of the LGBTQ community and don’t judge them for it. Boomers are very closed minded about this issue. They do not embrace any opportunity to just befriend the LGBTQ community. They want nothing to do with the community. Period.

Baby Boomers tend to have a faith that has been handed down by past generations. They often don’t really know why they believe, they just walked an aisle when they were 5 or 8 and wha-la that’s it. Millennials are more inquisitive; they want to know why having a faith is beneficial… they want to see it, experience it firsthand. Don’t just tell them, prove it!

If churches don’t wake up and see that there is a hurting world out there and do whatever they have to do to meet the needs of their community, their doors will close. Millennials are not interested in mega churches. They are also not interested in churches who serve themselves. They want to be a part of something that is going to truly make a difference here and around the world.

As always, I welcome graceful dialogue in the comment section. What are some generational differences you perceive between Baby Boomers and Millennials? How can we love each other through those?

This post is the ninth 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