The reality is that the church has been its own worst enemy. Poll after poll shows younger Americans believing the church to be made up of judgmental hypocrites who seek to force some kind of fixed, ancient, tired dogma down their throats. They are fed up with rituals, traditions, and mindless ancient forms masquerading as authentic, relevant faith. They are tired – especially the millennials – tired of ideals compromised for political expediency. They are tired of seeing religion co-opted by manipulative politicians. They are fed up with the church, as they have experienced it. And who can blame them? I am afraid that we professionally religious types – that’s the folks who wear the robes and the collars like me – will have a lot of explaining to do when we get to heaven and see the mud that we have heaped up on the bride of Christ.
But I would suggest, that it is exactly because we have not been the church that we are supposed to be, it is exactly because we present a muddied version of the church, that confidence in the church is leaking like a sieve. We have not been what we are supposed to be. As a result, people are looking for eternity, for identity and purpose, they are looking for faith in the pretenders of our world and bypassing the only authentic expression of the body of Christ. This happens because we are presenting a stunted pretender claiming to be the church.
We need to confess where we have come up short. We need to quit relying on our own power and instead embrace the power of a Holy Spirit whose presence we celebrate on this day of Pentecost. We need to embrace the seeker, the questioner, and not be afraid to sit down over a cup of coffee and respectfully address our questions. We need to be unafraid to say, “I don’t know,” and courageous to point to the Christ that we do know. We need to present the church, in all its beauty and power, and not settle for the cheap church versions of our own making.