Florence Congregational Church
Monday, May 28, 2018
A Place to Connect

Pastor's Corner - March 2017

 

What will you be giving up for Lent??  Or  What will you be starting new for Lent??

Rather than sacrificing something for Lent — especially something easy and spiritually insignificant, such as chocolate — Patty Kirk, in Guideposts magazine, suggests finding new ways to indulge in God’s presence. Surely one can do this by having extra devotions or attending Lenten worship services. But Kirk offers these ideas: 

• Spend time with others, extending generosity and compassion. Remember Jesus’ promise that when you care for others, you care for him (Matthew 25:31-46).

• Pray for the “little things,” coming before God in childlike trust and feeling peace.

• Watch attentively for God’s answers to prayer, and receive them as reminders of his presence.

• Turn anxiety into prayer. As you frame concerns as prayers and entrust them to God, you “sacrifice” the tendency to wallow in worry.

“God gave up his only Son for us. ... What are you willing to give up?” A worthy consequence to that question is “What will you take on?” What can you do for God’s kingdom during this season of reflection and recommitment?

 

Some of us have decided that we will give up going out to eat at restaurants and take-out foods for Lent. What we will take on is sharing in a pot-luck style themed meal and a time of fellowship and family every Wednesday during Lent, beginning on March 1st at 6pm. Please join us; reach out into the community and invite a friend or neighbor.

 

Many of you may not subscribe to or visit the very popular social media site, Facebook, but you have heard me reference it a lot. Along with keeping up with what’s going on with family and friends thru conversations and photo uploads, and playing games, you can learn a lot about the social fabric of today’s world on the site. Recently, there was a post originated from “Faith it” that speaks to the declining Christian church in America. The article is titled “59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out – And They’re Trying to Tell Us Why” by Sam Eaton.


Sam writes:

I want to be head-over-heals for church like the unshakable Ned Flanders. I want to send global, sky-writing airplanes telling the life-changing that happens beneath the steeple. I want to install a police microphone on top of my car and cruise the streets screaming to the masses about the magical Utopian community of believers waiting for them just down the street. I desperately want to feel this way about church, but I don’t. Not even a little bit. In fact, like much of my generation, I feel the complete opposite.

Turns out I identify more with Maria from the Sound of Music staring out the abbey window, longing to be free. It seems all-to-often our churches are actually causing more damage than good, and the statistics are showing a staggering number of millennials have taken note. According to this study (and many others like it) church attendance and impressions of the church are the lowest in recent history, and most dramatic among millennials described as 22-35-year-olds.

 Only 2 in 10 Americans under 30 believe attending church is important or worthwhile (an all-time low).

 59 percent of millennials raised in a church have dropped out.

 35 percent of millennials have an anti-church stance, believing the church does more harm than good.

 Millennials are the least likely age group of anyone to attend church (by far).

Despite the steep drop-off in millennials, most churches seem to be continuing on with business as usual. Sure, maybe they add a food truck here or a bowling night there, but no one seems to be reacting with any level of concern that matches these staggering statistics. Where is the task-force searching for the lost generation? Where is the introspective reflection necessary when 1/3 of a generation is anti-church? The truth is no one has asked me why millennials don’t like church. Luckily, as a public school teacher, I am highly skilled at answering questions before they’re asked. It’s a gift really. So, at the risk of being excommunicated, here is the metaphorical nailing of my own 12 theses to the wooden door of the American, Millennial-less Church.

 

1. Nobody’s Listening to Us... value voice and receptivity above all else. When a church forges ahead without ever asking for our input we get the message loud and clear; Nobody cares what we think. Why then, should we blindly serve an institution that we cannot change or shape?

2. We’re Sick of Hearing About Values & Mission Statements... Sweet Moses people, give it a rest. Of course, as an organization it’s important to be moving in the same direction, but that should be easier for Christians than anyone because we already have a leader to follow. Jesus was insanely clear about our purpose on earth: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

3. Helping the Poor is Not a Priority... My heart is broken for how radically self-centered and utterly American our institution has become. Let’s clock the number of hours the average church attender spends in “church-type” activities. Bible studies, meetings, groups, social functions, book clubs, planning meetings, talking about building community, discuss a new mission statement... Now let’s clock the number of hours spend serving the least of these. Oooooo, awkward.

4. We’re Tired of You Blaming the Culture... From Elvis’ hips to rap music, from Footloose to “tweeting,” every older generation comes to the same conclusion: The world is going to pot faster that the state of Colorado. We’re aware of the down-falls of the culture – believe it or not we are actually living in it too.

5. The “You Can’t Sit With Us” Affect... There is this life-changing movie that all humans must see, regardless of gender. The film is of course the 2004 classic, Mean Girls. In the film, the most popular girl in school forgets to wear pink on Wednesday (a cardinal sin), to which Gretchen Weiners screams, “You can’t sit with us!” Today, my mom said to me, “Church has always felt exclusive and ‘cliquey,’ like high school.” With sadness in her voice she continued, “and I’ve never been good at that game so I stopped playing.” Until the church finds a way to be radically kinder and more compassionate than the world at large, we tell outsiders they’re better off on their own. And the truth is, many times they are.


For an explanation of the remaining seven points of theses, speak to me; I have a handout

6. Distrust and Misallocation of Resources...

7. We Want to Be Mentored, Not Preached At...

8. We Want to Feel Valued...

9. We Want You to Talk to Us About Controversial Issues (Because No One Is)...

10. The Public Perception...

11. Stop Talking About Us (Unless You’re Actually Going to Do Something)...

12. You’re Failing to Adopt...


He summarizes: The Truth is, church, it’s your move. Decide if millennials actually matter to youand let us know. In the meantime, we’ll be over here in our sweatpants listening to podcasts, serving the poor and agreeing with public opinion that perhaps church isn’t as important or worthwhile as our parents have led us to believe.

About the Author: Sam Eaton is a writer, speaker, and in-progress author who’s in love with all things Jesus, laughter, adventure, hilarious dance parties and vulnerability. Sam is also the founder of Recklessly Alive Ministries, a mental health and suicide-prevention ministry sprinting towards a world with zero deaths from suicide.


Many of you church members and newsletter readers have heard me share many of these theses points in sermons over the past few years as I have repeatedly shared Jesus summary of the commandments, our need to put action (hands and feet) to our words. Most everything I read about the younger generation (including the thoughts and words of our two daughters and grandchildren) notes the need for action, engagement and connection. Young people are not pew sitters, they are doers, movers, and shakers of social justice and reform.

I hope you take the time to read and reflect upon Sam’s theses and in turn ask me for the others. By the way, this posting has generated thousands of Facebook responses. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Blessings, π Pastor Irv


 

 
 

Florence Congregational Church • 130 Pine Street, Florence, Massachusetts 01062 • 413.584.1325