I don't go to church because they serve pizza.
I don't go to church to see lasers and smoke shows and sound effects I could easily get at Friday night's concert.
I don't go to church in order to feel a surge of energy, or to socialize, or to drink weak coffee.
In all honesty, my church is a humble little place. You might drive right past it, writing it off as another little hillbilly church somewhere in the hills of Maine. And you would be right. Our pastor never makes headlines (he's my dad). Our worship team will never produce an album (it's my dad on guitar and me on the keyboard). We have no youth group. If you were to get every regular attender in one service together, which is fairly uncommon, there would probably be somewhere in the neighborhood of forty people (maybe a little more, but I digress). We have no special effects on our music. We don't preach to the crowd. We're honestly unpopular in our community.
And yet God has richly blessed us.
I go to church, not because I want to get its attempts to be like the rest of culture, but because I want to be there and experience what makes it different. I go to church and I bring a water bottle and I join the adults in speaking of the things that make the Bible great. I sit in an old pew and get up and bang on that keyboard, and I pray while I do it that the music stand won't fall over and send my chord sheets flying into the congregation (it has happened). Then I listen to a forty-five minute sermon that usually has the power to convict me greatly. Right now my dad is preaching through 1 John.
I go to church because God is there, and because I want to seek his face.
I am so far from being a perfect Christian. It is still hard for me to consistently get out my Bible in the mornings and read it and pray. So often I find myself uncertain as to what I should pray. Every day I know how much further I still have to come. By God's grace, I will continue to grow. One place I go in order to do that is my church--where the truth is spoken and the Spirit is present and we put on no production, just a quiet celebration every week of what God has done for his people and how we must respond.
This, I think, is one of the places the American church fails. I have a lot of problems with the American church experience, but I'm not going to go into that right now. The thing I want to say today is that the church fails its young people. There are teenagers leaving the church in droves, and those who do come, come for one of two reasons: either their parents are making them or they genuinely want to be there.
How many teenagers actually come for the free pizza, for the video games, for the coffee? How many come to see their friends and hear themselves told they're doing just fine? We can get all of that in our homes, and usually in better quality. We come to church with questions, bucketloads of them, much of the time, but then we're told to sit down and quietly stay in the background. To go to our watered-down Bible study while the adults receive something more like real sustenance.
The problem with all of this, of course, is that teenagers need just as much sustenance as adults. We've got questions that need answering, and if our questions are not answered, we will lose faith in the Christian system that we've grown up in. Just because we were raised in the church doesn't mean we'll stay in it.
Most people recognize the name of Richard Dawkins, one of the world's most famous atheist scientists. Dawkins, too, grew up in the church, and as a teenager began to ask his pastors and other adults in the church his questions about his faith. They shrugged the questions off, telling Dawkins he should just have faith. That wasn't enough. Is that ever enough for any of us? Richard Dawkins left the church not long after. The rest, as they say, is history.
If you are growing in Christ, you have questions. It's a given. And you should have someone to answer those questions. If your church is not doing that--if they shrug off questions, especially from teenagers, there is something wrong.
I beg you, go to church. Go not because of the culture that is brought in, but because of the divergence from the culture. Go to see the face of Christ and to grow in him. Ask your questions; don't be afraid of growth. Church is a gift our Father gave us, and it's something that we must do. Living in community with other believers is vital. But it must also be a place that we can grow. I pray you find such a place.
Go to church and grow in Christ.
"Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity." (1 Tim. 4:12)
Oof! So this was a bit of a brain-dump on my part...sometimes I just need to do that. XD This is an issue that's very close to my heart--I want to see teens on fire for Jesus, and I want to see the church build them up to be able to do that rather than gently pulling them down. This is vital to us as a church.