Several weeks ago I wrote a post called The Adventist Church Needs You Now More Than Ever. It was a response to the cancellation of a film project the General Conference had commissioned which had garnered a lot of enthusiasm from the younger generation. In the post I encouraged people not to give up on their church, but to get involved. The response I received was tremendous. It definitely struck a chord with many who like myself are tired of watching the church lose more ground than it’s gaining. But mixed within the ra-ra cheerleading were heartfelt responses from individuals who appreciated the hopefulness, but still could not see a brighter future in front of them. Those sentiments echo with a lot more people than optimism does and I wanted to take some time to respond to them.
“I tried to make changes and finally gave up”
This sentiment was reinforced to me this past weekend as I took my youth leadership team to Willow Creek Church in Chicago, Illinois. After being blown away by what Willow Creek does, we sat down and I asked what we could do at our church to get us to that point. “Quit” was the first response. “We should just move to Chicago and transfer here”. Sadly, this is the reality for some of the most gifted people in our churches today. I know many gifted musicians who have left my church because their talents are not utilized. I’ve been tempted many times myself. Rather than seeing a new vision and finding ways to use such talent or even stepping aside to let it happen, church leaders try to plug them into programs that waste their talents. It’s as demoralizing to ask a contemporary worship leader to lead hymns with an organ in the same way it is to ask a classical pianist to play children’s songs for the nursery department. Not that these things are bad, but if this is the best and only use you have for their talent you’re wasting a gift. Within churches across the nation are designers, musicians, actors, artists, writers, and so many more people bursting to use their talents in service for their God and church. And sadly they fall away, feeling they are not wanted. They’re told God doesn’t use those kinds of talents. Anything new and creative is “of the world”.
For the people who have quit, I can only say “I’m sorry”. I understand. The church has been a poor steward of it’s talents. Your creativity and work have been placed in a category similar to science within the church walls. It’s Religion versus creativity. I hope you’ve been able to use your talents for God somewhere. But I also must say thank you. Because you planted a seed. In 2010 I went as the pastor for a group of students on a mission trip to Mexico. Once down there I found that the greatest hurdle wasn’t the sleeping conditions, food, heat, or work. It was the construction supervisor who believed that we were there to build a church only. He didn’t care about worship or spiritual growth. So we worked 10-12 hour days and skipped spiritual programs. The students were so tired they barely responded to the few worships I was able to fit in. I felt like a failure. Our final night in Mexico as we sat in a hotel before flying out the next day, I went for a walk with our site coordinator. I poured my heart out, feeling very disheartened that I didn’t see and experience great spiritual growth with the youth on this trip like other trips I had been on. She put her arm on my shoulder and said “you never know what seed you’ve planted”. As we returned to the hotel we found all of the students sitting in the hallway together signing each other’s bible’s like yearbooks. That night I sat up all night with them laughing and talking, all of us making up for what was lost time. A seed I thought had been carried away by the birds had actually fallen on fertile soil.
People get frustrating because they expect sweeping, dramatic change overnight. And it can’t happen that way. You can’t remodel a kitchen in an evening and you can’t expect an acorn to grow into an oak tree in a few weeks. But little seeds do grow. While many may not be here anymore to see the results, that seed has grown. The seeds planted by a generation fed up with the same old thing are beginning to come to fruition. If you don’t believe me, check out movements like Epic Church in Chicago or The 1 Project. I’m watching seeds I planted five or ten years ago just now happening in my own church. It’s an amazing sight.
“I don’t know what to do”
There are more than a few people sitting in pews each week who would love to see something different happen, but just don’t know what or how. They have talents and skills that they may not even be aware of. Others just don’t know where to start. They think they need to go through formal plans and board approval. For these people it’s not quite as frustrating, but almost more disheartening. They feel there’s nothing they can do to make things change. I was there ten years ago, wandering around the church foyer with no idea of how I could be part of the church. It was then that one of the pastors took a gamble and asked if I’d help with the high school students. Sometimes it’s not so much us knowing what we want or can do, but putting ourselves in a position to be noticed. Those of us with the ideas can’t do them alone and often don’t know where to look to find people to help us with the crazy plans bursting out of our head.
Beyond putting yourself in a place to be noticed is not overcomplicating what “ministry” really is. Ministry doesn’t happen during specific hours, on church property, led by a member of the pastoral staff. Think about what it is that you like to do and do that as a “ministry”. I often joke that the reason I stuck with youth ministry is because I wanted people who would paintball and play video games with me. Bible study and worship while important parts of what I do, actually take the least amount of time. The rest of the time is spent listening to how the week has gone while playing foosball or watching a movie. My wife is part of a group I call “parents without a home”. It’s a group of parents whose children don’t need them for supervision in Sabbath school anymore. They sit in the sanctuary and talk instead of blending into a lesson study somewhere. And more than anything this group is what gets my wife out of bed and to church anymore. As a Christian, every moment of every day is ministry. There are ministries just waiting to be started for people who play Ping Pong, for coffee snobs, yoga, campers, runners, gamers, movie buffs, book lovers, and even dried fruit connoisseurs. You don’t have to have grand plans or change existing ministries. Just find a few people and do something as people who love being together through your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Giving up on the church and quitting is like giving up on the government and moving to Canada.
What point does it serve? You’re only hurting yourself. Millenials in 2008 showed up in droves for one thing; HOPE! That was the idea that helped Barack Obama win the presidential election and eventually a Nobel Peace Prize. Sure there were other platform items, some good and others not so much. But what he showed is that if you care, you don’t walk away. You stand up and do something. There are those who have left the church because they gave up fighting because they felt nothing will ever change. They will read this and say “you’re wasting your time”. And on the surface I would agree. But they also haven’t caught glimpses of the future of the church the way I have. When students are not afraid to ask questions the previous generation wouldn’t even acknowledge I know something bigger is coming. So I would ask…
How much are you trying to change? The whole denomination? Or just your little piece of it, even if it’s you and three friends playing monopoly.
What are you trying to change? How? Why?
Are you looking for big, instantaneous results or sprouts from little seeds?
If you’re looking for bigger ideas to reimagine the entire church, stay tuned in the coming weeks for more ideas. In the mean time, start small and see where God takes you when you just put yourself out there.
There’s a lot of talk going on right now about young Adventists and their future in the church. I know because I’m part of it. I’m part of the demographic the church wants to keep as well as the youth leader and de facto liaison between high school students and church leadership. You’d have to be blind, ignorant, or both not to notice that the average age of people sitting in the pews on Sabbath morning is getting higher. And for all the talk about what to do and how to do it, it seems like the divide between the church and the next generation is growing larger and larger. I can confirm first hand that youth and young adults feel a growing disconnect between themselves and the church as an organization. Official statements from leadership regarding creative arts, lifestyle choices, and even worship practices have left many confused, disillusioned, and frustrated. The message received by them (intended or not) is that church doctrine precedes any other personal value or biblical teaching. If you don’t believe me, ask one of them yourself. They feel that unless they conform to what they perceive as an antiquated set of dogmas which stifle their abilities to help the church, there is no place for them. Add the lethal combination of church politics with a seemingly uncaring church body and many young people have the sense that they are not wanted, needed, or missed. With such a growing divide between “old-fashioned” traditions and contemporary beliefs, what does the future of a global, multicultural church really look like; if there is one at all?
I’ve spent 35 years in the church. I’ve seen the change from a generation who argued Ellen White first and foremost, with the scripture second. I can’t count how many Revelation and Prophecy seminars I’ve sat through. I then saw the next group come up who was sick of all of that. They pushed it aside and tried going the opposite direction. Ellen White became a hallucinating, out of touch, plagiarizer with little to no credibility. I was stuck somewhere between the two, understanding both sides but not really taking either. Then I got involved in youth ministry. And in a generation that’s been told “you are the future” but never given the chance to step up and take that role, I found where the true heart of the church was. In so doing I came to believe that the Adventist church isn’t dying; it’s evolving.
The church is evolving in the sense that it is struggling, straining, and growing into something stronger and better than what it was before. To use softer “Christian” terms you could say it’s going through a reformation or enlightenment. To use an Adventist term, you could call it “the shaking” (see Great Controversy Ch. 32). No one sets out during a time period and says “let’s call the next 50 years the renaissance and do really great things”. History takes a look back and labels the time based on the outcomes. And I believe that when history looks back at what comes next for the church it will be equal to what Luther, Calvin, and Huss did for the Reformation. I see it in the students I work with every single day. The Millennial generation isn’t leaving God. Despite what you see in the news about the growth Atheism, students who leave the church aren’t giving up on God. A while back a student of mine explained why she was Atheist after growing up in the church and spending four years in my youth group. She said “Atheism to me isn’t giving up on God and saying he doesn’t exist. It’s hitting the reset button, going back to zero, getting rid of what everyone else says, and figuring out God for myself”. With that kind of response I wanted to be an Atheist.
One high school student I mentor recently told me with tears running down her cheeks “Jesus was about love and treating people right. Religion and the church don’t care about any of that.” When pressing further to explain what she meant I found that the student wasn’t far away from God (despite the fact that she said she didn’t believe in religion anymore). She was actually closer than she realized. I saw in her response Jesus approaching Jerusalem and weeping over how they had lost their focus (Luke 19:41). It’s Isaiah lamenting over the treatment of the poor, orphaned, and widows (Isaiah 10:1-2). This generation is looking at a church that has been greatly blessed and is broken hearted that we don’t do more. They don’t care about the squabbles and intricate interpretations of doctrine. They want to extend the life-saving, peace-giving, life of Jesus in love.
What many don’t see is that hidden behind the scenes of this great evolution of Christianity that is getting ready to burst forth, are those who are actively facilitating it. They have moved past sitting with their head in their hands wondering where we will be when we’ve driven off all the young people and all the old people have died. These too are church leaders and official representatives of the Seventh-day Adventist church who understand the issues facing young people and care immensely about them. To them it’s not about declining tithe or empty church buildings as conspiracy theorists would have you believe. It’s about the kingdom of heaven. It’s about the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ, and the healthy holistic lifestyle of living with God that the Adventist church teaches. These leaders don’t want to see a generation walk away from such a life-changing force. They are trying to bring us away from just quoting Ellen White for argument sake and more correctly follow her example of “thoughtful contemplation on the life of Christ… and let the imagination grasp each scene” (Desire of Ages p.83).
The next generation will teach us so much more about what it means to be followers of Christ. These are people who will sit down at the well and talk to an outcast when church officials say not to. This is a generation that would gladly skip church to give healing to those who are hungry and thirsty, while others sit in their pew and call it “work”. To me all of this sounds very similar to someone that we have told the world we model our lives after. This generation has not only taken on that title, but are owning it in a way far better than anyone before. They want a clean slate to read the Bible, Ellen White, CS Lewis, and others without a jaded opinion. To let God speak to them and reveal Himself to them through the Holy Spirit. They want to bring our focus back on what made us who we are. They don’t want coffee shops and pyrotechnics anymore than their grandparents. Those ideas were misguided attempts. This generation is looking for genuine, authentic, relationships with other believers and most importantly with their savior. They want to use the talents that God has blessed them with to share that relationship with the world. They will not fight, but step out, let the dust settle, the pews empty, and the churches close, then come back with a vigor to re-awaken God in the hearts of man. I see it. I believe it. And can’t wait to be part of it.
There are a lot of people who look at Seventh-Day Adventists as complete lunatics. At one point I know Adventists were listed on the US governments official registry of cults. I remember when the DEA surrounded David Koresh and the Branch Dividian compound in Waco, Texas. At the time I was the only Adventist attending a non-denominational Christian high school. As we watched the news live in school and Dan Rather mentioned that they were former Seventh-Day Adventists, the entire class turned and looked at me. I’m not sure what they expected, but I definitely had some explaining to do. From having our own prophet and keeping the Jewish Sabbath to vegetarianism as a requirement for membership (it’s not by the way), Seventh-Day Adventists are unique among other protestant faiths. Most people just get us confused with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Combine the craziness with some of the seemingly antiquated dogma many won’t give up from the 19th century, it’s no wonder fewer and fewer people in North America find Adventism attractive. It’s even pushing our own young people out at a rate faster than any other denomination (I’ll save that for the next post).
So why should I even be an Adventist?
Why should I stick with a denomination that seems a bit crazy and a lot old-fashioned? If you had asked me that question a year or two ago I wouldn’t have been able to answer you. Even after spending my entire life growing up in the church, going through the school system (except high school), marrying an Adventist wife I met at an Adventist university, and working for an Adventist employer, I couldn’t have really put my finger on it. It’s taken years of searching not only my Adventistness, but my faith, personal beliefs, and Christianity all the way down to the existence of God. What I found by throwing it all out and seeking to find what belief system was at harmony with my own beliefs, I found myself coming back to Adventism. And for me it didn’t boil down to 28 fundamental beliefs. It came down to just a few things that I couldn’t turn away from.
1. God – God is infinite. Incomprehensible. Indescribable. And for many, terrifying. We like our buddy Jesus, but his dad we want nothing to do with. As I stepped outside of Christianity to sort out God, I began to see the Bible differently and for what it was meant to be. The story of a creator God desperately trying to reconcile humanity to Himself through Israel, culminating in the life of his son, Jesus. When I started breaking down Adventism, I found it shared the same belief. The Bible isn’t two different gods (old vs. new testament). It’s not a mean, unapproachable God who likes to smite people. It’s a loving, gracious, merciful God who just wants to make everything right again. But doing so takes more than the snap of his fingers.
2. Good & Evil - All the best stories have good and evil. Whether it’s mythology with Zeus and Hades or comic books with Superman and Lex Luther, mankind understands the world to be at odds. It makes sense to us. And there’s a reason for that. When looking at God and trying to understand concepts like grace, justice, and mercy you can’t get too far down that path before you ask that infinitely complicated question “Why do bad things happen to good people”. And what so many people do with a watered down gospel is ignore what the Bible spells out as a battle outside of our scope of vision. They blame God because they have not been privy to the whole story. Within that construct is what Adventists call “The Great Controversy”. By pulling all the hints dropped throughout the Bible, Adventists have pieced together a story that is far more complicated and heartbreaking than most realize. For me, understanding good and evil cleared the way for a world view through which I can address right and wrong, good and evil. Adventists don’t feel we’re at odds with God or pleading for salvation from Him when providing healthcare or disaster relief. We understand our place in a cosmic struggle for dominance for which we look forward to the conclusion.
3. Common Sense Truth – I’m not going to get into a debate here about “who has the truth” and “what is the truth”. Frankly YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH (sorry, I had to do it). But seriously, from the early founders of Adventism to many who walk through the doors today, they discovered Adventism not by attending a Revelation Seminar, but by studying their Bible. The beliefs and the church are backed up by scripture that any person can read and say “Oh, that makes sense”. It doesn’t require additional interpretation, hidden codexes, or historical documentation from the Constantine empire to explain. We go to church on Saturday. Why? Because the bible says so (Ex. 20:8). Done. Whether it’s God, prophecy, death, or the second coming the basic beliefs of the denomination at the end of the day just make sense.
4. Health – I care about my health. I work in healthcare and know the benefits of taking care of your body even though I’m not a patient giver. There’s no faith system on the planet that emphasizes a healthy lifestyle like Adventists. They are consistently mentioned in articles and research about health and longevity. And those reports aren’t people who were employed by the church. They were independent researchers who found this group of crazy people eating plenty of veggies and getting plenty of rest who happened to live longer than other people. I’m good with a system of beliefs that encourages me not just to come to church and give them my money, but to live a long and healthy life.
5. Lifestyle – How many articles have you read about trying to be content? I see more and more blogs and books coming out from people who have discovered new joy in life by living simply, finding work/life balance, and giving back; all things that Adventists excel in. Don’t believe me? Have you ever seen an Adventist mowing their yard on a Saturday? Adventists have this built in excuse to say “NO” to anything and everything one day a week. It’s time to worship, relax, and spend time with friends and family. Everyone looks forward to the weekend, but not the way Adventists do. There’s nothing more therapeutic to end your week than getting together at a friend’s home for haystacks. Then there’s giving back and taking care of others; sharing our blessings and taking care of God’s creation. You name it and there’s probably an Adventist organization that does it. Mission trips, community service, education, etc. Seventh-day Adventists look beyond their own little world to impact their community and world. All of this comes together in a faith focusing on mind, body, and spirit through faith and living.
Many people both inside and out of the church focus on all the negatives of Adventism. They see a rules oriented denomination that requires tithing and not eating lobster. They get discouraged by church politics and intergenerational conflict. I can tell you from looking at other denominations that politics will follow you and disillusion you in any church. They will all have some older, conservative group arguing with a young, progressive group over the direction of worship services. But my faith is bigger than those things. And it’s not defined by any constituent group of people. There’s a fine line between crazy and genius. And when I broke it down, trying to prove the crazy I found the genius. Sure, we’re not without a few nuts. But every family has a few quacks. But in a world filled with distractions and quick fixes Adventism isn’t just a set of beliefs about what will happen after your dead, but a holistic view of living life well, both here and for eternity. I love it. I’m proud of it. No other Christian denomination comes close. And that’s why I should, and am, a Seventh-Day Adventist.
It’s Easter Sunday. As I sit down at the computer I see posts from many of my Sunday worshipping friends celebrating Easter. Some have been up for hours attending sunrise services on a very special weekend for Christians. When I’m done writing I’ll slip into my work clothes and get cracking on my to-do list like any other Sunday. I’m sure at some point I’ll need a part or tool and be completely put out that everything is closed. This will be the norm for pretty much all of my Adventist friends today. Sure they may use it as an excuse to have brunch with family followed by an Easter Egg hunt, but really nothing deserving of a day like Easter; the climax to the story of salvation and the only reason Christianity exists in the first place.
It really came as no surprise to me yesterday when a student in my youth group asked “Why isn’t Easter a bigger deal for us (Adventists)?” I had encouraged the students to spent some time in quiet contemplation. The lights were low in the room which I had filled with incense and soft music. As they sat at the tables I read through the prophecy of Isaiah regarding the crucifixion, then concluded with chapter 81 of The Desire of Ages. Despite different methods each year my talk is always the same, without Easter none of this matters. Then came the question. The student is one who is very involved in the programs of our church; participating in performances ranging from Celtic programs on St. Patrick’s Day to what seems like an endless barrage of Christmas events. So the fact that Easter would come and go with little to no pomp was not lost to her. She continued “Most of us go to an Adventist school where they make a big deal about remembering the real reason for Christmas. But we had Good Friday off and it’s Easter weekend, yet no one even said anything this week. Almost like they didn’t care.”
That realization was one that I came to many years ago as I struggled to make sense of a faith that had become more habit than life changing. I sought to make sense not just of my Adventist beliefs, but also faith and religion in general. As I came to understand and embrace my faith, I discovered a new significance to my worship. I recognized the importance of certain elements spread amongst the varying Hebrew and Christian traditions as pieces of a greater puzzle that led to a deeper relationship with God. And Easter was the most important piece.
Turning back to not only my denomination, but also my specific church I wondered how the majesty of Easter weekend seems so lost. The answer was simpler than I thought. Easter comes from a Sunday keeping, Catholic, liturgical tradition. Everything that Adventism sought not to be when it was founded. And in it’s quest to separate itself from the Catholic church as well as other protestant denominations who kept the Sunday statute for worship, Adventism also gave up deeply symbolic and highly important elements of faith that helped us to remember and reflect more intimately on our God and savior. Adventism sought to emphasize other elements which other denominations had seemingly passed on; living modest and humble lives of service, proclaiming and preparing for the second coming, and worship on the seventh day.
But what early Adventists failed to see in setting those other traditions aside was the greater purpose in their connection to God. The fourth commandment which is the hallmark of Adventism, starts with a key word to our relationship with God “Remember”. The rainbow in the sky, Sabbath, and Passover were all set by God to help us remember what He has done in His great quest to reconcile his lost children to Him. And Easter with all of it’s pagan, Catholic, and Sunday keeping intonations is the greatest remembrance in history. Our churches have communion tables with the statement “Do Ye In Remembrance of Me” for that purpose. REMEMBER!
I see in a new generation the longing to remember in a way previous generations of Adventists did not. They skip out on communion and foot washing not because they feel it’s unimportant, but because they feel it’s more important than the once a quarter habit it’s become. It’s more significant than a checkmark they need to make sure that they are maintaining their faith appropriately. It is a deeply meaningful remembrance of their love for their God. Mixed in with the Facebook updates and selfies is a longing for significance and authenticity. And as the next generations seeks that authentic worship, they will see the significance in ignored traditions. I see students who embrace celebrating Lent and Passover. I see individuals who relish in the opportunity to bring passion plays to the campuses of Andrews University and Southern Adventist University. And I see more and more young Adventists longing to embrace Easter for what it is; the single most life-altering event in the history of the universe.
I don’t know where to begin. I’m an Adventist. I went through a stage where I wasn’t willing to say that. I didn’t want to say that. Despite growing up an Adventist and being a preacher’s kid’s kid, I got to a point where I wasn’t so sure about my adventistness. Yet after trying to be something else and denying what I knew, I realized I’m more Adventist than ever. I don’t know how to be anything else. And the problem myself and many Adventists today have is that we no longer see a future in the Adventist Church as a denomination.
Today Adventists all over North America are confused, disappointed, and frustrated. They don’t understand the recent decisions of the General Conference regarding homosexuality. Why a group of theologians who claim to share the loving gospel of Jesus, would tell us that our brothers, daughters, cousins, and friends are not allowed to come to church. We don’t understand why the GC press release shutting down the most innovative, exciting, and creative work the church has ever done would say they look forward to innovative and creative ventures in the future.
I watched the Record Keeper with my family, with my 6 and 8 year old sons, who stopped talking about Star Wars and started asking questions about the battle between good and evil. They wanted to know the story of God and Satan and Salvation more than Darth Maul and Anakin Skywalker. I watched the series with my youth group, and after each episode our conversations went on for hours. They wanted to know what we believe about the judgment and why all of this is the way it is. I’ve never felt more alive or more empowered by the church to bring students into a deeper understanding of our faith and salvation like with this film.
And with one fell swoop it’s over. With no explanation showing what the issues really were, it’s over. And I ask with these decisions “Is the General Conference intentionally trying to kill the church? What’s the point?” I don’t think they understand the harm they’ve done with the recent decisions they’ve made. That people like me who have devoted their life to helping young people understand what they believe and to stay in the church is now that much harder. Every week I talk with a high school student who tells me their faith is strong, but they see no future for themselves in this church. And today I can’t argue with them because I see no future for my own children here.
I see friends asking the question “what do I do now”. I see disappointment and disillusionment all around me as Adventists from all parts of North America try to make sense of what to do. But I know what I will do. I will not be undone by individuals so out of touch with reality; individuals who offer no explanation to their decisions and expect blind adherence without discourse. The world is a much different place from when Ellen White helped found the church.
I’m writing today not to anyone employed by a church or conference office. I’m writing as a member of the Seventh – day Adventist church who is sad, disappointed, and angry. I have spent my life in this denomination. I believe in the fundamental truths of the Seventh-Day Adventist church. I have devoted my life, often to the detriment of my professional career, to the ministry of helping young people discover and own their beliefs within the Adventist church. For my own selfishness I will not allow that work to be thrown away.
My decision is not to give up and walk away with my head hung low. It is to fight back. It is to take my church back from the hands of those who are intentionally trying to tear it apart. Selfish, politically motivated individuals, who at the end of the day are simply sinful human beings in need of a savior just like me.
I have seen the future face of our church and there is a bright light buried in the lives of the next generation. A generation that isn’t afraid to ask questions and go after their faith in a manner no previous generation has. A generation who looks to love, acceptance, and tolerance as the cornerstone to their beliefs. A generation whose creativity and authenticity will bring a renaissance to not only Adventism, but Christianity as a whole.
It is time for those of us who don’t agree with the methods laid out before us to respond. To come together and show our leaders how much we care and why we care. And to take ministry into our hands, the way that it’s meant to be The great commission was given to all of us to share the power of Jesus with those around us as only individuals using our talents for filmmaking, music, writing, yoga, counseling, teaching, kindness, love, patience… can do.
These decisions should not cause you to be disillusioned or to turn your back on the church. If so, I would beg of you to please contact me. These decisions by the official church are the call to members to wake from the habits they have formed over their life and take notice. It’s a time for all of us to truly ask ourselves what we believe and stand up for it. This isn’t a show that the church doesn’t want you. It’s a show that the church needs you more now than ever.
Is Christianity supposed to be easy? I’ve had this question on my mind a lot recently. Should that choice to live as a follower of Christ be free from inconvenience with the rest of your life? Most people would say “no”, but is that the way it actually is? Just look at our churches. The ultra-modern churches feature all the amenities necessary to woo us out of our beds on the weekend. They’ve adapted to the cultural changes to be whatever it is that an individual is looking for. Christianity, seems to do this more readily than any other religion. Don’t believe me? Try to find a contemporary Muslim worship service. How about a Hindu temple with a Starbucks café in it. Even those Christians who say they’re holding onto “traditional Christianity” are really just grasping at a time period they liked best, as if Jesus had a pipe organ and sang Amazing Grace. So when today’s culture glorifies hook-ups and one night stands it shouldn’t surprise anyone when Christians approach their relationship with Jesus as just a friend with benefits.
I recently stumbled across an article for a new website called parttimelove.co.uk. The site created by relationship author Helen Croydon targets people who want to be independent but also want to fall in love. Croydon says “We are not a no-strings website. We are for singles looking for regular partners with mutual attraction, genuine friendship, respect and a magical spark but whom have no expectations of moving in after three months and value their free time and independence”. Wait, what? So these are people who want the benefits of a committed, long-term relationship without making the personal sacrifices to maintain it on a daily basis? Makes sense to me. It sounds a lot like most of todays Christians who want the feel good assurance of salvation without the burden of everyday Christ-like living.
It’s sad that our culture has come to a point where we don’t want a continuous 24/7 relationship. That’s smothering and burdensome. We want our freedom. We don’t want responsibility, but we want assurance. It’s like renting a pet for the weekend because you just don’t want to deal with it during the week. Most of us do this already, ignoring families for work, gym, etc. all week long until the weekend when we try to buy each others love back with elaborate excursions. How many Christians do the same thing, ignoring prayer, devotion, and community service during the week then show up at elaborate worship services and hand out bulletins in order to re-enroll in their fire insurance. Deep down they really don’t want to change as much as they want to believe that they aren’t “bad people going hell”. Christianity to them is a check box, and something you own up to on a limited basis while you focus on other more visible issues of daily life. They want the relationship without the commitment and inconvenience.