Culture [Kuhl-cher] - noun 1. The quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.
School days. Ah. Fond memories of hanging with my friends, playing sports, pranks, girlfriends, getting good grades without studying too hard. My first concert, the thrill of doing things I wasn't supposed to, jumping off the second floor balcony of the Bilmar Hotel in 11th grade to avoid hotel security. No need to say why they were knocking on our door.
I keenly remember standing in assembly, the Catholic priest who was our school chaplain intoning...something. I'm a little embarrassed to admit the extent that my friends and I made fun of him and the hymns we were supposed to be singing. If God wasn't so forgiving, I'd be doomed for sure.
I'd gone to Sunday school and church as a kid growing up - back in the day, when we had to wear a suit and tie. But that was a lifetime away from military school and peer pressure and, well, fun.
Thirty years later, I'm a Sunday school teacher. I could dwell on the irony of that but I have a more important point to ponder: Why are kids leaving the church today?
More specifically, young men and women in their mid-to-late teens and even early twenties are departing the church in droves. In fact, Over 60% of children who grow up in the church will leave it as young
adults according to Already Gone, a startling book by Ken Ham and
Brit Beemer. The cause?
Sunday school syndrome.
Ham and Beemer are finding through extensive research that instead of strengthening the faith of young people by solidifying the Bible's historical authority, Sunday school is teaching that the Bible is more about inspiration and morality than authenticity and reality.
How much time to young people spend in church? How much time do they spend in school? How much time do they spend in front of the television or with ear buds firmly implanted in their heads, listening to music? How much time do they spend on social networking sites or otherwise surfing the Internet?
I would hazard a guess that the time spent in church, or in church-related activity is far less than the rest. In fact, I believe that, similarly to the premise of Already Gone, church plays a part in the disconnect of young people from God. And I readily admit that I've been an enabler.
How many times have you invited someone to church? Did that suffice for your outreach duty? According to Matthew 28, Jesus didn't ask us to go and invite people to church - He asked us to go and make disciples. Big difference. In college and professional sports, recruiters go and scout out talent, inviting them to come and play at a particular school or for a particular team. It's up to the coaches to take that talent and mold it into a winning team. I have a sneaking suspicion that most Christians - evangelical or not - are more recruiter than disciple-maker.
But if each of us fails to take our personal knowledge of God - gained through regular study of God's message to humanity and how it (and He) has changed our own lives - and share it with someone, helping them mold that knowledge into their daily life, we are blowing it - big time. I even found a video for a church that admitted church was boring - except for theirs.
At the end of the day, what are we up against? We're up against our culture. We live in the age of reality shows and instant gratification. Oh yeah, I hear that our youth today are the most giving generation of all time - and I've met some young people that awesomely fit that bill. But I also heard a report on NPR this morning that highlighted the emergence of charity for profit. Everything from the pink ribbons to the timing of donations to take full advantage of our tax laws. The new charity is I'll give...as long as I get the best return from it.
So what's the answer? How do we fulfill Jesus' command to us in Matthew 28? Do we turn to culture? Do we make ourselves the anti-church?
I wrestle with how worldly we should be in reaching out to young people. Faith in God is a serious thing. That doesn't mean we can't have fun - heck, the knowledge that I will have eternal life and spend that time in the most amazing place in the universe is pretty exciting, if hard to conceptualize in our culture. One example of - at the risk of...something - a godly secular song is U2's 40
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.
Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.
How do we get them back?