I have been following Christ for a long while now. I became a Christian when I was 5-years-old, reading a storybook Bible with my mom. I asked her how to get to heaven, she explained to me who Jesus was and what He did, I understood fully in that beautiful childlike way, and I haven’t looked back since. As an almost lifelong Christian, I have experienced many different types of churches, worship services, sermons, Bible studies, youth groups, healing rooms, prayer nights, mission trips, testimonies, summer camps, and honest encounters with Jesus.
I, like many who grew up in the Church, have been steadily entrenched in Christianity for most of my life. But somewhere along the way, my heart has changed towards my Church. As a 20-something post-grad, as a member of THE coveted generation for churches—the generation that is leaving the Church in droves—I have a confession: I feel disconnected.
Before I go on, I will make a clear and important point: my heart has not changed towards Jesus. I deeply and fully believe in Jesus. I trust wholeheartedly that God exists and that the Bible is real and that one day many years ago a Jewish rabbi died a gruesome death to bring me and the rest of humanity into beautiful freedom. My faith in that truth is unwavering.
Yet in the past few years, I have felt my heart growing colder towards to the rhetoric surrounding the truth I cling to. I sense myself becoming cynical and bitter and angry towards the Church. I find myself annoyed with other Christians who have a rosier outlook on the simplicity of following Jesus as a corporate body. Because sometimes it feels like we’re missing IT as a corporate Church. As a 20-something, I don’t feel like the Church is speaking to me anymore or teaching me new things about the Lord.
The Disconnection of a Long-Time Believer
Now I often feel disconnected. It’s almost as if I’ve grown weary of hearing similar sermons so many times and I’ve checked out. A couple of weeks ago, my mom and I were discussing the young adult perspective towards Bible studies and I honestly told her I had little desire in attending a Bible study, because what were they going to tell me that I didn’t already know? This is prideful and boastful and ignorant and just plain wrong, of course. My mother’s responded: “Well I’ve been studying for over 30 years now, and I still have a lot to learn” and of course she is right. There is so much more for me to learn, but I don’t know where to turn for growth.
Because, honestly, many of the prayer groups and Bible studies and Sunday school classes aimed at 20-somethings feel like they’re teaching the same thing over and over again. The same thing I learned that night I read a picturebook with my mom and my life changed: that Jesus is very important. Jesus changes the game. I believe this. I cling to this. But I can no longer sit in a folding chair in a dimly lit auditorium on Sunday morning and hear that message again.
Because the standard sermon—you know the one I’m talking about, the one that stays on the surface of the gospel and tells the familiar story written on the heart of every man and woman living on this earth whether they recognize it or not—no longer edifies my soul. I long nostalgically for the Sundays of my past, when the gospel would hit me afresh, suddenly, and crash over me like a friendly wave. Something would click in a new way—ahh that is why it really matters, that is what He really did, how sweet and good and new it is.
An Un-engaged Generation
But a moment like this has not happened in my soul for a long while now. There is still such depth to Jesus that I do not know and will never know on this earth. Yet it feels like every Christian surrounding I find myself in is no longer speaking to these mysteries or the searching nature of my heart. It seems like we’re repeating the same sermon over and over again. Maybe this is my own cynicism speaking more than anything else. Maybe I need to get through this funk on my own. But maybe, as a family, we need to think about how we’re responding to my generation. Many in my generation grew up so FULLY in the church, immersed in Christian culture and youth groups and summer camps from such a young age, in a way that seems different from the coming-of-age experiences of our parents and grandparents.
As a family, do we need to re-imagine how we’re connecting with these people? My people. The 20-something believers who suddenly find that the warmth and spark of spiritually edifying community or teaching seems just a bit dimmer. How do we shepherd the 20-somethings who have spent their lives leading Bible studies, going on mission trips, diligently spending daily “quiet” time with the Lord? How do we shepherd the 20-somethings who have always been leaders in their Christian communities and have always understood the gospel? How do we shepherd this new generation of aging believers living in a disconnected church? Who will shepherd them?
Won’t someone please shepherd us?
Annie is a recent graduate of the University of Texas, who has since moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. In addition to dealing with Longhorn-haters, she also works at a magazine and drinks at least a pot of coffee a day. Annie loves mentoring women especially, and spends a lot of time thinking about the place of women in the Church.