Sold Out

I am 27 and I am single.  As it turns out, I am an oddball for my generation.  Though this is not news to me (I’ve been an oddball for my whole life for one reason or another), it is frustrating.  People talk about how this generation is not in church and wonder why…I haven’t read the book unChristian but I have heard some of the numbers in sermons that support this.  I have read blogs where people ask wonderingly how to get the 20 and 30-somethings back.  And honestly it kinda pisses me off.  I am still in church because I love the church.  Warts and all, I love her (which is where the “oddball” things comes into play).  She has so much potential!  But in so many ways, we have sold out.  It makes me want to leave sometimes.  We prioritze our lives away to create hierarchies of responsibility which allow us to be neat and tidy with our responses to the various expectations that are thrown our way instead of relying on the Spirit to direct us.  We idolize the family unit.  We place it above the body of Christ.  We worship it as the be all end all for the american dream.  While the specifics of that american dream may have changed, the family is still highly sought after even if that is “only” a partner in crime (aka spouse).  People were made for relationships.  The body of Christ should be the epitomy of that.  Instead we all come together for a few short hours every week and pretend to be united.  Don’t get me wrong, we are united in the Spirit and there is nothing we can do that will change that fact.  But practically speaking the church seems to me to be a bunch of individuals who allude themselves that they live in community.  And I am a culprit myself.  We have our own homes, our own cars, our own mixers and microwaves and radios and TVs and laptops and…  We live in the illusion that we don’t need each other.  We have pay at the pump, self serve, and self check outs because I can do it all by myself damn it.  Sounds like something a 2 year old would say.  So if you want to bring the 20 and 30 somethings back, it seems to me that at least part of that needs to be offering relationship.  There are a lot of smart people out there with great suggestions for the more practical side of things but my 2 cents is this: even if you do all the right things as per the experts on post-modernity and emergent culture, if you are not working to build relationships with people, you aren’t going to attract this age group.  Tell me you need me.  Tell me I matter.  Tell me you are okay with me being me.  Tell me your community will benefit from what I have to offer.  And make sure you mean it.  Instead of prioritizing life, live it to it’s fullest.  Do you think a single 20 or 30 something might enjoy hanging out with you and your family?  And I’m not talking about just on Christmas when everyone magically starts thinking about people who have eaten hundreds of meals alone throughout the year.  Stop compartmentalizing things and let’s share.  Let’s live our messy lives with the messyness touching. 

A note of caution: Don’t require me to be anything other than what God made me to be.  Even if the way you understand that is different from the way I understand that.  We don’t buy into guilt or manipulation.  It makes us feel icky inside and scares us away.  If I need to be changed, God knows it and will bring it about and might even use you to do it, but that must be on God’s timeline…not yours.

This rant is officially over.  Hopefully I will not have to eat any of these words.  Writing this has been a bit cathartic so even if I do oh well.  These ideas are not fully formed in my head but control and perfection are idols I have bowed down to for far too long.

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4 Responses to “Sold Out”

  1. tenaciousweed Says:

    You go, girl! I love truth. Really. Truly. And yes. Yes. Yes. Though single now, it was not formerly so, and sometimes living in the trap of “perceived as perfect from the outside” while in a family unit causes the same isolation. Even inside of what we try to build as a safe harbor of a home, sometimes we suffer from a need to *look* as if it’s all okay.

    Yes, 20 and 30 somethings (and I daresay, families in this age group, too, in addition to singles) crave permission to deal with the messiness in a community of grace with a heaping spoonful of truth that is not condemnation — but rather a visionary step toward truer freedom as we walk through our brokenness into a treasured vulnerability that helps us all find safety under the wings of fellowship and teaches us to fly in a way that we may have forgotten we could.

  2. EJ Says:

    When I entered seminary, I was 21. At that time, I strove to go into youth ministry. Why? I felt I understood youth. I understood why they thought the way they thought. I understood their anxiety. I understood their hopes and their dreams. I appreciated their black and white perspective (its just right, its just wrong). I also understood that they were venturing out into the gray and started to appreciate that as well (what is sexuality?). I wanted to work with youth and I had a lot of years of youth experience under my belt. But something started to happen when I was at sem. I worked with adults. And I was becoming even more an adult.

    I started to realize something in the process. Adults are just kids in disguise. Oh, they use bigger words, but they still have fundamentally the same fear. They talk about how “complicated” things are, but they really DO want it to be black and white, that there is a right and a wrong — we have just flip flopped what we want those things to be, our tolerance for them, if you will. But really? We, in many ways, are alike.

    Even in our need to have things easy to fix. For every adult I’ve met, I have discovered that they perceive their problems as complicated, but others as easily fixed. I think the church has bought into that notion. Some have made lots of money off of those notions. We just need programs, technology, music in order to capture the 20 to 30 year olds. There has to be a hook — And SOMETIMES that works to bring in bodies.

    I was there not that many years ago. I am a traditional worship loving ELCA member. Lifelong. Even attended seminary. But if given the chance, I would attend Andy Stanley’s church, North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA. Why? Their 7:22 band. There is something about their choice of music and the way they put it together that is HIGHLY moving for me. That hooked me, and many other 20-30 year olds. All trying to figure life out. The relationship happened because we were all there in the same space. Why not talk? And then they moved us into groups. So we related some more. Some of it was planned, some of it was space to allow it to happen accidentally. Some programmed, some not so much.

    I didn’t feel the pressure of being married. It was solely my choice and desire. Perhaps it is because many of my friends didn’t marry until well into their 30s and didn’t have babies until nearing 40. Perhaps. And I’m not saying society doesn’t put pressure on people, but I think much of that is what we put upon ourselves. I asked a professor once, why she didn’t go the ordained route, she said, “Oh, there seems to be a perceived power that goes along with being ordained. But power is just that. Perceived. I didn’t feel called to be ordained. That just didn’t seem an obvious choice for me. In many ways, my being ordained has been a blessing. I haven’t been tied down by the same constraints many of my colleagues feel, but did I give up power? Not as far as I can tell. Power is there to grab, to seize. The power is in being me, whom God has called me to be. I am Mary. There is no other Mary. And when God urges me to put myself out there, I do. Whether or not I have “Ordained” stamped on my ass or not…and wouldn’t you know — The same kinds of things happen. Ordination really is a vocation, not a magical event that changes a person.”

    I think the same is true of that thing called marriage. But the same is true of anything related to the church or otherwise. It is all construct. Not that construct isn’t helpful. I believe it is there for a reason, and a good reason. And do we get caught up in it. Yeah. Because that means we are now “Suable.” Which seems to make us feel vulnerable. Which is why leaders tend to be conservatively minded — i.e. wanting to conserve what they have inherited. Because they don’t want to leave it broken. Doesn’t look good on the leadership.

    I believe all adults, 20 something or not, wants to find why they exist. The church can be helpful on that journey — somewhat. And you are right, the relationship is why you are here and stay. But those relationships are just as complex as in any family unit, married or otherwise. And therefore we can get hurt by those relationships, especially because we THINK they should be another way, but they actually ARE the same. Whether they have the stamp of Christian on their foreheads or not. For many, that is seen as scary, and so they call it hypocritical.

    And for those who are inviting them in, we think there is a program, and answer as to why “they” are or are not here. And there are things that are helpful and those that are not.

    This is one of those circumstances where you just ACT. Not as in putting on a false face. But as in simply being the difference. It is amazing how much permission you can give to another person by simply being the allowing voice. You recognize people want to know for what they were created. So continue to treat them as if they have indeed been created for the building up of the body of Christ. That whether you have an ordained tattoo stamped on your ass from wherever you will matriculate, that it doesn’t mean the ministry is yours, rather it is the ministry bestowed upon the PEOPLE, given by God. It is their gift and their work. Help them to do that ministry. Fight the urge to do it for them. Fight the expectation your church will have for you, that it is yours to do. When in actuality, it is not. That is how the relationship is built. Marry, bury, baptize, teach, challenge, help them search, and give them the responsibility, send them out to own that search for purpose. Help them recognize their passion, so that others can see the burn and wonder what is going on inside of them.

    Is it seamless? Good grief, no. It is complicated. Oh yeah. I wish it were as simple as I would like to make it. Is it popular? Sure. We all want to do it. Until it comes time to do, and then no one wants to do it and it becomes idealistically popular, practically unpopular.

    Fundamentally, people are the same. They just worry about different things based on where they are in their lives. We are all just kids, trying to figure out how to do this, the best way we know how. Even if our best way sucks.

    Sorry to have blawhged on your blog. I yet again got carried away.

  3. Ruth Says:

    PH, I haven’t read the above responses — just wanted to mention — that this past Sunday, the Wash Post magazine had a column called “The Virgin and the Wedgie” (kind of a My Turn) which you would definitely appreciate. I do know that my ideas about the role of church in creating community have changed a lot over the years, partly as a response to different churches, and partly from changing family configurations. I do agree that churches idolize families and that’s a huge problem.

  4. pinkhammer Says:

    Hello ladies :) Thank you for your comments on this post. There is undoubtedly some truth in what I said but I think I only understand part of it because I am blinded by my frustrations. Undoubtedly I do the very things I hate because I don’t see that I am doing them and my frustration with these things or circumstances may very well be symptoms of something deeper. Lack of trust in God? Not believing God loves me? Not understanding (even remotely) what that looks like? These are all legitimate possibilities.

    Well, I need to go fold laundry and go to bed. I’m pooped. Good night.

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