Recently The Rev'd Tara Woodard-Lehman wrote a post for the Huffington blog site entitled, "Do we really need Church?" She, like myself and others employed by the church, said yes we do. The question was posed by a young college student who pointed out all the social and communal stuff that the church use to be so good at providing, i.e mens groups, women's groups, youth groups, concerts, plays, dinners and so on, are now offered by and even done much better by other organization and agencies outside the church. Why do we need the church for fellowship? I have my friends and our dinner parties and back yard grill-outs. Why do I need the church for meditation? I have yoga, which is part meditation, part exercise. Why do I need the church to make business contacts? I have Facebook, linkendin and other forms of social media. Why do I need to go to church to hear music or be entertained? There are small community theaters, neighborhood coffee shops and local bars who have great performers and bands!! WOW...when you put it that way...we really don't need the church!
Woodard-Lehman's response to all this was her bad memory. She stated that she and other Christians, need the church because it's easy to forget God's epic story of redmption. Essentially we go to church to tell the story and to be renewed and re-focused on what matters in our lives, but does that help with un-churced, "spiritually-minded" young adults who don't necessarily care about the Christian story of Gods redeeming acts?
I think Woodard-Lehman's response is a stereotypical main-line protestant response to a very serious question and problem that plagues all of God's main-line protestant churches. Just because we, "Love to tell the story for those who know it best." doesn't mean those who don't know it want to listen. Perhaps our inability to remember the great exploits of God is the very reason why young adults could care less.
I was pleased to read Woodard-Lehman's excitement and energy when it came to the work of Jesus Christ. She said several time that Jesus was the savior for our world...I like that!! There are a lot of PCUSA ministers who would argue with that, but that's not enough, and neither is getting together on Sunday just to hear "The Old, Old Story".... told again!
Church is important, not as a place to socialize, or to meet girls, or to hangout with friends. These are important things, but it's not what's gonna keep people coming, especially young adults...college kids. The college aged kid she spoke to in her article called himself "spiritual", but non-religious. Jesus was kind of a spiritual but non-religious guy too. Most church people are the opposite, i.e religious but non-spiritual. Jesus said that "God is Spirit and is to be worshiped in Spirit". Also he said "The Spirit moves like the wind, where ever it pleases." Jesus had some issues with the religious non spiritual people of his day, so the young adults who have issues with the church are in good company. The only reason people are going to come to church is because they believe there is something at church that cannot be obtained anywhere else, but in order to make that "thing" which is relationship with God, obvious we must heed the words of John the Baptist, "I must decrease so that he might increase." The "I" in this equation is the religious, self-righteous and institutional church...(it always seems to get in the way!!) We must optimize our spirituality and decrease our religiosity, than young people will be interested
What can the church do to optimize it's spirituality and decrease it's religious institutionalism? If you know the answer to that, then you will know the answer to the question, "Do we really need church?"This has nothing to do with worship styles, polity, or doctrine. What it really has to do with is authenticity, honestly and holiness. If a "church" experience is going to be meaningful and worth while, a church must posses all three.
I'm glad hearing the story helps Tara Woodard-Lehman and I'm glad it helps many others, but it's not the reason we need church. We need church because we need a relationship with God and this the risen body of christ is the only place we can find one.