The Church has always been challenged by the surrounding culture. What’s new is an entire cohort of with almost no spiritual formation: no Bibles in the home, no religious references at school, nothing.
A few years ago, a youth pastor I know shared a certain frustration: the kids knew so much less than she’d expected. Even the most basic stories seemed new to them, and they’d been in Sunday School for years. If the Church wasn’t coming through for the kids in its midst, how on earth could it serve those outside of it?
However much the times may change, I am certain that God is constant — “ever faithful, ever sure” as the hymn puts it. And so, regardless of the particular culture, every person comes to a point where they begin to wonder seriously about God. With no spiritual formation, where do they go with their questions? Because we must understand that “un-churched” is not the same as “anti-Church.” My observations tell me of an entire generation that is actually hungry to learn and have their questions if not answered then at least seriously entertained.
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. Luke 2:46 NRSV
As with so many challenges, this can be a huge opportunity. Not long ago we decided to restructure our Sunday mornings so that there are more entry-points for people at varying levels of familiarity with Christian worship. We began to take discipleship seriously, inviting not just newcomers but long-time members to study, discuss, grow and serve. In the process we have discovered how often a question that seems naïve leads to rich re-discovery by those ”in the know.”
This should be no surprise. In the gospels we see Jesus being addressed as “Teacher” and his closest friends being brought up short again and again with confounding experiences that lead to new insights. Constant learning seems to be the way of it for those who follow Jesus!
In His Service,
The Rev. Canon Dr. D. V. MacDonald