Witnessing to the world: We value an active and loving witness for Christ to all people.
Tom, one of the new twentysomethings at our church, had a smile when I approached him Sunday morning. “I love your radio program,” he exclaimed as we launched into an excited discussion about scientific discovery, astronomical events, and the likelihood of life occurring on any given planet. Astrobiology may seem like an odd topic of conversation five minutes prior to a worship service, but the absence of dialogue like this just may be driving many young people away from the Church.
Researchers have found that the Church is losing the younger generations, who are asking questions like, Is it possible for my logical belief in science to coexist with my faith in Jesus? and, When I have doubts about faith, is it ok to express them?
Sometimes, churches are outright hostile to these issues; however, most seem to be simply disinterested or withdrawn about them. Unfortunately, both responses can lead people to believe the Church is dogmatic, unwelcoming, or antagonistic. As a result, the Church’s prophetic voice is not being heard by many young people.
So, I’d like to propose a new church growth strategy: embrace questions, promote scientific discussions, invite young people to take on important roles, and welcome them to challenge assumptions about how faith works in today’s culture. Basically, let’s try to connect with a generation that feels like the Church no longer has answers to their daily lives.
For example, we at Revolution Church host a radio program with the tagline “Where faith and reason meet.” The goal is to examine archeology, mathematics, and other hard sciences to show that logic and faith can complement, stimulate, and offer insight into each other. It has been a powerful draw for many young people.
Another way we’ve attempted to welcome young people (and enrich our church as a whole) is to actually invite people to text me questions, challenges, or witty comments during the sermon. The messages arrive directly on stage, allowing me to respond to them on the spot. Since we began this a couple years ago, we’ve had over 1,200 text messages sent in from our relatively small church.
Revolution Church really isn’t that different from yours, in terms of what we believe and teach. But attracting young people is something we’ve done well. I believe one reason is that we not only accept, but encourage their questions and challenges. One twentysomething, Jeremy, recently showed up at our church wide-eyed after listening to our radio program. It took him only a couple weeks to sign up for the membership class, explaining, “I’ve never been to a church like this before!”
The Church need not fear questions; we should love them. When younger generations are asking questions, that means they’re still engaging with the Church, and we have a chance to demonstrate the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.