You’ve heard the results of the most recent Pew Survey – a growing population of people reported to be members of the “Nones” – folks who have no religious affiliation. An all time high of 20% of Americans was recorded. The percentage increases to 30% of all young adults under 30 years of age. Though some/many claim to have some connection to or belief in a higher being – God, these same folks have no use or need for the organized church. Maybe you heard them speak loud and clear on the most recent five day series on NPR – Losing Our Religion. If not, it’s worth 40 minutes of your time.
The bad news is the church has a lot of work to do. The good news is that the church has a lot of work to do…but it’s beginning to realize it. Out at The Bridge, we encounter folks everyday who are deeply steeped in church tradition, and folks who are not – folks who have become disenchanted with the church – to put it kindly – or more frankly, folks who have been hurt or abused by the church or just don’t see any relevance in the institutional church in the lives they live today. Many have chosen their own “spiritual” path if you will, much like those interviewed on NPR. They may call themselves, “Spiritual but not Religious.” You’ve heard of them before…. or maybe you’re a part of this denomination?
So it appears that we who are a part of the church have to do church differently. Get out of the box, get out of the four walls of the church, get out from under the steeple, and be the church in the world today.
So recently I put the church on wheels. I met a group of women at The Bridge last fall who call themselves Bike Chicks (not to be confused with Bik-ER Chicks!) This is a group of women who are looking for community. They ride their bikes once a week – unless it’s colder than 35 degrees – and they invite any and everyone who owns or who has access to a bike to join them. The email list is now over 75 names, and usually 10-12 women meet each week. After chatting with them for some time, I decided to join them when I was available. While last week was only my second time, I had quickly become known as the Pastor lady. “You’re the pastor, right?” a woman I met the first time said. And we struck a conversation up about faith, and life and her own faith journey that had led her away from the church yet recently she had begun to explore the church again. She had specific ideas of what the church should be. While cycling, I listened to another woman tell of how she met some of the other women forming an elaborate network of social organizations. Yearning for community, social media can be a wonderful thing as people search to connect in meaningful and common ways. But where’s the church in all this?
Sitting in The Bridge last week were two women who had met on facebook the night before and decided to meet and chat face to face. Both were looking for family social groups – small groups, active groups – groups in which they could become community with.
I believe there’s a place for the church to respond, but it seems to me that for it to be successful in its endeavors, it has to listen to the world – listen for the needs of the world, and be willing to go out into the world and provide that safe place of belonging and not expect the world to come to it and conform to it.
What do you think? At the end of the day, are there people out there who you know searching for community to satisfy their longing for belonging? Are there people you know who need to experience church differently? Is so, what or how should the church respond?