Response to Rachel Evans blog, Why millennials need the church as much as the church needs them If you are not familiar with Rachel Evans, I’ve been (ever so slowly) writing a chapter by chapter book review of her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. (Here are the blog posts, if you want to have a look: Three-Thousand-Year-Old Inferiority Complex, Girl Gone Mild, Martha Stewart Theology, Obedience: My Husband, My Master, Bird’s Eye View of Rachel Evans’ Book, Eshet Chayil, My Breasts Are Like Towers, and I’m Too Sexy For My Tzniut.) Here is an excerpt from Why millennials need the church as much as the church needs them:
For a time, I counted myself among the spiritual but not religious, Christian but not churchgoing crowd. Like many millennials, I left church because I didn’t always see the compassion of Jesus there, and because my questions about faith and science, the Bible, homosexuality, and religious pluralism were met with shallow answers or hostility. At first I reveled in my newfound Sunday routine of sleeping in, sipping my coffee and yelling at Republicans who appeared on ”Meet the Press.” But eventually I returned, because, like it or not, we Christian millennials need the church just as much as the church needs us.
Rachel’s reasons for returning include: Baptism, confession, healing, leadership, communion, confirmation, and union with Christ. Before setting out to write this blog, I asked Rachel something: As I read Rachel’s blog, I have the distinct impression that Rachel is, for the most part, NOT addressing “the Body of Christ, present in Christ’s followers around the world.” The reason I get this impression is that Rachel begins the blog saying she used to be counted among the “not churchgoing crowd,” but that now, she has “returned.” In addition, she specifically references the church as a place. For example, “…the church is where we find them.”
As I’ve said before, it is unfortunate that there is only one word used to describe two completely different concepts. We use the word church to describe both a place and a glorious concept (as described by Rachel in the screencap above). The place, in my opinion, is a man-made attempt to control the glorious concept. If Rachel is writing about the place-church, then her blog post makes perfect sense. I might disagree with what she writes, but I am, at least, able to understand her view. If Rachel is writing about the glorious concept-church, then much of her blog post doesn’t make sense.
Sometimes Rachel moves from addressing the place to addressing the body of Christ. For example, Rachel writes, “The church, at its best, provides a safe place in which to wrestle with this story we call the Gospel.” Here she refers to the church as an entity, separate and distinct from the place. The church (believers) provide the place.
People, and in this case, millennials, choose to leave the place.
Should we assume that if they’ve left the place-church, they’ve left the glorious concept-church? If so, why? Does BEING the church not count unless it happens in some official ceremonious manner in a specific geographical location? When Rachel gave up churchgoing, was she no longer part of the body of Christ? When Rachel returned to the place, was she grafted back into the body of Christ?
I have no doubt that Rachel would answer these questions in the negative and offer beautiful explanations as to why millennial believers are still part of the church even if they don’t go to church, etc. But there’s no sense-making when the term church is not properly defined. If we are to run with the idea that millennials are still “the church” even if they don’t go to church, then how are we to make heads or tails of Rachel’s statement?
…millennials need the church just as much as the church needs us…
Translate the word church as a place, and it makes sense (that the statement is erroneous is irrelevant to this particular point). Translate the word church as the body of Christ, and it means that millennials stopped being the body of Christ when they stopped showing up at the place. I don’t think Rachel believes this. I have much more to say about this blog. I would like to address each point (Baptism, confession, healing, leadership, communion, confirmation, and union with Christ). But until the term church is clearly defined, it would hurt more than it would help. Hopefully, Rachel will take the time to make a distinction between the place-church and the body of Christ-church so that I can write a proper response to her blog.
In the meantime, let me tell you why I no longer live in Egypt:
Because people are systematically punished for being who God created them to be.
Because the hierarchical structure breeds apathy among those at the bottom, corruption among those at the top, and burn-out among those in the middle.
Because God’s reputation is dragged through the mud, the power of Christ is underestimated, and the Spirit of God is grieved nearly every week.
Because the system drains the time, energy, and resources of those who would be otherwise engaged in doing good in their circles of influence.
Because the system is designed such that true reform is impossible.
Because you don’t put new wine in an old wineskin.