Spiritual But Not Religous (Pt. 1)
I had a conversation not that long ago with a young woman who used to go to church, but who left some time ago, and hasn't been back.
She had a host of reasons: she had been hurt by a pastor, the teachings of her church were too legalistic, the people in her church were mean-spirited, all her church worried about was money... it was a long list.
"I don't really need church all that much," she told me. "I don't miss it at all, honestly. I can be spiritual without all of the religion."
From 2007 to 2014 the percentage of Americans who self-identified as not having any religious affiliation rose from 16% to 23%. That number continues to rise each year, with the highest concentration among those in the Millenial generation (those born from 1981-1996) at 35%.
To break this down even more dramatically. Since 2012, 7.5 million Americans have "lost their religion." The fastest growing "religion" in America is none.
Despite the seeming (and arguably artificially inflated) success of so-called mega churches, overall church attendance in America is declining at a rapid and alarming pace. Why? What is happening that is causing this mass exodus from the Church?
If you go back through the list of reasons my young friend gave, you will start to see a pattern. Almost every one of those reasons she gave for leaving the church was because of things that people within the church had done, or failed to do.
Let's face it, the Church is made up of people, and people are frail, broken, messed up and not all that trustworthy. People in the church will let us down. And if we're being completely honest, far too many of us focus on people in the Church rather than the reason the Church exists--namely, Jesus himself.
And if we are being brutally honest, we have to lump ourselves in with the people in the Church we're talking about.
Psalm 118:9 has these wise words: "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in human beings..."
If we stand a chance at stemming the flood of people who seem to be exiting the Church and not returning--we will absolutely, without a doubt need to start focusing on Jesus. The Jesus we need to share with the world can't be the sanitized, Americanized, politicized Jesus. The Jesus that we need to share is the the very Jesus we find in the Gospels.
Because it's Jesus and Jesus alone that can save, redeem, transform and make us and all of Creation new.
May you find ways today to both know and show Jesus to the world. May you take refuge in Jesus and cast all your trust and hope on him, rather than on the frailty of human beings. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.