Christianity has had an interesting history, hasn’t it? What started off as a small, persecuted movement has now become one of the most well-known religions in the world. Many Christian churches go on to do great things that help other people, including (but not limited to) donating food and helping build homes for people who need it. But especially recently, Christianity—or even just the idea of going to church—has become less and less popular over the course of time. There’s been a rise in millennials leaving the church for various reasons, either because they need a break or because they don’t find meaning in the Sunday morning ritual.
As for me, I’d be lying if I said being around other Christians was a walk in the park. But I still go even if it’s not popular for my generation. And this is why.
When I was in college, my church attendance was slowing down before it eventually came to a complete stop. I had a few reasons, most of them involving transportation and my repulsion at the idea of getting out of bed earlier than I wanted. But even between graduation and my first job, I was slowly getting fed up with the idea of church. Instead of being a place where the needy found mercy and compassion, the church had become a place where people could brag about all the nice things they’ve done. When I think about why I decided not to go back, what comes to mind is the Home Improvement episode where Randy decided he wanted to stop going to church. Like Randy, I hadn’t given up on God, but I wanted to find other ways of strengthening my faith that didn’t involve going through the motions of worship.
This break lasted for a little over a year. And if there was only one word I’d use to describe that time, it was “frustrated.” I was frustrated with my life because it wasn’t working out the way I wanted it to. I was frustrated with my job because—at the time—working there made me feel imprisoned. I was frustrated with my family because I didn’t feel like the daughter or sister they wanted me to be. I was frustrated with myself because I was convinced that I had failed to do what I wanted before I’d even started. But above all, I was frustrated with God because I didn’t know what he wanted me to do.
After a while, I finally started going back. I found a church close to where I live, and I’ve been going ever since. As an introvert, it’s taking me a while to make friends. And truth be told, I could go on for hours about the things there that I don’t agree with. But one of the biggest selling points happened just this weekend, when I realized why I wasn’t giving up and why—despite my complaints—I kept coming back.
For me, being a Christian is less about religion and more about faith. Rituals and traditions? Never been a fan. Hand motions to accompany hymns? Fuck them. Half hour sermons that almost always go a little too long? I’ll let you know when I stop drifting off to La-la Land. Interacting with God? Getting to know him through his word? Learning a handful of the ways he uses to communicate with his people? That’s what helped me let go of my self-hate. That’s what challenges me to be a better person every day. That’s my Christian bread and butter. I need the small Christian community I found to nurture my faith and keep asking questions. And as sappy as it sounds, I couldn’t have found that community without church.
So to my fellow millennials out there considering leaving church, I say this: if there’s something more you’d like to see churches do, bring it up. There are plenty of older Christians out there asking how to bring the generation back. And if we can all have that conversation with each other about how the church can spiritually flourish, then maybe we can come together to make the world just a little better than it used to be.
Photo source: https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2015/02/05/the-plus-one-approach-to-church/