A couple of weeks ago, writer and blogger Rachel Evans wrote a piece for CNN on why the millennials might be leaving the church. (Last week, she wrote another article for CNN on why the millennials need the church.)
One of her arguments was that substance is more important than style.
Which I fully agree.
Different music. Edgier liturgy (…whatever that really refers to…). Pastors in jeans. Light shows with praise. Coffee allowed in sanctuary. Those are all “style” things, to me.
But what's the point of doing “newer” things when at the heart of the church is something that they've been doing for decades?
What's the point of incorporating drums into our worship, yet we don't allow the people the freedom to think; to question; to challenge; to doubt?
What's the point of doing things “edgier” if we don't challenge people to think about their faith and instead of telling people what and how to believe from the pulpit?
What's the point of having cool coffee shops and a cool vibe in the sanctuary, if we're not open to people with different life styles and different life philosophies?
Changing the style of the church (and nothing more) and waiting for people to come isn't too much different from changing the color of the paint of the church. We've only changed the exterior.
One of the things that we have engaged in, as UMC, is the old bait and switch. Rethink church we say. What if church was a verb, we ask while we show video footage of kids skateboarding at a skate park. Really cool concepts, mind you. But, when we step into a random UMC local church, we'll more likely find something that's far from a community that's rethinking church.
Cool commerical. Cool advertisment. But, what's the point of spending millions of dollars on advertisement, but still have the same churches that have done the same thing over and over for years and years and hoping for different results?
It's another proverbial chocolate covered poop.
I think style is important. I experience God more in a drum and guitar style of worship than in an organ led worship.
But, changing only the style of the church is only addressing the tip of the iceburg.
We also need to think about addressing how we approach church, how we do church, and, most importantly, how we simply be church.
I don't have any answers. I know more of what I don't know. However, I do know that I'm tired of pastors (and Christians) telling me how to believe and what to believe. Or telling me their way is the best way of being a Christian. I also tire of not being able to doubt. Or not being able to challenge traditional doctrines and thoughts without being looked at like I'm a heretic. I tire of being promised a safe place to explore, but really, it's a more of a place to be indoctrined.
I love the church. I love the United Methodist Church (otherwise, I wouldn't have stuck around). But, we have to realize that our problems lie deeper than our outdated style.