Old People, Religion and When a History of Faith is a Bad Thing or…

"Why People Like Us Are Hurting the Church"

I got you with the title, right?  Well, don’t be dissuaded!  The title was just to draw you in…ready?  All right, here we go!

I’ve been a believer for 20 years now, a passionate disciple for 15 years now.  I’ve been to church countless thousands of time, having grown up in a home that took “if the church doors are open, we’re gonna be there” to new extremes.  Of course, my dad was the pastor, so it was kind of unquestioned that he would be there – and we, his family just followed him to Sunday School, Sunday morning services, Sunday night services, Wednesday night services, Thursday night soul-winning, Friday night A.W.A.N.A’s and Saturday night youth group.

I went to 3 – count them, yes, 3 – different Bible Colleges.  I had 12 semesters of Bible classes.  I have lead worship or been in a church to do a concert almost every Sunday for 12 years. 

I think it’s safe to assume that I have, at the very least, a rich history of faith.  I am – for lack of a better term - one of the “religious”.  I am younger in age, but because of my childhood (and adulthood) I am OLDER in my faith.

Being old in your faith is good in a lot of ways.  I have a rich understanding of Scripture that only comes with time and consistent study.  I can argue intricate pieces of theology, if I want to impress someone with how smart and highly spiritual I am (as if arguing the intricacies of Calvinism vs. Armenian-ism ever impressed anyone).  I can speak with big Christian words and speak in soft tones and tell someone about God’s grace vs. his justice.

But being old in my faith can also be bad in a lot of ways.  It leads to pride (I feel icky just reading the last paragraph above – ugh).  It leads to comfort.  And worse, it leads to the need for me to prefer some things over other things – and because of my history of faith I can feel like those preferences become issues of right and wrong, as opposed to what I LIKE more or less.

The biggest struggle I see in churches right now has to do with people like me.  People who think like I talked about in the last two paragraphs.

Church attendance is down across the board in the American church.  Sure, sure, you have the NewSpring’s and the Elevation Church’s and the CrossPoint’s and the Flat Iron’s – but for every one of those churches is 100 churches that are losing the battle to meet the needs of the unchurched or the young in faith.

And – for the most part – it isn’t the pastors of these church’s faults.  It usually isn’t the staff’s fault.  Though the pastors and staff may fall into the problem.  Because the problem isn’t that the staff and pastors aren’t doing a good job.  Most church’s staff are doing the very best they can.

The problem with churches is people like me.  And people like you.  Those of us that like things how we like them and aren’t willing to consider a time when WE were the young in faith and when WE needed certain things in order to be drawn into church.

When Jesus ministered here on earth, you know who he consistently challenged?  Not the gays.  Not the people with tattoos and long hair and crappy clothes.  Not the single moms who screwed up once again.  Not the divorcee’.  Not the dirty people who might smell up our beautiful auditoriums that we spent millions of dollars on.  Not the new Christian who hasn’t learned that sleeping with his girlfriend isn’t okay.

He challenged you and me.  The religious.  He challenged people like you and me who have a rich history of faith.

In fact, when a prostitute brought her meager gifts to Jesus, the religious people were offended that Jesus didn’t rebuke her for her well-known sin.  When Jesus ate with Zacchaeus, His disciples were upset because Jesus was eating with this horrible cheating tax collector.

Jesus didn’t care how old your faith was.  He didn’t care if you didn’t have faith.  His goal was to draw you to Him.

So, how can you and I think that it’s okay to fight when our church moves towards a more contemporary way of doing things?  How can we be upset when we do a style of music beyond our preference?  How can we get up in arms when the church’s focus becomes the generation of believers much younger than us?

It’s what Jesus would be doing.  Jesus made it clear He didn’t give a crap what us religious people thought.  He did everything in His ministry to reach out to the people who didn’t have a rich history of faith.

Because those of us with a rich history of faith should understand that church is NOT about us.  It isn’t about ME.  It isn’t about YOU.  When it becomes about us, then it simply becomes religion.  When we make church about our preferences then we become religious.  Church becomes just another Idol that gets in the way of being a Disciple of Christ.

So, if you find yourself getting upset because the music is louder than you like, then go get yourself a pair of freaking earplugs.  Because the twenty-eight year old who hasn’t been to church since that youth pastor in tenth grade broke his heart by being a jerk might need it to be loud for HIS preference.  And he doesn’t have the spiritual maturity to realize yet that church isn’t about him.  And he shouldn’t.  Yet.  But you should.  BECAUSE you have a rich history of faith.

If you find yourself getting frustrated because the service is darker than you prefer, then close your eyes and pray.  Because the single mother who’s embarrassed by the fact that she’s in church holding a six week old whose father hasn’t returned a phone call in nine months may need it be dark in order to not feel ashamed.  And she doesn’t have the spiritual maturity yet to realize that she is loved and held in the arms of Jesus.

It all comes down to this: the spiritually immature NEED more than we do.  And they should.  Jesus saw it.  How can we miss it?

So, how about those of us with a rich history of faith, start acting like we know Jesus better?