Rachel Held Evans posed two interesting questions on her blog this week while informing us that she is speaking to a group about her generation of Christians. She also says that some comments might be used in her Power Point presentation to this group.
Her two questions are as follows:
1. What made you leave, or consider leaving, the Church? (or, What made you stay?)
2. In what practical ways would you like to see folks from older generations come alongside us as we evolve and make our faith our own?
First of all, I want to say that as much as I am sure she means well and I do pray she makes headway for our generation, I’d like to point out that she only represents a portion of our generation of Christians, not all of us as a whole. However, I do see the need to address such issues with the older generation as this new and upcoming generation will be, essentially, replacing theirs.
To answer her first question honestly, we need to be very clear that leaving a traditional style of church service and it’s hierarchy structure is not equivalent to leaving “The Church”. The Church is the Body of Believers and they gather in a variety of ways and each one functions uniquely. In order for a person to be declared as “leaving The Church”, they would be people who totally reject all of Christianity. Therefore she can not possibly represent these folks since she is not one of them.
Now, if she was asking why have we left the Traditional style of ‘church’ as an institution then here is what my response would be;
We first ventured away from the Traditional style of gathering for several reasons, one being that the hierarchy governance has been known to breed too much abuse of power and hinders the Body’s individuals from functioning equally.
In her second question she brings up a powerful topic and valid concern. The first thought that goes through my mind is that the older generation needs to realize that we do not all need to, nor desire to, keep on with their traditions. Here’s an example, my mother has long held and cherished traditions for how she celebrates Christmas. However, my husband and I are the parents of our own children and desire to create our own traditions. It’s not that her traditions are ‘bad’, it’s just that we would like to create our own. The traditional style of Christianity that has been passed down through the generations is not truly “of” our generation. They are from a former generation. In the Bible, there is plenty of room for each generation to create their own traditions. Most churches have a sample style of the Lord’s Supper (piece of cracker with a plastic shot glass of juice), but we certainly can observe the Supper on a larger scale if we want to. There was a time when getting baptized at the river or lake was the tradition, whereas now it’s in a heated spa on the platform of a ‘church’ building.
We do not need the older generation’s approval to continue celebrating our faith in a way that best suits each individual group. This is our freedom to follow Christ as he guides us. I don’t mean any disrespect, but this is truly our freedom as believers. It is in my opinion that this older generation can ‘come alongside us’ by respecting our unique paths in Christ and stop accusing us, harassing us, and belittling us for choosing unique ways to live by faith. Furthermore, it would be truly beneficial if they would openly express this to their congregations as well. Quite frankly, it is very discouraging to get continual attacks from people who think that holding to ancient traditions is ‘doctrine’. Should a local Body of believers choose Sunday afternoon at 2pm to start their gathering, they may do so. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that says we are required to host Sunday morning AND Sunday night gatherings. There is no time limit specified in any of the apostle’s writings. Taking an offering does not need to be public with the nudges of elbows, nor do we need to ‘vow our children to the organization’. These are just a few examples of traditions that are not commanded by God, yet many generations have come to believe they are.
If the older generations desire to encourage young people in their faith, then they can stop trying to control our paths in Christ. We are unique and many of us do not desire to be forced to take on a carbon copy of what they have done for so many years. Their traditions can grow old gracefully and die out peacefully, unless some groups would like to freely choose to take the baton of Tradition for themselves. And should there be some who do, we will respect their choice and we ask that they respect ours. It would be wonderful if some would carry on some of those traditions for those who embrace them with the nostalgia of the eras of yesteryear and at the same time I look forward to seeing how this up and coming generation creatively introduces their own.