Church can be relevant and alive

There is a current stream of discussions concerning the decline of evangelicalism. A number of factors have brought the steady flow to a head. Recent missteps by prominent evangelical leaders, political leaders’ alignments with evangelical groups and the increasing disconnect of the twenty-something generation from evangelical churches have all conspired to paint a stodgy, out of touch and irrelevant and even hypocritical image of the evangelical church.

I have colleagues here in our very own Melbourne who when they start a family and want to return to church, look to orthodox churches instead of evangelical ones. These are couples in their late twenties to early thirties, educated and bright and have the world at their feet. They will soon be leaders of society. Young people in evangelical churches have also voiced their frustrations with too many instances of church leaders, pastors and teachers who don’t provide a good grasp of the bible and theology and have sought orthodoxy as a solution. So while the discussions may be taking place mainly in America, the experience and phenomenon that is the crossroads of evangelical churches is a real issue here in Australia too.

The evangelical churches of today are not attracting young people and the young who grew up in these churches are leaving – either for other (orthodox churches) or the church altogether. They would deny that they have left Christianity – they still profess the faith and still have deep connections with that part of their lives which seek to have a relationship with God, and it is the institution of the evangelical church which they are turning away from. One can convincingly argue that such apparent connection is flawed as a real relationship would compel fellowship thus church attendance but the disconnect experienced by this group is very real. They would probably want – long for – fellowship with other believers but would probably loathe association with any element of the institutional church.

One therefore is often confronted with groups of young people who don’t like anything which smells of large church. They would be happy to be meeting in small groups in homes or small school halls or anywhere informal. They don’t like the building, the boards, the governance structure, the legal and financial baggage, the governing theology, tradition and creeds and all the ensuing rules and regulations which come with this stodgy sounding components.

I think it is the duty of those who have been trained, not to discard these components but to unpack them in a way which is honest, vigorous, relevant and applicable to them. The gospel of the saving grace of God is and will always be relevant because it is real, it is necessary and it is entirely within the plan and purpose of God.