Sunday, April 30, 2006

Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the doors . . .

I usually have a limited amount of time for Bible Study and prayer on Sunday mornings. This personal time is limited as I hurry to get out the door (with my family) to connect with other believers at our local church.

For the past ten years, my family has volunteered in our children's department every week. My creative husband writes the curriculum and the team members (which I am one of) "act out" the Bible stories and additional application skits that will make the Bible come alive for young kids. (Yes, I actually dress up in Bible costumes or get on my knees with a baseball cap . . . or even crazier get ups! And now that my kids are older, they do too.)

Before this, I also attend Sunday School with other like-minded adults. As iron-sharpens-iron it's a good time to share God's Word and share how God is speaking and working it our lives.

When writing Generation NeXt Parenting, one thing I discovered is that Gen Xers, in general, are more interested in spiritual matters than the generations before us. (Maybe it's because we grew up with all those horror movies that contrast good and evil so well!)

Unfortunately, this interest for spirituality, doesn't relate to an increase of church attendance among our age group. Here's a stat I found:

According to George Barna, only 28 percent of Gen Xers (ages 20-37) attend church compared to 51 percent of Builders (58+). Yet, according to a Special 2001 edition of Newsweek, “Eighty-one percent of Gen X mothers and 78 percent of fathers say they plan eventually to send their young child to Sunday school or some other kind of religious training.”

Hmm . . . something doesn't seem to compute. Personally, I think the reason is that Gen Xers don't want to play games. We highly spiritual, yes, but we're also self-reliant. We’re skeptical, yet what we do believe we want to apply to everyday life. We’re realistic, not idealistic. Our faith has to be truly lived-out, or we don’t buy into it. (And to be truthful, sometimes we wonder how the church rituals do apply to everyday life . . .)

I also believe that those who don't attend church are missing out on community and personal growth. Many are so focused on "getting their needs met" that they forget they are simply one small part of God's body--someone who has a role and a duty like everyone else.

Of course, I have to admit that I've personally struggled with this issue from time to time. And I'm not alone. This morning, I read this in my Bible Study book:

When C.S. Lewis became a Christian, he initially resisted being a part of a church. For example, he disliked the hymns, which he regarded as "fifth-rate poems." Eventually, however, Lewis began to understand that the church is not a human organization but the "Body of Christ where people share the common life, complementing and helping one another precisely by their differences." This happens as we submit to God, trusting that we really do need these odd people, and (gulp) submit to them as well. --Jan Johnson, Community and Submission Bible Study, p. 18

Finally, I'll end with this last quote, also from Johnson's book:

Innumerable times a whole Christian communiy has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream . . . He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial." -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wow. Are there times when I love my "dream" of community more than the Christian community itself? That's a good question.

Of course, the reality will never live up to any dream in our heads of what church "should be like." After all, community is made up of people, and people will always disappoint me--just as surely as I will oftentimes disappoint them.

Still, I'm glad to be going, to be a part. To connect with the lives of others and have them do the same.

So, what about you? Are you involved in a local church? Why or why not?

And if you are . . . how do you think this benefits your family, your kids?


At Sunday, 30 April, 2006, Blogger Martha A. said...

I think it is because the church has somehow failed to reach beyond the walls of Sunday. I do go to church, but sometimes it is very hard, I lived in a very close church community before and I miss the daily interaction in some ways. If you had a hard day, your church family knew because they saw you every day.
How many times do we reach out to others around us, or do we think we are just interferring?
My children benefit from church going, because I think it shows them that God is the most important in our life and it is enjoyable to set days aside to worship Him.

At Monday, 01 May, 2006, Blogger Gina said...

After 12 years at our church, we made the difficult decision to move on. It was hard because we had already established friends and a community. We settled at another church for a year, but never really connected with anyone, yet the Word was refreshing and what we needed. Now we're on the search again and struggling to define what we want in a church.

At Monday, 01 May, 2006, Blogger Tricia Goyer said...

I'm blessed that both our associate pastor and youth pastor live on the same block as us. I also have friends from church that we connect with on a daily basis. This really makes "church community" real to our family.

Of course, I CRIED when God first led us to our church. It was so much smaller and more "traditional" than I was use to, but God's leading was clear.

Since that time (and because of the dynamic children's ministry) they church has grown and changed. It truly is everything I want in a church . . . now. But I realize that God used US to make it grow and draw in more young couples.

At Thursday, 04 May, 2006, Anonymous Sherry Boles said...

I can relate to Gina. My family has been to several congregations in search of one who preaches the truth and has a place that we fit in. We haven't found it yet...but we're still trying...


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