This week, an article has been circulating on Facebook, “59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out – And They’re Trying to Tell Us Why”. I like the article… mostly. The article goes through 12 areas the church is failing and offers good solutions that church leaders could heed to. However! While I do agree the church is dropping the ball with us “millennials”- the article fails to accept ANY responsibility for “our” lack of spirituality.
This topic is very relevant to my heart, my first blog post was about how I’m over feeling spiritually dry. For years I’ve critiqued the church – I didn’t feel fed, the message wasn’t deep enough or raw enough, it didn’t challenge me. But I had this light bulb moment I talk about in that post, it’s not about a feeling – it’s about obedience.
My husband is ADD and this imagery of tiny dopamine bubbles leaving the brain suits this discussion. (I’m aware there are different kinds of ADD, but here’s how I understand my husbands case) People with ADD have a lack of dopamine, meaning their brain doesn’t naturally release stimulant bubbles, and because they don’t naturally release these feel good bubbles, they are constantly searching for highs (or lows) that can act as a defibrillator shocking the brain to release these bubbles – for them to feel something.
We, us millennials, are spiritually ADD in the sense we rely on the church to jolt us into releasing feeling bubbles.
I’ve chewed on two good podcasts this week, John Piper’s “What Jesus Demands from You” (I guess I’m gonna have to read the book) and Tim Keller’s “How to Cultivate Friendship with God.” Both affirm my suspicion… the ball is in our court, folks! Our relationship with Jesus is up to us, our fire or passion for Jesus or lack thereof isn’t because the church is sucking, it’s because we suck at being in relationship with Jesus. We don’t truly revere God. We don’t fully grasp the gospel of Christ. We don’t obey Him.
We don’t understand, and instead of us wanting to understand what God asks of us, we whine because we’d rather be spoonfed the gospel by our church – but it’s not satisfying enough, it doesn’t taste right, we asked for something different than what they’re serving. (too far on the eating analogy?)
Both podcast used this verse in depth when looking at our relationship with Jesus, If you love me, you will keep my commandments – John 14:15.
Piper discusses Jesus’ command to ‘Love Me.’
- “Love, in Jesus-talk, is not doing – it is treasuring.” Treasuring our relationship with Him above any other.
- He goes on to challenge whether we are capable to command or insist or turn on our emotion love, to which he concludes “The New Testament commands the emotions everywhere! …We’re commanded to be grateful, to hope, rejoice, be sorrowful, to weep…” We can command our emotions, we can decide to obey – because we love Him, and we can choose to love Him by obeying.
- “Where does love for Jesus come from? It comes from knowing how much your debt is and knowing what he did to remove it… If we knew what it cost Jesus and how undeserving we were, we would love Him much.” I think when we find it hard to obey, or hard to love we can meditate on what He’s done for us.
Keller speaks from the perspective of enjoying a friendship with God.
- “The word friendship is a Hebrew word, Sothe: intimate counsel and advice… It’s to your friends you tell secrets, you confide in them, Psalm 25:14 (The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant)… God is confiding in us, God becomes our close friend…” Draw into Him, He will not disappoint, He will reveal Himself to us. Isn’t that what we want: to feel Him, to know Him, to experience Him?
- This one was good!! “Cautionary note that needs to be struck… Our secular culture loves spirituality, as in I’m spiritual but not religious…what they mean is ‘I want to be inspired, I want to feel I have some kind of connection to something divine beyond me, but I still want to live my life the way I want to live my life. I don’t want the discipline of discipleship, of having to belong to a community’…[this] usually means I want to feel the connection to a divine reality, but I still want to live my life the way I want to live my life.” am I right? This is what I was saying in my first post.
- “Obedience… (he refers to John 15:14) obedience is necessary for friendship [with Jesus]. If you obey Him you’re going to become more like Him, its called holiness… friends sharpen each other… It’s only through obedience you start to move closer to Him, you start to become more like Him. Therefore, without obedience there can’t be in friendship because in friendship people converge, they become more like each other in some ways… (Tim tells a story of a boy who played hymns instead of listening to his mother, to which his mother replies) ‘there’s no use singing praises to Jesus when you’re being disobedient.’ …Our churches are filled with people that come for a high on Sunday but they’re being disobedient. They come, they want to feel good, they want to be spiritual but not religious. They want to have the feeling of intimacy, but they don’t want to get their life in line.”
So my ending remarks… If we can try to grasp what Christ did for us, we can revere Him. Out of our reverence can come a love, a treasuring of Him. Because we treasure Him we want obey Him. When we obey Him we experience Him, we become more like Him, we are in His presence, we feel Him. Isn’t that what millennials are searching for, the feeling of God? But, what if I don’t understand what Christ did on the cross? Then, I’m right there with you… I’m hoping the reverse is true: if I choose to love Him by obeying His teachings, which is Jesus’ voice, I can come to know Him. And as He becomes known to me the more I will treasure Him and revere Him. One pours into another…
Our relationship status with Christ shouldn’t involve the Church. Church is a means of worship, it’s not the gateway to Him – Christ tore that curtain! The church did fail us in that they didn’t teach us to obey but now that you know that stop blaming the church, command yourself to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength! Just do it. (swoosh)