The church in North America is not being attacked. It’s being evaluated. It is not being persecuted. It’s being interrogated.

Known for pointing a judgmental finger, people are pointing out the church’s hypocrisy. Because they are working out their salvation from the oppressions it has often had a hand in.

Its members are asking the church, “Why are we here?”

If it is just a religious meeting with no impact on our community, then why should we keep coming?

If our ecclesiology is just going to reinforce the divisions of American society, then what difference does my attendance make?

If the vision and the goal is to make America a Christian nation, then what am I really believing in Jesus for?

They have found better uses for their Sundays and other meaningful gatherings for fellowship, taking children to sports practices and themselves to brunch.

For generations, North American churches have depended on the faithful attendance of its members. Fear of God’s wrath and guilt over how much “God loves you” kept them coming.

While it is common practice to blame everything on Millennials, church attendance has been in decline for decades.

Philip Jenkins, professor of history at Baylor University, told the church to prepare itself for a shift in the global focus of Christianity in his book The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity.

In the third edition, Jenkins writes, “In 1900, 83 percent of the world’s Christians lived in Europe and North America. In 2050, 72 percent of Christians will live in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and a sizeable share of the remainder will have roots in one or more of those continents.”

A faith formed in the East, Christianity has largely been centered in the West, which historically exported a white Jesus, a white God and a Holy Spirit inspired by domination and the assimilation of all cultures to “whiteness.”

America commercializes itself as the greatest nation on earth and brands itself as a superpower. Likewise, the American church, most notably evangelical Christians, has taken its cues from its government, presenting Christianity as the supreme religion and subjecting all others to a skewed interpretation of discipleship.

Hand in hand with the empire, the church in North America continues to struggle with the legacy of colonialism, slavery, segregation and racism. Perhaps it can be argued that the sociopolitical construct of race and, namely, the notion of white supremacy is to blame.

Inspired by the words of James Baldwin, Robert P. Jones said American Christianity has been “white too long.”

Jemar Tisby named the American church’s complicity with racism in The Color of Compromise.

In Red State Christians, Angela Denker helped us to understand the Christians who elected Donald Trump and how the line between national pride and Christian identity became blurred.

Willie James Jennings turned to his peers in academia and pointed to a “kin-dom” coming in his book After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging.

These authors and countless others before them are doing the work of naming and of reclaiming the Christian narrative from “white” supremacy, from “white” Christian nationalism, from “white” Christian evangelicalism, from xenophobia, patriarchy and misogyny.

They want a Christian faith that looks and sounds like Jesus.

Because younger generations are not blindly following this Sunday morning tradition. They are rejecting their grandparents’ faith, choosing instead to find their own.

It seems they want an actual personal relationship with God. Ironically, it often begins when they notice a discrepancy, a blatant hypocrisy, an instance where the church does not practice what it preaches.

“For God so loved the world” is one of the most-used scriptures in efforts to proselytize, yet the church is most often associated with who it hates. It’s a quip and a quote printed on t-shirts: “There is no hate like Christian love.”

The most diverse in ethnicity and differing from traditional beliefs, Generation Z is up in arms about heterosexism, ableism, the exclusion of women in ministry and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

There is much to discuss and, with iPhones in hand, this generation reassures us, “Google is your friend.”

And they are not alone in their discontent. The calls for reform are coming from inside the church.

Rather than focusing on attracting new visitors, the church should pay attention to why its current members are leaving. To be sure, the problems it is facing won’t be solved with a welcome center, a coffee bar or a bigger parking lot.

The externalization of righteousness extended to church facades and member-only features, it is not about keeping up the capitalistic appearance of following Jesus. No more fundraising campaigns for shiny new doorknobs.

The doors of many churches are closed due to COVID-19. This gives church more time for introspection and to answer all the questions of those who are practicing a faith that seeks understanding.

Share This