We live in an age in which many people view the church as irrelevant, completely out-of-touch. It is not suited to address the real spiritual questions and complex needs people have in 2010. Most Christians do not understand why this is so and seem not to care to find out.
The popular word today is not religion, or church, but spirituality. People have great need for spirituality, for becoming whole spiritual beings. But Christian congregations have little to offer such people since they are viewed as formalized places of religion rather than places where spiritually hungry people can make deep connection with other God-seekers. As a result of this problem I meet more and more people who are “homeless” spiritual seekers, wandering here and there listening to all kinds of “answers” that they sincerely hope will meet their deepest needs. They can be found in book stores in the self-help section or in the new age or religion sections. They buy a great deal of pop psychology as well.
Many of the Christians I’ve known see all of this going on around them and speak out against it all, as if condemning such people will help them find the good news. Most congregations are content to leave such people on the sidelines and compete with one another for those who still attend church. Few church planters actually grasp the real issues and those who do are not supported by most existing congregations or denominations. This is having a huge impact on the church in general. The number of spiritual seekers who are coming to living faith in Christ, and real discipleship, is clearly in precipitous decline in North America.
The challenge here is really one for pastors and congregational leaders (they are not always the same) who will help shape congregations to become welcoming communities for this “homeless” generation of spiritual seekers who need to experience the grace and love of God in Jesus Christ. They need to find a community that is centered in joy and deep spiritual engagement with the world that really exists for a growing number of people in America. What is needed is caring engagement, not judgment and opinion. This means churches need to become intentionally missional. But this will not happen without courageous leadership. If you have such leaders in your congregation support them. Pray for them. Encourage them. It is lonely trying to lead people into a new way of seeing their mission when most are content to remain behind as settlers and not move into a new moment in history where “homeless” spiritual seekers live and share our space.