I grew up being taught by nuns at St. Adalbert’s Catholic Church and Grade School. Nuns were dressed in black and white and wielded rulers like light sabers. I am confident that I owe them an apology for more than one boyhood misstep. Like the time Russell and I called sister So-and-So Lizard Lips. Ok, I did not actually call her Lizard Lips. Russell did. But I got blamed for it because I couldn’t stop laughing. So an apology to all nuns everywhere for unruly Catholic boys.
But I also feel called to offer the “nones” an apology. What’s a “none”? “The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion … “ Basically, “nones” have given up on the church. I have read their blog posts, heard their rants, and feel a pastoral apology is due.
First, I apologize the 21st century church looks more like a rock concert. The rock and roll light scene does nothing for you. I understand. We are not what you want. I get that. Please realize this is not the first time this has happened. In the not too distant past, churches were subject to ridicule for being irrelevant. The smells and bells, robes and stoles meant less and less to people. So we changed and became more contemporary. We changed our language. Some went so far as to remove all religious symbols. The word disciple was replaced with Christ-followers. Worship Services and Mass became Gatherings or Celebrations. The pastors began wearing business casual and jeans. People got what they wanted and they came in droves! Many people are still here. But I am not sure this is what you want. I get it.
I apologize that the 21st century church is not fighting social justice issues. I know the church struggles moving away from just feeding the poor to changing the structures that make the poor poor. I understand. You’d like to see us marching in parades and carrying banners fighting for social reform. I get that. Please remember that the church has a long-standing tradition to start with a person’s life being changed before going out and trying to change the world. Before we repent corporately, Jesus called us to repent individually. And quite frankly, we live in a sin adverse world where personal repentance is not in vogue. Today’s mindset suggests that as long as what I do does not hurt anyone, then it’s not a sin. But Jesus and the church never taught that. As a church, we continue to call people to personal repentance and experience change before they go and change the world. But I am not sure this is what you want. I get it.
I apologize the 21st century church does not speak your language. But we try! I try. We try to use relevant life circumstance illustrations and language that connects in our sermons. We study and hone our communication skills. But let’s be honest, unless you enter into a conversation with us … unless you show up and engage with us … how can we ever learn your language. Yes, we’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We’re connecting with you through social media. But we’d like to connect with you in person. But I am not sure this is what you want. I get it.
I apologize that the 21st century church talks about money. Every time you show up to church we talk about or ask for money. I bet that you are buried in student loans and financial debt and the thought of giving money to a religious institution is foreign and almost offensive. Please realize, generosity and giving is one of the spiritual disciplines we practice. Generosity grows our trust in others and God. And let’s be honest, you know this! You’ve experienced this. There have been times your generosity to others did more for the giver than the receiver. It just felt good. So we must continue to talk about generosity and giving in church. But I am not sure this is what you want. I get it.
If I can be so bold, I would like to share what I want for you, the Church, and my church. I want the church to be filled with people who want Jesus. Ok, there I go using insider language again. I apologize.
Let’s try this. With God’s help, I want the church filled with people who are discovering the
- Unexplainable FREEDOM that occurs when past wrongs locked behind doors of guilt encounter Jesus’ grace and forgiveness.
- Unbelievable ABILITY to be like Jesus; forgiving the unforgivable loving the unlovable, and giving the unimaginable.
- Unimaginable PEACE that comes not when we get what we want, but when Jesus reveals to us we have all that we need.
But I am not sure this is what you want.
But maybe it is …