Midweek Message – 13 May 2015

You have probably heard already about the Pew Research Center’s report that came out yesterday, showing that between 2007 and 2014, the number of Americans who identify as Christian dropped by nearly eight percentage points.  The numbers were even more dramatic among young people:  34% of millennials consider themselves unconnected with any religion or religious organization.
And perhaps even more startling:  25% of the people who were raised as Christians now say they are “religiously unaffiliated.”What shall we make of this report?  The Mainline Protestant Church and the Catholic Church have both lost the highest percentage of members.  We could talk about lots of things these churches have done wrong:  resistance to change, clunky bureaucratic structures, ethical lapses, being out of touch culturally.  But there’s something else going on here, something bigger than any church or institution can take responsibility or blame for.

It’s hard to name what exactly are the social and cultural reasons that people—especially young people—are resistant to organized religion.  But I don’t think it’s that they’re uninterested in holiness, or a meaningful life, or a connection with something spiritual.

David Brooks’ new book The Road to Character was Number 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List last week, 17 on Amazon’s Best Seller List.

Every year, a Wisdom 2.0 event in San Francisco brings more than 2,000 high tech workers together for a (very expensive) conference that challenges them to practice technology “in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being…and useful to the world.”

I am convinced that many of the people who buy books to help them live more meaningful lives, or who go to retreats and conferences to hear speakers on mindfulness and spirituality, want to have—are having—the same kinds of conversations you may have found in this church—about a thoughtful, open, non-self-centered way of being in the world.

I also think they’re convinced that if they came to church, they’d have to sit still, listen to one person who claims to have all the answers, and stop having those conversations.

I’m not as concerned with building up the church’s numbers as I am about letting people know that this is a place where they might find something transformative.

Has church been that kind of place for you?  How would you answer a Pew pollster who asked you about where you find spiritual sustenance?
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