My original "Speaking Our Faith" process was an attempt to help faithful Christians between ages 21 and 40 to become more confident at speaking about their faith—with one another, and then with others who do not share their faith. The outcomes from this small group bore out my sense that safe, small group conversations can help strengthen peoples' faith and help them learn to speak about faith with others. It also deepened participants' faith and spirituality, and led them to a deeper engagement with their life with God and their life in the church.
I also learned—through my own research and by poring through the volumes of research being done on the dwindling faith of post-Boomers— that if faith isn't important, deeply, profoundly important, then these younger generations will simply walk away from church.
Two short commentaries brought this home to me. The first was a magazine article dating from 1999. Sarah Hinlicky wrote to try to help churches learn to talk to Generation X, and she said that the best way to connect with younger generations is for the story of Jesus to matter: Perhaps the only thing you can do, then, is to point us towards Golgotha, a story that we can make sense of. Show us the women who wept
and loved the Lord but couldn't change his fate. Remind us that Peter, the rock of the Church,
denied the Messiah three times. Tell us that Pilate washed his hands of the truth, something we are
often tempted to do. Mostly, though, turn us towards God hanging on the cross.
The second was a viral blog post written fourteen years later by Rachel Held Evans titled, “Why Millennials are Leaving the Church.” She outlined post-Boomers’ frustration with the rigid, authoritative teachings of evangelical churches. But her list of complaints ended with the same criticism—one that could apply to many churches, the Episcopal church included: We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the
cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.
There is a deep longing in our world for a faith that matters, a faith that changes lives, a faith that
makes it worth handing your whole life over to -- not just for an hour on Sunday morning, but your whole life. ONLY the church that continues to respond to that deep longing, and that helps nurture people who know the story and who care about the story and who share the story -- only that kind of church will survive in the post-modern, interfaith, secular 21st Century.
So I invite you this January to simply observe -- is this story being told in your church? And is it being told in a way that makes the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ matter to you in particular? Is it being told in a way that is meaningful to those who have forgotten the story, or who have never heard the story told at all? Let me know what you see and think ...