Church – Look this word up in any dictionary and the first definition provided will most likely be something similar to: a building where Christians gather to worship.
This is not the church.
The church is not a building.
The church is a people.
And I am going so far as to say that the church is not a body of believers who profess faith in Jesus Christ.
The demons believe in Jesus.
The church is the body of believers who are following Jesus Christ and not just on Sunday.
Church isn’t something you go to. It’s something you are.
“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” – PROVERBS 27:19
Please, please, please don’t misread what I am about to say. I was raised in the church. I have never not gone to church at any point in my life. I absolutely would not be who I am or where I am without growing up in the church. I believe that it is not up for scriptural debate whether or not we are told to be plugged in with a local church body, and in the overall sense, I love church (church meaning the gathering of God’s people for corporate worship and reading of the Word/sharing God’s message). I have been a part of multiple churches (not because I enjoy “church hopping” though, it’s actually a rather miserable process). I was raised in Church of Christ, attended a non-denominational community church with more or less apostolic roots, and then I ended up at a Baptist church. For a living, I meet with pastors, get to know them and the dynamics of their congregation, figure out what they believe and where they stand theologically, and try to understand how they lead their flock in living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ (or not living it out). That way, we can determine the different ways they want to plug in with our ministry (a local Crisis Pregnancy Center) and how our ministry can help serve/resource them. I love my job. But at the same time, I also see a side of churches that, the people who show up on Sunday, warm the pew, and leave, don’t get to see. And what I’ve found, even and especially in my personal life, is that life is much easier that way — warming the pew and not getting involved. Not because it’s less work, but because you don’t get so easily exposed to the ugly parts of people that no one wants to see.
But, that’s not even where I’m going with this, because we all have ugly sides. Even those of us who are constantly being emptied of ourselves so that we can be filled up with Jesus because temptation is real and powerful and the flesh is faint and weak. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more” (Romans 5:20). I don’t expect perfection out of anyone, even leaders within church, but I do believe they are called to a higher standard. But, that’s a different topic…
Where I am going with this is what I feel as a millennial who was raised in the church, but now wants a break from the church.
I know. *gasp*
The girl who works for a ministry, leads a Bible study for teenage girls, and talks about Jesus all the time wants a break from church. Not rejecting it all together, because like I said, I love the church. I believe in the importance and power and necessity of the church on a regular basis in one’s life.
I’m not tempted to take a break from church because I’m not desiring worship or the Lord or spiritual growth. In fact, the opposite is true. I’m craving it. I’m tired of the church because we have become so entirely complacent and afraid to offend anyone except for God. I’m exhausted. I am SO weary of pastors and ministry leaders who do not stand firm on the Word of God.
Most people think (and boldly walk around preaching) that millennials are leaving the church because they feel ostracized and rejected.
I would dare to challenge you by saying that millennials who are truly hungry for Jesus are frustrated with the church because they are fed up with not getting fed.
Millennials are leaving the church because it’s not any different than a social club.
Those who aren’t hungry for Jesus just yet, see no point in actually bothering to attend church because there is no value in it if it is no different than gathering with people you enjoy being around in any given setting. And that is a 100% valid point.
We have these churches that are a mile wide and an inch deep, advertising Christianity like it’s a walk in the park. People who are all about Jesus until things get a little shaky or they feel like they have to give something up in order to carry their cross. Yet, that’s the entire point of Christianity. That is Christianity. Laying everything down so your hands are free to pick up and carry your cross. Your hands can’t be free to carry your cross and hold on to the world, friends. It’s one or the other.
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
Keep your lights, smoke and worship show. Keep your casual dress and alternate morning/evening services. Keep your coffee bars and social media appeal. Keep your goal to get thousands of members by a certain date. Keep your free t-shirt.
Give me Jesus.
I’m not saying all of those things are particularly bad in and of themselves, but when we use them to draw people in and coax them into Christianity by giving it a “cool, hip, comfortable, feel good” vibe, we’re selling them a cheap version of the gospel that is in fact not the gospel. The gospel is anything but cool, hip, and comfortable. That’s why people find it offensive. It goes against every grain of culture.
“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” – JOHN 3:20
Tell me why living with someone before marriage is wrong. Not just that it is, but why.
Tell me why we need to love homosexuals and hate their sin, because homosexuality is a sin that is just as much of a reality to struggle with as any other sin. Explain the desperate need for the balance of truth and grace in these kinds of situations we’re up against.
Tell me why drinking alcohol can be a dangerous, slippery slope and don’t just flippantly and casually state that a beer every now and then is okay.
Tell me that I can be a stumbling block for someone else and that, even if I don’t struggle with certain things, they might. And tell me that I will be held accountable for that.
Tell me boldly that life begins at conception, even from a scientific standpoint as all the DNA is encrypted in that moment. Tell me that there is a plan, meaning, and purpose for that little person, regardless of the circumstances in which he or she was conceived, because all of life is ordained by God and God doesn’t make mistakes.
Tell me that even though I am radically loved on a level beyond anything I will ever be able to comprehend, there is grace to cover every shortcoming I have and that, even though I am forgiven and set free, I wasn’t set free to do what I want or to live as close to the line as I can get to it without actually crossing it.
I was set free for so much more.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – GALATIANS 5:1
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” – GALATIANS 5:13
Challenge me. Call me out. Offend me.
It’s your job, and you will make me better for it.
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” – EPHESIANS 4:11-16
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” – PROVERBS 27:5-6
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;”- 1 PETER 5:2
I’m tired, exhausted, and weary, not because you’re chasing me off with your “offensive beliefs”, but because it’s practically like you have no beliefs. And if you do, no one knows about them because you’re afraid they may be offended. So what is the point?
What good is the gospel in your life if you’re the only one who is affected by it?
This means living out the Word of God because it has completely changed you, not praying a get-out-of-hell-for-free prayer.
The church looks just like the world. If I want a motivational speech or a pat on the back, I can go elsewhere.
We, the millennial generation, are at a critical point in history. Based on what I can see, the conversations that I have, and the leaders that are guiding us to be leaders ourselves in this movement to passionately pursue Jesus and forsake everything else, I believe we are a chosen generation. I see boldness, I see servant-leadership, I see authenticity, I see passion for Father God deep, deep, deep down to the marrow of our bones that will not allow us to remain silent regarding the truth of God and the controversial issues that shake us to our core.
But, if I’m being honest, in the most delicate and tender way that I know how to express what is also stirring in my heart, there is a huge portion of the modern-day church that is not helping us in our cause. Perhaps, I believe, they are actually damaging it.
The boys are being separated from the men, the hot from the lukewarm, and the genuinely authentic from the white-washed tombs.
I’m not giving up on church. That was never an option, and it never will be. But these are challenging times where we as a church need more than ever to be challenged by each other so we are equipped to face the challenges of the world.
We can’t be challenged by each other if we’re not being real with one another, and by being real I mean speaking truth boldly and passionately, even if people get their toes stepped on. Better to have stepped on toes than an eternity in hell.
That’s how we grow and that’s how we change. We hold each other accountable and always strive to look like Jesus and not the world that spits in His face. A world that so easily ensnares us to do the same without even realizing it, maybe not by acting upon something that is bad, but by not taking a stand for what is good.
“You will know these people because of what they do. Good things don’t come from people who are bad, just as grapes don’t come from thorn bushes, and figs don’t come from thorny weeds. In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, and bad trees produce bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. Every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. You will know these false people by what they do.” – MATTHEW 7:16-20
And so, I ask you, as the church, where do you stand? Better yet, do you? We all need each other. That’s the purpose of the church — working in unity together to push each other closer to Jesus and advance His kingdom. We need each other to navigate this life together, support one another, edify each other, and to help each other grow into the person God is calling us to be.
There is a generation of mighty warriors rising up. We need you, and I can’t help but wonder where you’re at…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lexi Judy: Lexi Judy is the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Tidewater. She teaches 9th & 10th grade girls at Liberty Live, Harborview Campus, and leads a group of young adults at Greenbrier. Lexi is the author of Because He Loved Me, a book that walks through her experience with cancer at 16. She also serves on the SBCV Women’s Ministry Team. To read more of Lexi’s writings, visit alexisjudy.com.