Why people in their 20’s are struggling with church
At our church we have started a ministry to 20somethings. Recognising that the transition out of teenage years and student life into the world of work and grown-up church brings great challenges for many.
Here are the 10 most likely reasons to struggle as compiled by Rob & Hosanna who head up this new ministry.
We’ve grouped them into four categories
Anonymous & unsupported:
- You used to be known by everyone in your parents’ church; now it seems like no one knows you.
- You were previously in a church where you felt you belonged and were valued. Arriving at your new church it might have been welcoming and friendly but you rarely see the same people Sunday by Sunday.
- You used to belong to a smaller church; now you feel lost in a bigger church and don’t know what to do about it apart from find a smaller church.
Under-used & unappreciated:
- You had a lot of leadership responsibility as a student; now it feels like you are bottom of the pile again.
- You were used to leading bible studies every week; now no one seems to want you to lead any.
- You did a year working for a church and felt invested-in and trained; now you are a ‘normal’ member you feel stagnant and under-used.
Frustrated by how other people are so very different to you:
- When in a student bible-study group, everyone seemed on the same wavelength and enthusiastic; now those around you seem more tired and perhaps a little apathetic.
- You felt challenged, encouraged and you were continually gaining new knowledge and skills; now you feel that those around you are old-fashioned and you find it difficult to engage in bible-study.
- You looked forward to getting to know non-students; yet you now find that you don’t really know anyone very well and it is taking ages to get to know people at a different age and stage to you.
Lacking in time and energy:
- You used to have plenty of time to go to lots of meetings/events; now work/life is so busy you can’t manage to get to things/feel pressured to go/guilty if you don’t/too tired to engage if you do/resentful and longing for things to finish so you can get to bed
As pastor of a church with quite a few students I’m pretty often in a conversation about dating or going-out.
More than anything else it reminds me of 1) how confusing and plain wrong is the advice we receive from the world in all it’s wisdom and 2) how little advice if any I got from anyone in the church.
Coming from a non-Christian background I didn’t have a clue what ‘going-out’ was all about. Most of my contempories were pretty clueless too. We knew we were supposed to only go out with other Christians and we knew ‘how far we could go’ in terms of physical intimacy and that was about it.
I don’t remember anyone saying to me ‘I don’t think you’re ready to be anyone’s spouse so I’m not sure you’re ready to go out’. Shame they didn’t because it’s what I needed to hear.
Why do we only start to meet with couples to talk about their relationship after they’ve made the biggest decision of their lives ie to get married?
Shouldn’t we be helping them assess whether they should be in the relationship at all, asking them how it’s going, helping them work out what it means to be godly in it, and of course whether and when they should get engaged.
Well if you’re going out or thinking of going out talk to your pastor and get some advice. But in the meantime if you want to read something about how to lead well in a godly going-out relationship then this is place to start.
Two articles on the boundless.org website which get to the heart of leading well are
|What Does a Biblical Relationship Look Like? by Scott Croft|
|Stop test-driving your girlfriend by Michael Lawrence|
Where do good ideas come from, ideas that change a city? They come not out of thin air but out of the values and convictions of those who shape them.
The people who made Birmingham were moved by ideas to transform a city – but what values shaped their ideas? Andy Weatherley looks at 4 men who made Birmingham what it is and asks why did they do what they did.
(When you get to the TEDx page click on ’10:20 Andy Weatherley – Birmingham’ on the right-hand side )
Matt Perman in his excellent blog What’s Best Next has a post on 7 motives in our work. Something to get you going again on a Monday morning!
6 marks of an ageing church
Here’s his definition of a healthy vibrant and probably young church plant: ’It has vision and energy and a heart to reach the community around them.’
In a really helpful section of his closing talk Al highlighted some of the signs that a church or church-plant is growing old. Essentially he said ‘churches age as people age’.
8 marks of an ageing church
1) Loss of vision. As you get older you find it harder to see clearly – you lose your vision. So to an ageing church in which vision for reaching out is lost and contentment to be a church that cares for it’s members is suffiicient.
2) Loss of flexibility. Just as when we age physically we find it harder to touch toes, etc. so in ageing churches leadership demonstrate a lack of ability to flex and change.
Every church says it wants to grow but Stewart reminded us that very few want to change.
3) Comfort. As the body begins to creak comfort becomes a necessity and a priority. In ageing churches we are more and more concerned about the comfort of our members than anything else. A church can be slowly declining for decades and be comfortable
4) A loss of urgency. As you get older you get slower. Older churches take decades to make decisions!
5) Harder to make new friends. Ageing churches are not good at welcoming new people. When you’re young you love making new friends and you are excited about meeting new people. Older in life and you have all the friends you’re looking for. Churches reaching retirement are churches in which everyone has all the friends they want or need and new people are not going to find their way in.
6) Loss of hunger. Just as older people lose their appetite for food so an ageing church loses its appetite for challenge and growth. Decline is inevitable once the hunger has gone.
Al had two further points that I didn’t fully get down at the time but I’m working on that and will add those in due course. If you were there and you know what they were feel free to let me know!
( HT: Mez McConnell)
Finding fault, finding forgiveness – part 1
“There are two basic problems in every marriage: one is the husband and the other is the wife.” So quipped author and Church Pastor, Tim Chester.
After all how long into any marriage before we begin to realise that this is harder than we thought it would be!
There are many different factors, situations and circumstances that put pressure on any marriage but crucial to a Christian marriage is a mutual recognition that sin and failure are inevitable.
Yet, despite our theology it can be profoundly disorientating to discover that my spouse has faults I didn’t know about or expect. Somehow, at least for a time, I thought my spouse had avoided the fall.
If we are to build strong marriages we need to grasp that through our failings and faults God works out his purposes for us. They are his opportunity to manifest grace and to demonstrate his power in the weakness of a marriage between two sinners.
Three books have been particularly helpful to me in preparing to teach a seminar at our church entitled ‘finding fault, finding forgiveness’. They are When sinners Say ‘I Do’ by Dave Harvey, The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller and What did you expect? by Paul David Tripp. Each of the three are biblical, insightful and honest but above all else each are optimistic about the impact that spouses can have on each other.
Keller’s book appeals to us to see our marriages as preparation for the great marriage to come between Christ and the church. Once we understand that God has given us a spouse now to change us, to make us fit for Christ, it changes the way we face up to finding fault. Keller writes;
What if you began your marriage understanding its purpose as spiritual friendship for the journey to the new creation? What if you expected marriage to be about helping each other grow out of your sins and flaws into the new self God is creating? Then…you will roll up your sleeves and get to work.
So as we get going with a short series of posts on ‘finding fault, finding forgiveness’ let’s start with five necessary insights for facing up to sin and finding opportunity in them.
A. Five realities to remember in a marriage:
1. As sinners living together in a fallen world sin and failure are inevitable.
You might think you are going to find the perfect match but no Christian should live under any such illusion. The Christian of all people should be ready to face that fact. When we do enter marriage with realistic expectations it helps us to be ready not to run from them but to embrace them as opportunity.
2. ‘Everyone’s marriage becomes something they didn’t intend it to be.’
Paul Tripp’s observation is both obvious and yet profound. There is always an element of disappointment as well as frustration in a marriage which is flawed. When two sinners commit to spending their lives together it’s the marriage itself that will face challenges.
3. ‘Patterns of sin and failure in marriage must be met with patterns of confession and forgiveness.’
Paul Tripp again on the very way we overcome the corrosive affect of sin in a marriage relationship.Being quick to confess our sin and quick to forgive each other’s sin are necessary to building a strong marriage.
4. When we live this way real transformation is possible in a marriage.
So many marriages are damaged by our unwillingness to ‘find fault’ or to ‘find forgiveness’ but when patterns of mutual confession and mutual forgiveness begin to embed themselves in a marriage real change happens
5. None of this is possible without the gospel that supplies this power to confess and this power to forgive.
In future posts we’ll see that the ability to confess sin, freely and willingly and the power to forgive sin lie not in us but in the gospel and who we are in Christ.
The last word goes to Tim Keller:
I don’t know of anything more necessary in marriage than the ability to forgive, fully, freely, unpunishingly, from the heart.
Peter Hitchens has written an interesting piece in this weeks Spectator (sadly not available to read on-line) in which he argues that those who are opposing gay marriage are fighting the wrong battle. It is in his words ‘a stupid distraction from the main war’.
Rather than form coalitions to oppose the tiny number of gay men and women seeking to marry (relative that is to heterosexual couples) we need to face up to the fact that
‘The real zone of battle, a vast 5,000 mile front along which the forces of righteousness have retreated without counter-attacking for nearly 50 years, involves the hundreds of thousands of marriages undermined by ridiculously easy divorce, the millions of children hurt by those divorces and the increasing multitudes of homes where parents, single or in couples, have never been married at all and never will be.’
There is a lot that is right with this argument but what Hitchens overlooks is that the gay marriage argument is not really an argument about gay marriage at all. It is an argument about every marriage and an argument about gender.
1)It is an argument about every marriage. If the law is changed then that changes marriage for everybody. My marriage of 18 years is overnight redefined.
Not least it means that the centuries old, universal, understanding that marriage is inextricably linked with children will be broken for ever. This has unseen and probably unintended consequences that I will explore in a future post. But let it be known now that the redefinition of marriage will cause much harm to our children and children’s children.
2) It is an argument about the eradification of gender.
Perhaps the very last place where difference between gender is recognised is in the institution of marriage. When this is gone the language of male and female, husband and wife, father and mother will be gone, perhaps for ever.
So I share Hitchens concern – where have we been for the past 40 years? But also appeal for a recognition that there are bigger things at stake than the right or not of a few thousand gay couples per year to marry.
(HT: Lawson Hembree)
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