Jaded James; Reaching a De-churched Culture

James and I first met on a Tuesday morning. As I sat in a comfy chair, drinking coffee with some pastor buddies, James was introduced by my youth pastor. It was obvious that hanging out with four pastors wasn’t a part of the normal routine for this 24-year old young man, but he smiled and sat in as we continued our conversation.

As we were sharing ways our congregations were shifting to outward-focus in our ministries, I shared with the group about our upcoming congregation-wide involvement in national “Faith In Action Sunday (Oct. 11, 2009).” James’ interest in hearing about a church actually going into the community on a Sunday morning, instead of retreating from it, was obvious.

“You mean you would not have church… but you would go serve others?” James asked. When I confirmed that this is indeed what we’re planning, his response spoke volumes, “This is the most refreshing view of religion I’ve ever heard!”

Later, James shared with me that he had been brought up Catholic, and that his understanding of church was all irrelevant ritual. He admitted to being jaded. His view of Christianity was one of “come here and be like us or else go away.” It was easy to see why James had chosen to “de-church” himself. He cares about issues and people, but has no stomach for self-indulgence and self-righteousness prevalent in many churches.

Because we were doing something that James found intriguing, he decided to visit our Sunday worship gathering. Afterwards he shared with me that he was expecting to be bored and ignored, but his experience was quite the opposite. What James found is what I believe young adults who have de-churched themselves are seeking – love and acceptance just as they are, immediate and genuine love for people, and teaching that both explores the ancient context of Scripture and application for right here, right now.

In order to reach the de-churched segment of emerging unchurched generations, we must address the issues contributing to the decision to walk away from church in the first place. These issues may look different from person to person and from community to community, but a quick glance at young adults today shows us two things: 1) they need to contribute, and 2) they need to be kept interested. Addressing these two things means that church members will have to surrender some measure of control of ministry methods, and become life-long students of the ever-changing culture.

Could a good place to start be with your own de-churched family members? Why not ask your kids why they don’t go to church?

Pastor Steve Nelson – Oaklawn Church of God, Hot Springs, AR. Steve says: “Oaklawn is a group of Christ-followers doing our best to do the messy work of merging faith, family, and culture. No perfect people allowed!”

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