Why have young people stopped going to church?Leaders of the church have been asking for about 40 years “why is it that young people have stop going to church”. This question has now become “why is it that nearly everyone has stopped going to church”?
It depends on who answers the question. A conservative Christian may place the onus on the person by maybe stating “you are not following the rules”. What does the Catechism say? A more liberal person may maybe place the blame of the institutional church by maybe stating “the church is out of touch with where people are at”.
Listening to friends whose own children are in their 20s and 30s, who no longer go to church, I wonder what will happened to my children in 20 or 30 years’ time for the same reasons. But if things continue in not too long a time, is the church dead?
But on the back of the Australian Royal Commission which found thousands of cases where some priests and religious have sexually abused children, and where some leaders have covered this up. It is no wonder the decline in Christianity has accelerated. The very people who were held up as the guiding lights to God have become in a sense the very instruments of destruction. Furthermore, the question around confession where the perpetrator says “sorry”, only rubs salt into wounds. The media has helped these issues to be brought into the public forum and light, but so it should. This must be dealt with in both a religious domain but also a civil and legal domain. This has painted the church in a negative light. Most priests and religious have not abused, however, for many lay people priests and religious are painted with the same brush.
But lets wonder for a moment. If you remove the question around historical abuse by some, the institutional structures which were created many centuries ago, the lack of the role of women in leadership and maybe some of the ethics, which you may not entirely agree with, what are we left with? Why church?
The core of Christianity is that it makes its claims that God has become a person in Jesus Christ. But, we must be careful when we say that. We can no longer package the Gospel and the person of Jesus in a perfect gift wrapping ready to be given at Christmas. This form of Christianity, a paternalistic notion that the institutional church is going to give you everything you need, must move beyond this. The church must grow up. The people of God must grow up.
We are designed as finite beings. With a limited life span. Yet our hearts and minds seek the infinite. Does your life touch the infinite?
John Claude Colin had a vision that the church had to be re-born. That we would become bearers of hope. Like Mary who gave birth to Jesus, we would embody what it means to be church today. We do not start with a completed tapestry or a 1000-piece puzzle. But rather a single piece which animates one step of our Christian life. To be bearers of Christ.
Maybe this piece is forgiveness where we need to say “sorry” for how we have hurt our brother or sister.
Maybe it is spending time alone in prayer.
Maybe it is going to the skate park forming community.
Maybe it is watching a movie which inspires us to build connections with those we love.
Maybe it is planting seeds with our children or grandchildren.
Maybe it is protesting at a climate change march.
Maybe it is stopping work so that we can spend more time with our children.
We must learn to fall in love with God. In all of our lives. One piece at a time. We must discover a deeper sense of church. This word “church”, may no longer fit. As we are talking about not just a fixed building where priests dispense sacraments. The factory model seems to no longer work.
How do we bring to birth Christ today? In our world? In our lives?
This puzzle is never truly finished, as a bearer of Christ throughout our entire lives.
Why don’t we go to church?
Because, we have not begun with the puzzles first single piece. In our lives.
Let’s not presume to know the answer, but rather, focus on the question.
What is your question?
This is like a riddle.
Yet Jesus would often answer questions as a riddle.