Dude, Do Young Adults Really Want a Relevant Church?

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What young people say they want in their 20s is not necessarily what they want 10 years later.

A young writer has some advice for church leaders trying desperately to attract and retain young people: Change carefully and wisely.

What young people say they want in their 20s is not necessarily what they want 10 years later.

When I came back to church after a faith crisis in my early 20s, the first one I attended regularly was a place called Praxis. It was the kind of church where the young, hip pastor hoisted an infant into his arms and said with sincerity, “Dude, I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

The entire service had an air of informality. We sat in folding chairs, sang rock-anthem praise and took clergy-free, buffet-style communion. Once a month, the pastor would point to a table at the back of the open-rafter sanctuary and invite us to “serve ourselves” if we felt so compelled.

For two years, my husband and I attended Praxis while he did graduate work at Arizona State University and I worked as a documentary producer. As someone who had defected from the church at age 23, I thought it was the perfect place for me: a young, urban church located four blocks from Casey Moore’s Irish Pub, an unchurchy church with a mix of sacred tradition and secular trend.

I’m not the first person ever to go low-church, and Praxis isn’t the first institution to pursue that hard-to-get demographic: young people.

Across America today, thousands of clergy and congregations—even entire denominations—are running scared, desperately trying to convince their youth that faith and church are culturally relevant, forward-looking and alive.

For some, the instinct is to radically alter the old model: out with the organ, in with the Fender.

But as someone who left the mainstream church and eventually returned, I’d like to offer a word of advice to those who are so inclined: don’t.

Or at least proceed with caution. Change carefully, change wisely, with thoughtfulness and deliberation. What young people say we want in our 20s is not necessarily what we want 10 years later.

Churches, of course, are right to worry. They’ve been losing young people like me for years.

A study released last fall by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that not just liberal mainline Protestants but also more conservative evangelical and “born-again” Protestants are abandoning their religious attachments.

Our complaints against the church know no bounds: We don’t like the politics. We want authenticity and openness. We demand a particular worship aesthetic.

Andrea  Palpant Dilley Andrea Palpant Dilley grew up in Kenya as the daughter of Quaker missionaries and spent the rest of her childhood in the Pacific Northwest. Her memoir, “Faith and Other Flat Tires: Searching for God on the Rough Road of Doubt ” (Zondervan), tells the story of her faith journey.

More from Andrea Palpant Dilley or visit Andrea at http://andreapalpantdilley.com/

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  • Joe

    Thanks Andrea. I really relate to your article. When I finished high school, I joined a church where sermons were so “hot” none of the congregants would be on their seats. The ‘Praise and Worship” sessions were something that revelers in the nearby pub would easily join in…10 years later when I am in my 31st year, we deliberately scanned through the entire city of Nairobi, Kenya looking for a small,formal,”dignified” church where church services “are solemn and somber”! This is what we feel helps us and our child to connect to God and answers to our deep longing for God! Thanks that you realize that the “raving and ranting” church could have its niche but …it should not insist on changing too much!

    • Shaunthebaptist

      Styles, styles, styles….to experience authentic worship is to have the church come ready worship with any styles that have lyrics that align with the Word of God. Pursue unity and maturity in your church. That’s the dynamic that exposes the work of Christ Spirit and draws people to know what supernaturally is happening there. Be unique both spontaneous and orderly!

  • msj0914

    Finally….common sense….

  • Always Wondering

    “Out with the organ and in with the Fender” is so 1970s. There were as many objections to bringing organs into churches as there were for electric guitars a couple hundred years ago. That the church reflects the culture and generational proclivities is also historic Christianity. The objections to Fanny Crosby’s hymns when she wrote them were that they were too much like drinking songs. The church will lose the great artists, the Charles Wesleys and the Isaac Watts of our generation if we insist on them creating from within tightly prescribed and unevolved frameworks.

    Agreed that the church should not bend itself out of shape to meet the Millenials. This article points that up indirectly with “I feel . . . I miss . . .” In my 50s and yet in a church that is growing exponentially among the 20s and 30s demographic, one of the first things we teach in our discipleship courses is to take the ‘I’ out of your Christianity. It is not about you. Young people in our community are being discipled in droves because they are attracted by what has always been true, the glory of the cross of Christ and His invitation to live for things bigger than yourself.

  • Concerned

    Thanks for the caution. I would also like to caution you. However you choose to practice your faith in Jesus Christ, do so scripturally. Many of the practices you mentioned in your article are not practiced in many churches because they are not founded biblically.

    • Ben C

      Right on the money! You said how i feel perfectly.

  • RAMJR

    Connecting to God, is not the goal of many churches these days. The ‘pomp and circumstances’ is about flashing a building or the suits and dresses, than the actual hearts that are what God is after.
    The fancy robes worn by ministers and choir look good on television or those watching in attendance, but the reason for ‘robes’ being worn traditionally was because the poor that had no fine clothes were made to fill a part, by those that put on robes to hide their wealth, and focus that God is not impressed with status.
    The stained glass windows, that were first put in churches, were placed to attract people to find out more. They were reflections of Bible stories to create interests, but the goal wasn’t to accept sin and sinful nature inside the church, in a nature that had people claiming immorality of God.
    Much like the Apostle Paul had to deal with churches being turned apostate, calling out leadership as immoral, even to the point communion became a value of taking the wine to get drunk and sexual immorality celebrated. Many churches are a reflection of that value, in the fact marriage was the only value of a man and woman allowed by God to have sex. Sex, created by God, had a purpose He gave…and man/woman learns to pervert and follow the lusts/sins of mankind.
    The truth that sets us free, can only be given in churches that are willing to read what God gave us to know, to understand, to struggle with our fleshly nature from within…the sanctification process we will all be put through by God, to get to the truth within our lives.
    In truth, with all of the distractions we have today, it is easy to see how so many really don’t, even in churches, know God or obey what He commands His children. In that value, many claiming to be Christians, are the wolves we are warned of an tares/weeds that look just like the wheat that Jesus parable warns we won’t know who really is, by word and or deed, only God knows our hearts, that either belong to Him, or to Satan, the Great Deceiver.
    We can’t ‘water down’ the Commandments, the warnings, the tough love, the instructions, the teachings and the standards that God gives to those that are truly His. Sin has to be called out, but The Holy Spirit will do that in churches that stand in teaching the Bible.

  • Peter Mahoney

    Yet another look into the journey of the consumer driven mentality that drives pastors and churches to chase after elusive demographic groups and relevancy (whatever that is).

    I fail to see how this relates to Biblical Christianity or what good church should be/looks like. This kind of story begs the question of what it means to live in a culture that is “over churched” where people are “under discipled”. It all leads to the thinking that church exists for me… to meet my needs… to fulfill my life… which of course is catagorically and catastrophically wrong.

    When Christians embrace the true purpose of the church,release their own selfish pursuits, and chase after the only demographic that matters… there will be a resurgence. Until then articles like this will abound.

  • dr.keithcox

    Liturgy is the re-enactment of the gospel story. When you refer to “postmodern” faith you are referring to an epistemology that is essentially “post-story.” The latest generation has (rightly) rejected the story their parents lived their lives by — the “modern” story of inevitable progress toward liberation and enlightenment through reason and technology. “Postmodernism” is, more than anything else, a condition of being without a story. If we recognize this, we can recognize that the hunger of this and every generation is to be located within a story that makes sense and gives life meaning, The gospel is that story. It doesn’t need to be invented, it needs to be remembered. And lived. The gospel, when authentic, turns seekers from religious consumers to world changing actors. The gospel can save the world. And it will. Liturgy is the reenactment of the story in which we find the meaning of our lives. It doesn’t have to be “high” or “low.” It has to be authentic. One of the preachers I used to admire once said, “If the only thing between you and the creator of the universe is the music, the problem’s not the music.”

  • Brian

    It’s not just about people who grew up in the church coming back. It’s about reaching the MILLIONS of people that have never walked through a church’s doors. If we want to reach them, the tradition and liturgy isn’t going to do it. Regardless of your church tradition….that’s all it is, is tradition. It isn’t a requirement of the Gospel. it is how we grew up worshipping, and what we are used to. But it isn’t even close to what is needed to reach the lost in our communities.
    If we demand people accept both Jesus AND our traditions we use to worship….we are nothing more than pharisees, adding to God’s requirements for salvation the things that we also desire. THAT is why people leave our churches, and THAT is why the lost stay that way. People DO want Jesus….they just don’t want all the other “religious stuff” that comes with Him in most churches….

  • Ben C

    I really disagree with all of this. Why would you want to cling to old religous ritual? To give the humanistic side of you the pleasure of feeling safe in your little ritualistic comfort zone, thats why. The Church should’nt practice ritual. They need to reach the lost, and right now the lost are the younger generation. Good for Praxis for being 4 blocks away from the pub! Why should we shun the world? We need to reach the world! Jesus should be our model for the church.

    • Joe Heiliger

      Did you read the whole article? On the last page she says this…

      “Praxis and churches like it have a place—they draw people who would
      otherwise never set foot in church, people who have a legitimate
      contemporary aesthetic that appreciates informality and mainstream
      music.”

      She’s not saying we need to go backwards, but simply that there is room at the table for everyone.

      • Ben C

        I read the whole thing, but that little bit didnt stand out to me because of how strongly i felt about how she posed her opinion lol. I guess i should pay better attention lol. But still, it seems to me like she is belittling all of the Praxis churches. They are the churches we need most.

    • Kurt Bowers

      It is quite ironic that you call “old religious ritual” humanistic and “the pleasure of feeling safe in your little ritualistic comfort zone”. That is EXACTLY what the “contemporary” or “relevant” practice of using the church’s corporate worship as evangelism accomplishes! Did Jesus say “go ye therefore into all the world” or “do whatever it takes to attract people into your church so you don’t have to leave your safe little air conditioned comfort zones”? It’s lazy, dishonest and mis-labeled christianity disguised as “reaching the unchurched”. Every practice becomes a ritual and a tradition to someone. Even the “contemporary” and “relevant” church practices represent a “tradition” that people are clinging to. In reality it’s just one tradition lording over another one in self righteous indignation using strong arm tactics meant to belittle and shame the other side into submission. On the other hand, maybe we should seriously consult the Bibe to discover God’s directives for the way we should worship Him? By the way, the “younger generation” are not the only lost!

  • Jason

    If you have a congregation of believers who truly worship God together, it doesn’t matter what style they do it. The reason people leave “relevant” churches is that they don’t want contrived, they want real.

  • Mar Komus

    “But the next generation might rebuild it. They might unearth the altar,
    the chalice and the vestments and find them not medieval, but enduring.
    They might uncover the Book of Common Prayer and find it anything but
    common.”

    Yes, truly. They might. But then what? The generation that finds so much strength in meeting God through these things will have grandchildren who will once again tear down all they held so dear. They’ll label it old, out-dated, etc. They’ll see all these things as external trappings that have no effect on them. They’ll look at it, later in their lives, as a product of the generation in which it was rehashed–a generation that loved all things retro. They might reach the conclusion that the reason they loved all things retro was either because that generation just ran out of ideas or they had inherited an instability from their parents and grandparents that’s quenched by something that appears older and bigger than all of them combined. That doesn’t make it wrong, of course, and I’m not condemning–just offering some perspective. Each generation, in their coming-of-age years–however long that lasts–goes through a similar set of crises. And it’s necessary, for God meets us in a context. That context is always in flux and hopefully you’ll be prepared for when your grandchildren do similar things and you’ll do exactly as many of those who watched you growing did and…pretty much stay sidelined until they’ve gone through it all. In the end, I think you’ll find that none of us really ages that much past our twenties–not mentally, anyway; only our bodies age.

    Finally, more substantial than a beautiful altar fashioned by skilled laborers is the rugged cross “slapdashed” together by unskilled executioners. More contemporary than a pretty chalice is the spilled blood of the Savior. More enduring than any lovely vestment made by man is the unseen garb of the love of Christ in the bond of peace. And the book more uncommon than the Book of Common Prayer is the Book of books from which all the latter things flow. May you hold your traditions lightly, but faith, hope, and love with a death grip, for that is your life.

  • Cherri

    People, young and old, are hungry for the truth and truth bearers who aren’t afraid of the delivering the whole truth. I am wondering if some of our leaders (religious and not) are really aware that it is possible to attain ‘Heaven on Earth’. It really irritates me knowing that something so simple keeps us all from Heavenly things.

  • Grace

    Thank you for the article. I found it encouraging, challenging and prophetic.
    God is God and has a way of meeting us wherever we are if you would let him.
    As long as humans are on earth in their diversity, there will be different styles of worship. What is important is the relationship with God through Jesus that leads to true worship and discipleship. God will raise people in every generation. We just need to be true to whatever God has called us to.

    • Vincent Aja

      Amen and Amen

  • Gabriel

    If this article is true then all millennial’s would be flocking to Traditional Denominational Churches. The only reason this applies to you is your definition of “Church”. Something you never thought of in your 20’s.

    The same applies to my definition of breakfast now in my late 30’s “toast with butter” just like my Grandmother use to make me. Why? because it gives us identity.

    Your definition of “Church” is what you remember from your childhood. I see that everywhere I go, people like to remember their first love and will always remember the Culture of the Church that led them to Christ. There is nothing wrong with that but Millennial’s coming to Christ now might fight for Hillsong music in 20 years.

    Let’s just remember that all Denominations Churches started as extreme and relevant. And I love them for that and more.

  • Byron Harano

    Very nice and interesting article about the “Church,” and “churches.” Many parts one body. A Pastor friend of mine had me do this with 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. As Jesus is the Head of the Church, the Church is the Body of Christ.

    Pastor, Robert Wright, had me substitute “Church” where ever “Body” appeared in the text. This is not replacing Scripture soundness! Just a revelation from God about the deeper mediation of the Text. See how this adds to the author’s message? Be blessed.

  • American Dad

    Arguing over the semantics(style) is silly and to compare one as better than another is outright foolishness comparable to the Pharisees chiding the disciples about not following the practices laid down by that day’s leadership. Jesus own disciples got caught up in that game and were corrected with this simple direction, “those who are not against us are with us.” Enough said.

    • Chad Martens

      No they weren’t! Context my friend…..read it for yourself and get back with me!

  • Chad Martens

    You can keep the ho-hum liturgy , fancy robes, and pointless traditions…… just remember they had all these things in the time of Jesus…..and He said He despised all of them. Religion without faith, ceremony without thought…..bottom line is this….are you insane?

    • doubtingthomasaquinas

      Chad, You completely misunderstand. You haven’t heard a thing the author said. Here’s a part of her heart, and all you can do is to gripe about what you don’t like. Listen to her.

      Liturgy isn’t ho-hum, and traditions aren’t pointless. If liturgy is ho-hum, that ‘s because you are. I tell my students and youth group that, “I’m bored” really means “I’m boring,” and it goes for adults, too. Jesus didn’t “despise” traditions, He said that they are not the Word of God, but He stood up in the synagogue to read and He fulfilled the rituals of the Passover. You are right about ‘ceremony without thought,’ so put the thought into it and pray with centuries of Christians, that Hebrews-11 cloud of witnesses that CS Lewis described as stretching through time and eternity, ‘terrible as an army with banners.’ Were they all wrong? Do we ignore them and what they did just because they are dead? Christians say that they are not. So let’s not despise their thoughts and prayers.

      Many people want and need ritual. Don’t sneer at them for walking their path with Jesus.

      • Chad Martens

        Brother, you need to re-read some passages, such as Mark 7:13, Isaiah 1:12-16, and Amos 5:21.

        To me, it also seems pretty foolish to want to return to the elementary things of your youth for the answers! Unless of course what you seek is religion, then by all means…have fun. Personally I choose to do my best to grow and progress in my walk, putting feet on that faith. I want people I meet to KNOW Jesus and His desire to know them, not some silly and pointless rituals and liturgy.
        I’m not trying to be mean and judgmental, but someone had to say it!

        • Kurt Bowers

          The fact that YOU find liturgy, robes, etc. to be “silly and pointless rituals”, “ho-hum” and “pointless tradition” is COMPLETELY subjective. Simply because YOU characterize these practices in this way does not mean the Bible does. The scripture proof texts you cite have nothing to do with what you are using them for, but rather with traditions of men that are at variance with the will of God (Mark 7:13), and empty and meaningless religion which has to do with the heart of the person – not so much with any traditional practice itself (Isaiah 1:12-16 & Amos 5:21). What do you do with verses like 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and 1 Corinthians 11:2, which speak of keeping and maintaining traditions? It is illogical as well as arrogant to subjectively equate these practices to “elementary things of your youth” and then to assert that you “personally…choose to…grow and progress in my walk”, implying that to disagree with you on this is to be regressive and immature. You are expressing your subjective opinions as dogmatic statements of objective truth. I think we could see the “traditions” of the modern, “relevant” churches in a similar light – and reasonably more so. Large screens, multimedia entertainment, and 7-11 songs (7 words repeated 11 times) can be considered “pointless” rituals and traditions (and in the case of the songs, vain repetitions). Now just like you, “I’m not trying to be mean and judgmental, but someone had to say it!”

    • Harvey L

      The hating aside, Chad, you make an excellent point, one I hope the author was driving for. Neither religion nor ceremony are of any value when pursued for their own sake. This is true regardless of the format. Today’s innovation too often becomes tomorrow’s routine. While format preferences change with the times, we must always take care that we do not lose sight of the transforming message of Christ in an effort to remain attractional. From another of your comments, I suspect that you understand that becoming transformed to the image of Christ takes place on the streets, not in a sanctuary.

    • SarahKay

      I’m sorry but this comes across as a very ignorant argument. Not every tradition is “pointless”. And if the liturgy is understood by the person in the congregation, much of it is simply BEAUTIFUL & powerful to listen to. People can go through the motions in ANY church. I’m full gospel/Pentecostal, yet I still see many members “punching the Sunday church time clock” just doing their duty of coming to church.

      • Kala-ada

        God Bless you,i am full gospel as well and we can get religious too

  • prophecywarnsisaih30vrs8to11

    THIS IS THE CHURCH I LONG FOR. MY SOUL PANTS FOR 1 Corinthians 14 WITH LEADERS WHO CARE ENOUGH TO HELP ME GROW AND YEILD TO THE SPIRIT OF GOD. THAT HE MAY FLOW THRU ME AMONGST MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS REALIZING ALL HAVE A PART AND THE FIVEFOLD GOVERNING OFFICES OF THE CHURCH ARE TO HELP US BECOME SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF GOD. RIGHTLY BUILT UP EVERYJOINT SUPPLYING A NEED AS THE LORD DIRECTS. FOR WHAT GREATER INTIMACY CAN ONE HAVE THAN TO BE SO FULL OF THE SPIRIT AND ATTUNED THAT GOD MAY FREELY COMMUNE AND FLOW BOTH THRU AND AMONGST THE PEOPLE. I WONDER SOMETIMES IF THIS DESIRE INSTILLED IN ME WILL NOT KILL ME. IT IS THAT DESIRE TO STAND AMONGST THE CHURCH WITHOUT SPOT OR BLEMISH TO BE SO FILLED WITH GOD THAT I AM NOT AWARE OF MUCH OTHER THAN HIM I THIRST AND EVEN NOW I CRY. WHAT SHALL WE DO HE IS COMING SOON AND I LONG PANT AND THIRST FOR THAT WHICH I HAVE SO SELDOM FOUND AND EXPERIENCED.

    • doubtingthomasaquinas

      1. We could probably have read that without the caps lock on.
      2. It really doesn’t address the issue. One can have all that and still be ceremonial and traditional.
      3. There is not a conflict between what the author writes and true worship. I have been in England and its Anglican and Methodist and Baptist churches, and I have worshipped and fellowshipped with spiritually alive people in whom was the Spirit of God. I have spiritually dead people in Anglican, Baptist, and Methodist churches, too. It isn’t the ritual that kills. As with every example in the Bible and experience, it is our heart that makes the difference. And if my heart sings to God with Anglican hymns (check out some of their theology), then I should be there.

  • Julian

    I am in England, I have read some of the to and fro between commenters and their judgement of one another on this post with some sadness, I have encountered freedom from tradition in “traditional” churches, and an adherence to rules that binds people up in “free” new churches who have made a tradition out of not having a tradition (I have been told that “you are not allowed to use the Lord’s Prayer during the worship, that’s traditional and we’re not a traditional church”) . I have encountered spiritually alive people in all churches right through all the denominations…. Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Bretheren, Free, Non – Denominational, and (dare I say it?) even Catholic Churches! In every one of those streams I have also encountered spiritually dead people. I couldn’t agree more with “doubtingthimasaquinas” who hit the nail on the head when you said “it isn’t the ritual that kills…. … it is our heart that makes the difference”

    So often we look at a generation (at the moment it’s milennials), and chase after a style to attract them, sometimes in the process we alienate everyone else, I don’t believe that’s on the heart of God, who want’s ALL to be saved. All over the world, there are places where church does not have a choice about which generation to “target” and leave the others to other churches – in many places, the church in the community is the ONLY church within reach, and it has to effectively reach the whole community, not just a section of it. (and I would suggest that includes smaller, rural communities in both the UK and the USA). I believe is that there is real power in intergenerational church, when Tony at 79 and a great grandfather is loved extravagantly by Emma, a 9 year old tom-boy, where Ed, a 15 year old “goth” is shown love and care by Jenny, a 59 year old recently retired teacher, where Kayleigh a 20 something girl coming out of some really challenging life issues can sit alongside Fran a 68 year old widow almost completely paralysed by Multiple Sclerosis, where ALL love the Lord and each other and show our community that it doesn’t matter who you are – you will find the love of Jesus in this place. Do we struggle sometimes with different opinions about style? Sure we do, but this makes our unity all the more remarkable.

    The challenge we face is – how do we reach one section of the community with the gospel without alienating another?

    And to those of you who are rubbishing one another’s opinions… let’s not reserve grace for just the unchurched – let’s use it when we’re talking to one another as well eh?

    • Cj Bloyer

      Thank you so much for saying this! I grew up in “general” Baptist churches (my father is a pastor) but I’ve never felt “tied” to the denomination. Over the years, when I was required to look for a new church (for example, when I went out of state to college or moved to London, UK for a time,) my expectations were simple and 3-fold: preach the gospel, serve the poor and downtrodden, love each other. I found these three things in all manner of denominations, from non-denominational house churches, to gigantic Catholic masses, to traditional Fundamentalist Baptist Congregations. For me, the traditionalism or non-traditionalism of the service was rarely, if ever, the issue. It was all about those 3 questions: Does the pastor (and by extension anyone else who presented during the service) preach the Gospel of Christ (and Him crucified?) Does the congregation take seriously their job of caring for the poor, the widow, the orphan; advocating for those who can’t advocate for themselves? Do the members of this church love each other and seek to promote each other’s well-being; praying for each other, encouraging each other, investing in each other’s lives in order to build each other up?
      If the answers are all “yes,” then I don’t care if they have organs or Fenders or no accompaniment at all. It matters not one jot if they wear coats and ties or cut-off khakis and vans. I’m not interested in whether they take communion every week or once a month or whether it’s a priest who serves it, or a deacon, or if it’s just there for people to partake in as they choose. My focus isn’t on the style but on the substance.

      • Kala-ada

        God Bless you!

    • Mark

      I learned more about Christianity from two old Jewish men (obm) that I did from all the Christians I knew put together. They had been through WW I and the depression as children and working young men, respectively. Their stories were relevant and you could learn lots from them.

      You reach a section of the community by showing that you survived hard times too and understand about a bad economy. Then you listen to them without dismissing them. Part of what no one does today is listen to anyone.

  • Don Woods

    Why not go straight to the catholic church if you want to return to the prison of tradition and religion? There is NO such biblical seperation of clergy and laity. The Pilgrims came to America to get away from the Anglicans, now you return to them!?

    Jesus writes the following to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:6 – “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

    The etymology of the word Nicolaitans:

    Nico-, combinatory form of nīko, “victory” in Greek, and laos means people, or more specifically, the laity; hence, the word may be taken to mean “lay conquerors” or “conquerors of the lay people”. However, “Nicolaitan” (Greek: Νικολαϊτῶν; Νικολαΐτης) is the name ostensibly given to followers of the heretic Nicolas (Greek: Νικόλαος)—the name itself meaning “victorious over people,” or “victory of the people,” which he would have been given at birth.

    In the scriptures, Jesus many, many times had serious confrontations with the
    religious leaders of his time. In fact it was the religious leaders who ultimately called for his death. (As mostly is the case……same is true for today) All through His life, they were waiting for the right moment.

    “…For this cause therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. (John 5:18)

    “Some therefore of Jerusalem said, Is not this He who they seek to kill? And lo, He speaks openly, and they say nothing to Him…” (John 7:25-26)

    “And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might put Him to death; for they feared the people. (Luke 22:2)

    “Now after two days was the feast of the Passover and the unleavened bread: and the chief priests and scribes sought how they might take Him with subtlety and kill Him…” (Mark 14:1)

    “But the Pharisees went out, and took counsel against Him, how they might destroy Him (Matt. 12:14)

    “So from that day forth, they (the chief priests and Pharisees and council) took counsel that they might put Him to death. (John 11:53.)

    Jesus called the religious leaders of His day “whited sepulchers”, “fools”, “blind guides”, “hypocrites”, “serpents”, “murderers”, “a generation of vipers,”and many such names. Jesus spoke this way to the religious leaders throughout His ministry. He virtually had nothing nice to say about them. But yet there are many in the church today who say that Jesus never spoke this way.

    Read Matthew Chapter 23 again and see what it says. Jesus’ words, in practically the entire chapter, are directed at the scribes and Pharisees.

    We are living in a day when false teachers and their dastardly deeds abound. A
    faithful messenger will warn those in the churches. They will identify these churches by name, as well as their “leaders,” calling a spade a spade. Just like the Lord Jesus did; just like the Apostle Paul did, and others as well.

    People’s lives are being destroyed. It’s not enough to just “generalize” a situation or play games and “hint” at what is being said.

    The gospel never changes and is always relevant throughout the ages.

    Are there any faithful messengers around anymore?

  • scottymoore

    Praise The Lord for a hunger being placed in the hearts of younger people as they search for relevance in their lives. This hunger was created by the almighty, that they might search for him and find him, for he is not far from any of us.
    Where we worship and “how” we worship, should be the least important part of congregation gatherings as compared to the heart of the person. Becoming a part of something greater than yourself and entering to relationship with others of the same heart takes time, and sometimes a little bit of familiarity helps to facilitate this and bring the person into an awareness of God and his awesome love.
    Sometimes people who constantly change locations to find a place where they “feel” comfortable, or can understand the truth easier through a style of communication, are indeed genuine and are trying to fit in and grow in grace and truth. This doesn’t mean (as was stated in article) that every denomination, or church building, has to cater to these new cravings, they just need to stand firm in their faith and be lovingly available to help someone looking for the truth of God’s love for them and what it means to their new life in him.
    New people can add exciting new ideas and flavor to a group of people as the are welcomed and feel accepted.
    Wonderful subject, with never ending possibilities and styles of answers, yet their is no perfect way to worship accept from a pure heart.

  • Dusty Speiser

    I think it’s safe to say that there are a few valid points from both sides of this argument. Sinners need to be reached where they are. THAT is why Paul said he becomes all things to all men.
    That being said, we absolutely must NOT meet them where they are, and then stay there to set up camp. He didn’t say he makes the church to be all things to all men! The church, by definition, is of course the people who are born again into the body of Christ, and as such, we are “the called out”. Come OUT from among them! That means we should be DIFFERENT than the world.
    What hope do sinners have if the church is no different than they are?
    Even so, if the church sits back and is willing to be self-satisfied and proud of their liturgy, long robes and denominational tradition, where’s the life and power of the church? How will the lost be found if everyone who knows the way is unwilling to reach into the mess of the world and lead them out?
    There are GODLY traditions which have been handed down, and which should not be thrown out. There ARE elders and positions of leadership within the church, and they are essential, or else accountability and discipline go out the window, and when people neglect that, they perish.
    Leadership positions in the church are positions of service. They don’t make a man better than the rest of the church, but they shouldn’t be thrown out altogether because some folks or even denominations misuse them.
    One of the healthiest things a church can have is new converts. They bring freshness and excitement to the stale and dull. They help you remember where you’ve come from, and how God has changed you. Their zeal for Christ and their gratitude to Him for salvation is like a breath of fresh air to those who have been saved for a long while, and their fire for God stirs pew-warmers to get up and go out to reach the lost.
    If we will focus on loving and obeying Jesus with all our heart and reaching the lost with the old gospel, we won’t have to worry about attracting young folks or middle-aged ones, or old ones or Starbucks-drinking ones, or ones with mohawks or ones with cowboy hats or whatever. Life begets life, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

  • Jamiel Cotman

    The worst thing a church can do to win young people is …..

    [Drum roll please]

    ……TRY TO WIN YOUNG PEOPLE!!!!!

    There’s a saying, “What you chase,-retreats!” This definitely applies here. It’s embarrassing on the level of parents going to a party with their teens, or, your mom trying to hang out with you and the guys.

    Young people know you’re not their age!

    Young people don’t mind hearing from older generations, as long as that older generation has compassion on where they are in life.

    THAT’S IT!!!!

    You don’t need to buy a pair of J’s.

    You don’t need to wear skinny jeans.

    Just make sure your presentation, interaction and overall ministry strategy is based on an understanding of where they are and a heart to develop them for Christ.

    • Mark

      The compassion gets the older generation credibility. Lashing out the younger generations for being under employed in a bad economy is just not smart.

  • hairdr

    Change??? Gods Word NEVER Changes !! The same God of old is the Same Great God we serve today , NO COMPROMISE on the way we worship our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ !! We don’t build the Church , God does !! Old fashioned Preaching of the Word of God still convicts and still draws souls to the savior where lives are changed for all ETERNITY !! We’re a called out Group of believers to be separate from the world not to imitate it!!!! If you want to grow the Church then stay on your knees before a Holy and Righteous God seek his perfect will and Preach what thus saith the Lord without COMPROMISING ! IT WORKED FROM THE VERY BEGINNING AND ITS STILL WORKING TODAY

    • Jamie Chapman

      I agree with you on some points. But by focusing on tradition you put limits on God. I believe that God can use anything as a tool to reach this generation. And yes, WE have to build the church by making disciples. How do we do that? We present the Gospel to them in a way that they understand. I have nothing against the old hymns and old time preaching…not at all. And i believe there is power in it. No doubt. Compromise is a fine line, I agree. BUT, if you’re not willing to get out of the box and traditions….will anyone be reached?

      • hairdr

        With all due respect yes get creative but not worldly , There is nothing we do that brings a sinner to the point where they realize they are lost and on the way to Hell. Its ALL by the Power of GOD and the precious Blood and nothing more nothing less !! God does it all !! I’m just required to live a Holy life in obedience to my savior and to uplift and Glorify him, not man . So we must ask ourselves Does this Really Honor God to the fullest? Besides like I said Gods way works ! Its did from the beginning and the same way still apply today.. get alone with God and ask him for conviction and Guidance , Thats what I do because without him I’m lost! God Bless

        • pastorintraing

          where did Jamie suggest get worldly?? if the focus is on tradition not Jesus that is just as bad as being worldly then True God way works but as long as its scriptural there is nothing wrong with Christian praise bands etc.

          • hairdr

            The Focus is Christ always ,There is No other way ! And Good Godly music is biblical I’m all for it, but CCM is …. well let your own conviction guide you ! All I’m saying is that if its not broke don’t try to fix it. If your in line with scriptures that’s all that matters Gods word is Solid and unchanging ! We conform to the word of God not change it to fit our needs

  • Dave

    Reading this story made me sad. There’s so much in it about “church” and so little in it about Jesus. It’s just another take on satisfying the consumer mentality that is as alive and kicking in today’s churches as it is in any real or virtual shopping venue.

    • pastorintraining

      Agreed and it seems we have to have fancy names such as Parxis, CONNECTIONS, Green house culture etc. That seems so far away from Jesus and its all about self. Just my 2 cents.

    • Mark

      The article may pertain to church, but the homilies in the liturgical churches deal with or present the teachings of Jesus most every Sunday.

      • pastorintraining

        I would say there are just as many liturgical churches that are only dealing with tradtion not Jesus just as some new age churches are dealing with worldly ideas not Jesus. just preach the word stuck in tradtion is as just as bad as try the latest greatest craze out there.

  • Jamie Chapman

    @hairdr
    I agree with you on some points. But by focusing on tradition you put limits on God. I believe that God can use anything as a tool to reach this generation. And yes, WE have to build the church by making disciples. How do we do that? We present the Gospel to them in a way that they understand. I have nothing against the old hymns and old time preaching…not at all. And i believe there is power in it. No doubt. Compromise is a fine line, I agree. BUT, if you’re not willing to get out of the box and traditions….will anyone be reached?

  • Todd

    Andrea… thank you for your openness. I am in the process of planting a new church called CONNECTIONS. The vision is focused on connecting and re-connecting people back to God and His Church. I totally agree that we have made such an attempt to become so relevant that we tend to punch so many holds in the foundation of faith in the process. God and His Word will never change… that’s a good thing. However, sometimes the way we do ministry needs to change, CAREFULLY and PURPOSEFULLY. I like it when young people come to a revelation in their own life and inform the rest of us that what we are attempting to do and calling it Church… is dead wrong.

  • http://www.everyonelovessex.org/ BryanASands

    Thanks for the article! I’ve been thinking about this topic for sometime now and it was refreshing to read your perspective and encouragement.

  • Jrieds

    Great article Andrea! I think the problem many churches have is that they try to be something their not. I think there is wisdom in acknowledging who you are as a church and being comfortable with it. That being said, there is nothing wrong in finding new ways to connect to young people who are searching in all the wrong places. Since our culture is changing so fast, the Church, all the more, needs to understand the confusion and pressure today’s youth face.

    • Mark

      Funny you mention new ways to connect with young people. I am hearing middle aged priests who understand the modern world give homilies which do connect with the young professionals who are highly educated. Something is being taught in episcopal and catholic seminaries or the seminary students have been given knowledge of what really happens in the modern world to be able to relate quite well.

      • Jrieds

        Your right, young professionals are very intelligent. Many younger to middle aged pastors or priests have also been through crisis’s of their own. After all, the Internet has been around now for 20yrs. If these pastors speak about their own experiences, I know younger people tend to listen and relate.

        • Mark

          And some of those priests can say a lot in one complex sentence. Even the criticizing of certain behaviors does not last the entire homily, but thirty seconds max. Also, they only say things once. That means listen or else.

  • Jim Wilburn

    We must ask ourselves – are we attracting people to us or are we drawing people to God? Yes, there are many changes in the church that I like and I believe can draw people to a mature relationship with God, yet there many fads out there that just attract a crowd for just a Sunday morning free show where often the attention and praise goes either to the individual or the church.

  • MarciH

    I’m glad you came back to church, however your are the exception, not the rule. The vast majority of our young people who leave NEVER come back. You can blame anything you want, but I believe it comes down to something I read in Not A fan by Kyle Idleman. We have raised them in church, but not in Christ.

    • Christa Long Jamison

      Clearly, there are a myriad of reasons that young people leave the church. I don’t think the purpose of this article was to address that. I think the purpose was to try and help figure out how to get them back. Yes, we need to do all we can to stop losing them in the first place, but we also can’t forget all those we have lost in the meantime.

  • Mark

    This is why near Washington, some of the old line churches are growing again. Those would be the episcopal, catholic and orthodox. The young professionals are going back to the old liturgy and listening to homilies which aren’t comfortable but are relevant and honest.

  • KJ

    We need to be on our knees in prayer for our youth. Jesus never needed anything building, flashy worship services, cool and hip pastors using the word ‘dude’, facebook or twitter etc etc. Many Churches have plain and simply lost the very Holy presence of God.

    • pastorintraining

      Jesus also never needed clergy parade in white robes and carry a six foot cross every sunday etc either. Many of those churches have lost the very Holy presence of God as well

  • Nicodemus Eatlawe

    Like others have said I am happy to see you return to church. When reading this article I was reflecting about church in Africa. Then I realised that peole leave churches and join other for different reasons. There are many reasons why people go to church, in the fisrt place. For us in Afrca church is part of community or family where one should belong irrespective of the type ofchurch whether mainstream or denominational/charimatic. That according to me is main reason why people go to church. There are those who are looking for relevant church also regardless of their age. Relevance here may mean a lot things. But to be specific, people need to meet and have their problems solved. People have problems that need God. For example, there are diseases that have defied medical science, so the only hope is miracle healing, at least in Africa where health services are wanting. So you see people flocking to churches where people are prayed for and receie miracles. Ther are many of this type. So I can say, gifts especially miracles, healing, delivernce and prophecy are the bottomlines here. Let me give a Nigerian SCOAN or Emmanuel tv for example to support mu argument. You will not many go there for ealing from all the place. Some join the ministry but many go there to recieve their breakthoughs.
    In conclusion, we can never have a universal blueprints as no one-size-fits all. Each should besponsive according need, context, history and culture of a given people

  • Evangelist Roger Culwell

    well believe me we got to get the presence of God back in the church
    , it’s not about hat we like, but is about what we sing, and the word’s, do you praise God I don’t mean just sing , but do the word’s lift God up, like Awesome God, Holy, Holy Holy,see the Lord, my strength is in you Lord, song’s that touch the heart of God that reach throne room and is power come’s down and lay’s you out on the floor, we sing a lot of song’s that don’t honor him just because the song mention’s God’s name don’t mean t honor’s him, I was raised on the Hymn’s and one day while my wife was dying this as before I new about praise and worship song’s, I was going through a battle her dying, and I was listening to hymn’s and some was making me feel worse, and I was crying and said Lord you got to help me, please don’t send me to hell but some of these song’s depress the hell out of me, and he said some of them do me to, to my surprise, but some of them have oppressionand depression attached to them and he introduced me to praise and worship song’s, song’s that lifted him up, and I got right into his presence, most people want a song that make’s them cry or touches there heart, I won’t one that touches the heat of God, and then his send’s down his prsence’s and lays me out on the floor, I tried to listen to some of the Christian rock but they didn’t mention God, Jesus or the holy Spirit, and jump around like regular rock, and know that’s no different than rock, what do you even do it for, if you can’t get in his presence sing what ever you want but he will not bless you until u honor him, people are going crazy, depressed, on ll kind’s of med’s and demon possessed because the church don’t get in the presence of God any more, we got to honor God just look at the shape this world is in, because we don’t get in his presence, oh all across America they have a meeting and call it church, but know presence, Jesus died so we could get the presence of God again,and we ignore him song’s a special and a 3 minute sermon and we tell God you got 45 minute’s do yor thing in that time or we are leaing, and he say’s well leave then, your doingyour thing not trying to please me and you will no getany thing from me, so we have a meeting not church, some ordain gay’s and all kind of sin, and it’s not of God we got to listen to what the word call’s sin, the biblebasic instruction’s before leaving earth, and will never make it to heaven wih out listening to it and obeying it, and that mean we read and pray, and worship.Evangelist Roger Culwell

  • rhemapower

    I am in my 70’s and I left the Presbyterian church in my 20’s. I first tried high church, Episcopalian, Catholic. What I wanted was something real. Rituals did not and do not cut it with me. I finally found a bible-believing church and got saved there in my early 30’s. I would never,never, never ever go back to any church that did not make the preaching of the gospel number one!

  • Ginklestinker

    He who marries to-days trends will be a widower to-morrow !
    The Spirit of God has the ability to make the Gospel relevant to all ages, all classes, all educational, cultural and financial standards ….from East to West, and from antiquity to Kingdom come . Justification, by believing in the divine person and atoning work of Jesus Christ, sets us free to identify ourselves with Christ in his service, his suffering, sacrifice and sanctification unto all good works.

    • rhemapower

      You are absolutely right! In my 70’s I have led people of all ages and of various ethnic groups to Christ because of the universal relevance of the gospel.