Thursday, January 23, 2014

People Turn to Religion

John Stackhouse says that "People turn to religion only if they have a good reason. The instrumental reasons are gone with the wind."1 That is, people no longer believe that they must go to church to increase their social standing or to impress their business constituents. He points out that in one particular panel discussion he and other participants
noted how low church attendance is in the one place in Canada most focused on the here and now, on sensual pleasure and self-fulfillment – Vancouver. No wonder church plants come and go here with dismaying rapidity.
Yet it’s also interesting that the churches that thrive here are full of people between 18 and 35. The older demographic (35–60) is much less in evidence. Those older ones are the people who have somehow been able to succeed in Vancouver’s punishing real estate market and construct a lifestyle they like. They don’t go to church. Why should they?
But the younger adults – those the economy is not welcoming, who carry debts they fear they can never pay off, and who are searching for a meaningful life in a world that seems indifferent to their aspirations – they’re in church. Are we church leaders properly addressing their needs? Or just anesthetizing these hungry searchers with an hour or so of lively music, group solidarity and undemanding sermonizing?2
Has he hit upon something novel here? Is there a significant economic unrest among 18 to 35 year olds? Do some long for a meaningful life? What are the needs that older leaders might address? Which ones have we missed? I am certainly interested in creating missional communities of Christ that will generate life-giving space for hungry searchers. Life-giving space must address the economic unrest of our time: the "haves" and the "have-nots" and the increasing gulf between the rich and the poor. It will also include space for serving the least, the lost, and the lonely of the predominant culture. It cannot simply address the self-interest of those who find it hard to pay off the debts they carry. The Gospel in every culture and every time is good news to the poor, the captives, the blind, the oppressed, and all people.

 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
    that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.
Luke 4:18, 19, NLT.

1. Faith Today, January/February 2014, "Will Canada Be The Next Sweden?" John G. Stackhouse Jr., http://digital.faithtoday.ca/faithtoday/20140102#pg76
2. Ibid.

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