Faith seems to be the only thing many folks still have these days. Even that is in doubt. Cathy Lynn Grossman wrote an article for USA Today on March 9, 2009. She states, “The percentage of people who call themselves in some way Christian has dropped more than 11% in a generation. The faithful have scattered out of their traditional bases: The Bible Belt is less Baptist. The Rust Belt is less Catholic. And everywhere, more people are exploring spiritual frontiers — or falling off the faith map completely.” What?!?
It is not a secret that all faith communities are suffering from decline. When you enter the sacred space of worship on Sunday in Anytown, USA you are bound to discover the absence of young adults, and young families. Where have all the people gone?
I remember as a teenager hearing “I’m spiritual, not religious” for the first time. It was a way to claim a connection to the divine without securing a place in line waiting for the religious “baggage” to be picked up. I lived those years after high school and on into college exploring the “spiritual, but not religious” position. I prayed my way to be more religious, more Christian.
I looked around at my contemporaries to se if they too were fighting to be more religious. I witnessed declining faith in God, Christ, and church that seemed to match the decline of church attendance. I still went to church, but my friends did not. This has not lessened in my twenty plus years of experience with faith communities and congregational ministry.
The fact is that church attendance is at an all time low. People are not attending church. How do we respond to this? What can we do to increase attendance to our communities?
I offer that the problem is not that young adults are not going to church. It is that church is no longer the same thing today as it was in days gone bye. Church is the place where ones call to serve Jesus is questioned and answered. Church is where those that answer the call are equipped and readied for service to the world. Church is a community, a tribe of people seeking a faith of understanding. Church is still here.
Those that are “spiritual, but not religious” are indeed sisters and brothers in the ways of the Christ. They are reclaiming the intimate history of house churches, intentional communities, integrated worship, and living in the world to serve the world.
Jesus has indeed left the building and entered the world in the hearts, minds, and hands of these young entrepreneurial adventurers that are forging a way in an emerging world of faith which celebrates their “spiritual, but not religious” attitudes. Here Christ manifests in exciting ways. Ways that are not the status quo.
I am reminded of a poem by Rumi called, Be Lost in the Call. “Lord, said David, since you do not need us, why did you create these two worlds? Reality replied: O prisoner of time, I was a secret treasure of kindness and generosity, and I wished this treasure to be known, so I created a mirror: its shining face, the heart; its darkened back, the world; The back would please you if you’ve never seen the face.
Has anyone ever produced a mirror out of mud and straw? Yet clean away the mud and straw, and a mirror might be revealed. Until the juice ferments a while in the cask, it isn’t wine. If you wish your heart to be bright, you must do a little work. My King addressed the soul of my flesh: You return just as you left. Where are the traces of my gifts?
We know that alchemy transforms copper into gold. This Sun doesn’t want a crown or robe from God’s grace. He is a hat to a hundred bald men, a covering for ten who were naked. Jesus sat humbly on the back of an ass, my child! How could a zephyr ride an ass? Spirit, find your way, in seeking lowness like a stream. Reason; tread the path of selflessness into eternity.
Remember God so much that you are forgotten. Let the caller and the called disappear; be lost in the Call.”
It is my prayer that we may become lost in the call as the caller and called become one in mind, heart, and will.