Are we listening?

Today is Good Friday, when we solemnly remember the price Christ paid for the sins of the world – your sins and mine. Today we remember what it is to be authentically Christian. It isn’t the Easter egg hunts this Sunday. It isn’t praise bands and enthusiastic sermons hawking the prosperity gospel. Christianity is a religion with a cost. Not a cost paid by us, but on behalf of us by the holy Son of God Jesus. Religion, true religion, isn’t about us and what we do nor what we get out of it. It certainly isn’t sermons that seek to be entertaining while only succeeding at being banal. True religion is about God, an infinitely merciful and kind God – God the Son who became one of us and suffered and died for us. On this day, Good Friday, we see the the love of God graphically displayed for all to see.

But are people listening to to our message? Too often I think the answer is no. And if not, it may be that the Christianity being displayed by churches today may too often not be the authentic Christianity that gives people a reason to listen. Are we listening to what they’re saying to us? We should not – must not – try and be a church that defines itself by what people are clamoring for, but we should be a church that listens and sympathetically responds. Here (below) is a brief excerpt from a book that I think people should read and listen to. I certainly don’t agree with all of her perspectives but I feel her pain and I think that she makes some valid points that we need to hear. Where we may not agree, she deserves a patient and thoughtful response. People should have an opportunity to hear the scriptural reasons for why we hold to our ancient convictions. If we don’t listen to what people are saying to us and understand how people today are viewing Christian churches, how can we respond and why should they listen?

“Millennials want to be known by what we’re for, I said, not just what we’re against. We don’t want to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead, we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. We want to talk about the tough stuff— biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, sexuality, racial reconciliation, and social justice— but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers. We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hearts and minds behind…. I explained that when our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends aren’t welcome at the table, then we don’t feel welcome either, and that not every young adult gets married or has children, so we need to stop building our churches around categories and start building them around people. …We can’t be won back with hipper worship…. We millennials have been advertised to our entire lives, so we can smell b.s. from a mile away. The church is the last place we want to be sold another product, the last place we want to be entertained. Millennials aren’t looking for a hipper Christianity, I said. We’re looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity. …We’re looking for Jesus…: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these.” (Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church)