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Free From Anxiety

69154_159334497430667_6799468_nIn my last post, prompted by Rachel Held Evans‘ CNN Belief Blog, I explored reasons why millennials are leaving the church, and the machinations we go through to get them back.

What I discovered along the way were the voices of Millennials who shared their own stories. I’ve started to chronicle some of them on the Leaving Church tumblr. Some of the stories are hopeful. Others are aching. Their stories (no doubt like all of our stories) are filled with an interplay of hope and despair, joy and aching pain.

It is into the heart of this world, and in the midst of a people who constantly experience these ups and downs that Jesus came.

It is into the heart of this world, and in the midst of a people who constantly experience these ups and downs that Christ’s church has been sent. 

As Christians – members of Christ’s body – we have been sent to accompany folks who have one and a half feet out the door:

I’ve got one and a half feet out the door because: I don’t connect with musical worship much; I’m not needed for the gifts I can bring; people aren’t that friendly (the 50-somethings want me to stay, but they don’t want to/know how to be my friend); and mostly, it’s not a place where I can actually discuss what I believe without some negative scrutiny.

We have also been called to come alongside those who are treading the scary path of joining the church again, or for the first time:

Really, it’s been on me to be strong and I haven’t necessarily done that. I reached out to campus clubs and parishes when i moved away to university and got immediate feedback from my new dorm community that they were worried I was a “Christian wacko” – that’s on them, but the fact that I backed off and hushed up is on me. I’m the one who wishes her situation were different, not them. But I do feel very strongly that it can be scary to have faith or be Christian if your community is non-Christian.

In response to my earlier post, Kyle wrote:

I have to wonder: what would happen if we stopped thinking about attracting ‘them’…What if we simply focused on being a loving, Christ filled, exuberant and passionate church filled with people who love Jesus and each other.

The stories of those who have exited the church are haunting for some of us. They might cause us the fear or anxiety of possible death. And yet, in the face of such possibility, God calls us to be faithful. As individuals, and as communities of faith we must be prepared to join Christ on the shadowy valley path to Calvary.

German philosopher Martin Heidegger once said:

“If I take death into my life, acknowledge it, and face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life – and only then will I be free to become myself.”

It seems to me that the talk about Millennials is really just code for our fear that the church might die. If we allow ourselves to truly and honestly confront our feelings about the loss of Millennials by looking such death squarely in the eye, our church will find its own freedom from the anxieties of death as it seeks to embody Christ’s gospel.

Perhaps then we will be able to let go of the pettiness of our machinations and techniques for “getting them back.”

Perhaps then our church will once again become free to be the church.

If, as Kyle suggests, we focus on being a loving, Christ-filled, passionate and exuberant church; if we focus on being a church that casts its lot with Christ crucified, setting all other things aside, we might just find that God works powerfully to do more than we can ask or imagine.

Andrew Stephens-Rennie

About Andrew Stephens-Rennie

Andrew is an Anglican lay leader who loves pioneering responsive, contextual solutions to the challenge of being church in the 21st Century. He serves as an assistant to the rector for Evangelism and Christian Formation at Christ Church Cathedral Vancouver and is a founding member of the emerging St. Brigids community (
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