Those of us who run in evangelical circles have talked about younger folks leaving the Christian faith, some of us wringing our hands in the process. Last week, however, one of those people came forward to share by video that she was joining their ranks. My heart went out to her.
See, I knew her — she had briefly been a worship leader at my church. She described her childhood in her evangelical world as uplifting, had gone to a well-known Bible college and was married three weeks after graduating. All well and good, you might say.
But while she didn’t exactly say this, I got the suspicion that she felt that she was conditioned to fit a system that, in her view, didn’t allow her to grow — in particular due to her gender.
And that’s causing me to rethink some things as well. Now, over the years I’ve become more of a traditionalist when it comes to women’s roles in the church, in large part because I as a man was treated better in complementarian settings. That being said, having myself not sought a leadership position in my church, I haven’t had the power to subjugate them.
But that’s not the point I want to make here. Rather, I sometimes wonder if, for the sake of maintaining its authority, we’ve lost the ultimate mission of the Gospel — to call people to Jesus, not a religious system.
In most churches, of course, you have “insiders” and “outsiders,” with the folks who grew up in that system receiving primacy. Christian media often reinforce that trend, with a focus on “traditional” values as such that is never to be questioned. But more than simply possibly harming females, the system ironically has also driven teen boys out as well because the energy they would bring simply isn’t welcome.
In writing this, I may be saying that evangelicalism as generally understood is in more trouble than I thought.
My own church has done an excellent job of welcoming “outsiders” into the fold. Our annual Thanksgiving testimony service almost always has people sharing their stories about staying “clean and sober” and, while I’ve never personally had problems with drug and alcohol abuse respectively, I applaud right along with them. Of course, these generally were not “good church people” analogous to the older brother of the proverbial Prodigal Son — and that’s the point.
Perhaps, rather than maintaining a religious system to which people have to conform — in my Sunday School class, we’re discussing Galatians, a big part of the controversy in that epistle — we need to open up our doors and hearts and welcome people, warts and all.