Spiritual but Not Religious
The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story about Gen Xers abandoning church across America. Overall, “people 39 to 57 who attended a worship service during the week, either in person or online, fell to 28% in 2023, down from 41% in 2020.”
Many of us predicted this. Just as churches were full after 9/11 but eventually continued their decline, the Covid Pandemic resulted in a net loss of worshippers for multiple demographics. But why?
Unlike many of their parents and grandparents, Gen Xers (I am a Gen Xer) often describe themselves as spiritual, but not religious. If we break this down, it means that they do believe in a god or higher power but are disinterested in having that theology given to them. They would like to discover it themselves, keeping what works and discarding what doesn’t. The utility of the experience is essential to this understanding of the spiritual life. Many Gen Xers simply needed a push to a churchless life… and the pandemic gave them that push.
Christianity certainly welcomes powerful experiences of God. The Apostle Paul himself was profoundly changed by his experience with the risen Christ! However, in classic Christianity (the one that has been around for thousands of years), my experience is always subject to the tradition of the church and the Holy Scriptures.
Instead of seeking spiritual experiences on their own, the invitation of the historic church to my fellow Gen Xers is to join the great tradition of the saints, confessing our sins, celebrating our shared forgiveness and learning from our dynamic God in His Word and in the community He inhabits. While the short-term lift of life away from the clutter of shared community may feel good initially, within a few years (or less!), many will feel isolated, lonely and alone. The church exists, in part, to provide community to the journeyman. If you are disconnected from the church, you have my compassion. It is a hard road to commit to an organization in America today. However, the journey is designed to be made together. Join us and make the church what it is supposed to be: a place to know, love and worship God as the people of God.