Sunday mornin' wake up early,
Skip church service to find my Jesus.
I know it sounds so sacrilegious,
But I just don't belong in a place like that.
These words are not just the opening salvo from a track titled "Sacrilegious" on Never Shout Never's new album. They seem to be the cry of a generation of would-be Christians.
My pastor tweeted an interesting rhetorical question today: "What has happened to student ministries in young, progressive churches? My denom baptized 140k teens in 1972; last yr only 75k."
It's not a question that can only be posed to a Southern Baptist reader but anyone who is part of a church. My generation is bailing out of the church like never before. It's enough to make me wonder: What is the disconnect? Are we just a particularly Satanic and evil generation bent on disappointing our parents and forever disturbing culture as we have previously known it? Somehow, I doubt it.
I think the more interesting answer resides in the chorus.
I love the cause but not the act.
I love a good cause. The tragedy being felt in Haiti involves devastation I can never hope to comprehend or explain. But the healing that has begun through a series of text messages, tweets, benefit concerts, basketball games brings me so much hope for this world. It is hard to go anywhere and not see on display the endless signs of generosity and solidarity with the Haitian people. The darkest nights are often pierced by the purest light. It has been a lament to see so many lose their lives. It has been a joy to see so many saved.
We may never be the "Greatest Generation." But we may be the "Good Generation." Our generation is generous, thoughful, soulful, and hopeful. (It doesn't hurt that we provide such a stark contrast to our ne'er do well, careless Gen X brethren. Time to face it. We're pretty much the world's last best hope and that brings out the best in us every time.)
So why don't we believe in the church?
One reason is that we love the cause but not the act. The Christian act of having it all figured out. We know how you ought to live, where you should work, what music and art you should enjoy. And above all, we know how you should experience God.
For a group of people who believe the kind of foolishness that has men raising from the dead, we sure do have it all figured out. One time in my life, I'd like to be a part of church where screwed up people feel like they belong.
'Cause Jesus was a friend and not a judge.
He loved the sinners as much as he loved the little ones.
That man was love and not an act.
So if the first reason we're lost is the way we do church. The second is the way we treat Jesus.
You may notice that I don't spend all of my posts on this blog or any of my various social networks solely laying out today's bit of theology. I used to try to get to know God like that. But at some point in my life I realized I'm probably not going to find God in a book. Sure, I'll find Him in some. But I'll also find God in art and music and sunsets. And where I'm most likely to find God is wherever I am. Because He's been pursuing me for a long time.
Now that's not a knock on educated people. I am one. But you have to know that you don't have a monopoly on God. Neither do the artists or the musicians or the scientists or the missionaries. We all know God in our own way and that is a perfectly natural occurence.
I really like my dad. And I could tell you stories all day about things he has taught me or advice he's given me or mistakes he's kept me from making. I could tell you what he does for a living or what he really gets excited about or what he is hoping for in the future. But until I actually introduce you to him, you're not going to know who he is. And even after I introduce you to him, you're still not going to know him like I do.
Because he's the guy that taught me how to swing a baseball bat and how to win an argument and how to know when it's not worth the fight and how to know when it is.
I think knowing Jesus works about the same way. You probably know Jesus a little differently than I do. Because you've been through different things together and you've had different conversations than we've had. You're not going to be able to introduce me to him by exposing me to systematic theology or outlining Thomas Aquinas' view of the trinity. I'm not going to know him until I meet Him for myself and I'm not going to learn anything about Him until we have some experiences together. That man was love and not an act.
I'll be the first to admit that treating Jesus as a person and not an idea is pretty difficult and might even have some uncomfortable theological implications. But if He really is a person, that's probably one of the most important aspects of his personality. And we're definitely never going to know him until we start treating him like one.