There's a lot of discussion at the moment about leaving the church and/or The Church. From "I'm a Millenial and I'm Not Leaving The Church" to "Church, Here's Why People Are Leaving You" and many more. The fact is that there are a lot of people walking out church doors right now, almost an exodus of sorts, and those left behind are scrambling to understand why and those doing the leaving are trying to explain it all; the problem being that misunderstanding played a huge part in the break up that lead to the leaving in the first place, and so misunderstanding continues. Perhaps I will only add to the noise and confusion.
It irks me when people talk down about generations, especially this present generation; when they go on rants about the moral demise and the woes and horrors that the corporate "we" engage in, the ways we fail and don't measure up. I see what they're talking about, I just don't see it on the scale that they do. And perhaps it's because I've surrounded myself with a minority who give me great reason to hope, but nevertheless I hope and I have great hope for this present generation. You may see shadows but I see the light encapsulating the shadows and it is bright and it is beautiful and is in unexpected unforseen places.
So yes, many of this present generation are walking out church doors and no one can say for sure if they've left THE Church with a capital 'C' (As in the global, universal, Bride-of-Christ Church) or if they've just left that particular church with a lowercase 'c' (as in a singular community of believers). And I get how that's scary, not knowing if there's a reason or if there's a problem and not knowing what those would even be. I get why people are worried for their friends and family. People are walking out scorned, huffing and puffing, and you're afraid they're never coming back; you're afraid that walking out those doors means they're turning their back on God. You're afraid this is all permanent.
Maybe for some it is, maybe I'm just making generalizations for the minority, but my great hope in this generation has lead me to believe that they, we, are walking out church doors and not forever forsaking His Church. Because there seems to be a common thread in every huff and puff and it is a deep frustration with the way things are being done, something isn't working like it used to and people are beginning to notice. Yes people are being burned by the church and they are limping out wounded and probably bitter. But just as Brennan Manning points out in his book, "Abba's Child", "Often breakdowns lead to breakthroughs." And maybe it was pain that was the final straw, but that pain is bringing awareness to a broken peg in the system and that awareness will bring breakthrough.
I don't think people are leaving His Church and forsaking God. I think people are forsaking an attitude within the churches and are finding God in the wilderness' they fled to. And I think they are waiting and willing to rebuild when the time is right.
For generations now We, His Church, have been growing under a try harder gospel and backs are finally starting to break under the tremendous weight that we ourselves have continually applied in conscious and subconscious attempts to earn His favor, grace, forgiveness, and pleasure; that inheritance We ran off with to go and make it on Our own is finally running out, forcing Us to go back to the Father for the grace We forsook. People are seeing and feeling the effects of the cracks, the holes in the system, and they're leaving huffing and puffing. I hope and pray that this huffing and puffing is just a sample of the wind coming from the East which will blow this self-made house of straw down that He may rebuild us and restore us to our destined foundation of utter, undeniable, unshakable, unquenchable grace that we may be made into the beautiful Bride He beholds in His faithful, unwavering, hope-filled gaze.
And again, maybe I'm making generalizations for the minority, but I believe people are finding and experiencing a greater gospel than the one that tells us to accept Jesus into our hearts, serve Him and please Him, and then you'll go to heaven; something greater than the one that tells you to work hard, fake it till you make it, and sacrifice again and again; something greater than the one that tells you this life is for naught and then lists the rules and expectations that God demands you obey and fulfill. I believe that people are finding something deeper, more whollistic, more intimate, and vivacious and, unfortunately, it is in so many churches where the scent of that rapturous encounter becomes so faint that they have to follow that scent out the doors of your church rather than being drawn by it right to the Table of Communion.
Change is coming. It has to come. My point in all this is: don't count out the Wanderers, We are waiting and watching the hand of He Who has promised to make all things new. And Wanderers, don't count out the Lingerers, they too are waiting and watching the hand of He Who has promised to make all things new. And perhaps that too is a generalization, but I cannot help it- I have great hope in this present generation. I have great hope for His Church and our churches.