An apathetic generation?

Oct 27, 2015 by

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For the past several years, the current generation of 20-30 years old has often been labeled as lazy, self-centered and disinterested in local and global affairs. Ranging from simply not caring enough to research platforms or to place a vote to not engaging enough with the news, our generation has often received the bad reputation of being part of the “I-Culture.”

To be fair, I do not believe this is always the case. Looking at people from within my age cohort, I believe that we are often passionately involved in service and mission like never before. I believe that when it comes to the human rights of equality and peacemaking, this generation exceeds the expectations others have put on it and truly goes out and makes a difference. This is to be applauded. But it is not enough to simply start and end with social justice. For the Christian, social justice is deeply rooted in the incarnational message of Christ. Throughout the Bible and particularly in the Gospels, we discover how Christ calls each person to a life of humility and servanthood. We read that it is the person’s heart and inner motivations that truly matter and that from those visions and ideas, actions will spring forth.

Nevertheless, perhaps the greatest area of our collective apathy lies in our disinterest in all things Christian. I find it deeply ironic that our generation craves intense spiritual experiences and that involvement in new age, angel readings or horoscopes continues to be prevalent, yet when it comes to finding the true meaning that is only available through Scripture, we often ignore it. Perhaps this is due to the fact that truly living the Christian life within this apathetic generation would likely lead to scorn and ridicule. People may see us as too narrow, too judgemental, or even too strict. Some would counter that the guidelines laid out in the Bible are too difficult to maintain or that they are irrelevant to our daily walk as Christians. It is for this reason that almost all of us pick and choose which Scriptures we decide to follow — ignoring the ones that are too demanding, and placing too much emphasis on the generalized commands of living good lives and being kind and compassionate. We have often decided on a “cool” and “complimentary” Christianity rather than the demanding life of discipleship Christ calls us to be part of.

Within the Christian realm, one of the greatest risks of apathy is that we will stop meeting together. We will stop building community and we will increase our independence rather than being dependant and vulnerable with those around us. In the book of Hebrews we are told, “do not give up meeting as some are in the habit of doing.”

Within the past hundred years, we have seen the fall of Christendom. Church has moved from being the focal point of daily life within the Christian community to being simply another option to choose from on a Sunday morning. Whereas the counsel of pastors and deacons was once heeded, they have simply become voices that are crowded out by popular media. Suddenly, people lost their interest in organized religion and in the church itself. Church no longer was the hub of fellowship and support, but instead became just another dead-weight meeting group largely reserved for women and senior citizens.

Therefore, breathing life into this reality is a difficult task to demand. Yet, there is a reason why throughout Scripture and researching the life of the early church, God placed so much priority on this very task.

Some may wonder why they need to go to church. Sadly, even within the theological realm of Christian universities and seminaries, many students do not see much of a purpose to be part of a Christian assembly. Some feel that their classes and the student chapels are enough to supplement their spiritual life. This may be true, but if we do not proceed with caution, we may find our souls in danger.

See, there are really three reasons we go to church. Firstly, we go in order to experience God in fresh new ways. We certainly are capable of worshipping him on our own or with just one or two other people. We do not need to attend a church to sing when we can find virtually any Christian song imaginable on YouTube, and we do not need to go to church to learn when we can simply Google sermons. But there is something sacred and precious about being part of a wide group of people and being encouraged through watching their attitudes and actions within worship. There is something that shows our commitment when we are able to wake up on a Sunday morning, forsake other duties, and set aside just one or two hours to be part of a church. It is also a testimony to the outside world. Sure, I can be a Christian on my own time and in my own way, and that is great, but no one else is going to recognize that reality except myself. Yet, when my colleagues or housemates see me leaving in order to go to church, they get to know a part of me that I may not have shared otherwise, and occasionally this can even lead to questions, which in turn become opportunities for evangelism.

Secondly, we go to church for the nourishment of our own souls. Just as we need physical food daily, we also need to feed our souls on the word of God, on fasting and on prayer. Do we need to go to church in order to be a Christian or in order to live an upright life? No. There are many wonderful people in our world who do not attend a church or any religious assembly, but who still do great things for others and live a life of selflessness. So why do we go to church, then? We go to be strengthened. We go to meet with others who are stronger in the faith than we are. We go to be in the presence of an intergenerational and intercultural community of likeminded people who all have one thing in common — obedience to Christ. You see, going to church is not necessary to salvation. Instead, it is a gift that God gives us in order to continue to grow into Christlikeness and obedience to him.

Thirdly, we go to church in order to help build others up in their faith. Part of the issue with this current generation is that by and large they assume that everything is about them. They are interested in mentorship because it will impact them, and this is important. We need to come to a place of spiritual maturity before we can reach out and help others. Yet there comes a time when we have been filled enough that we are now able to start filling others. By going to church and actively taking part in spiritual life, we can encourage those around us through the way we worship, the way we serve, and the way we greet and talk with others. Church also provides us with a wonderful outlet for sharing with people younger than ourselves through teaching Sunday school or helping out with the youth group. In fact, if you are looking for a place to serve but having difficulty locating a good fit, you probably don’t need to look much further than your own parish, which offers a host of opportunities you may never have even considered, from being part of the hospitality committee, to worship leading, or folding bulletins before the service.

Within this often apathetic and lazy generation, those of us who profess the Christian life are called to reject such disengagement and instead to “shine like stars.” This doesn’t mean we will be perfect or that our church will be perfect. We will make mistakes. We may become disillusioned or even distraught at some things that have taken place in the name of organized religion, but when we truly place our trust in the hands of God and commit to regular fellowship and meeting together, we will often find that it is indeed worth it — that even in the midst of discouragement, church can offer us a place of support by pointing us to the very one who offers us comfort — the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, I want to ask you: where will you be this Sunday? I hope the answer is that I will find you in church.

Deborah-Ruth Ferber studied religious education at Tyndale University College in Toronto, and peace studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind. This post first appeared at Zwiebach and Peace, her personal blog.


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