Q&A: Making a Case for Church

Q&A: Making a Case for Church


Anglican priest, author

Q: Many young adults say they don't attend church because they find God elsewhere. What's your response to that? 01

The notion of that question is that church is a place we go to have God dispensed to us, as individuals. Of course, you can meet God in everyday life—that’s never been disputed by anyone in the Church. Yet, there’s a presumption that church is about my individual spiritual experience or encounter, which is just simply not what church is.

The Church is a family, and it’s a communion around Jesus. The gospel is not an individual gospel where we’re each called to Jesus and hope to meet him individually. We do that as a body; the Holy Spirit came to a body, to a group of people. If the Church is part of the gospel, if it’s an institution that God has built and is calling us into, then the Church isn’t just about my own individual needs being met. It’s about this feast, particularly around Word and sacrament.

There’s no other place you can go to receive the Word and the sacraments. The Church is coming together to meet Jesus together. Not just with our self-selection of friends and community that we like, but as part of this ancient and global community of Jesus.

Q: How can churches intentionally lead young adults to practice daily rhythms through which they engage God? 02

People need to learn the story of scripture, the doctrines of the Church. There needs to be rich, solid teaching on theology and on practices. That’s what people are yearning for. Church can’t just be putting information in people’s heads. There has to be a sense of practice of the way that Christians live—of how we use our time, our bodies, our money. All of that has to be deeply, theologically rooted in this broader story of what God is doing through time, so it doesn’t seem like arbitrary rules, but something that is an invitation into the very heart of God.

Things like small groups have been important in our church in terms of growth and connection. The other thing that our church does is that every single person who goes through confirmation is paired with two mentors. You meet with them a few times over several months, talk, get to know each other, ask questions. You can wrestle with things. The whole life of the church, this person is a sponsor to them, a mentor to them. There’s just no way to program spiritual growth—it’s always going to have roots in relationships. You can’t make relationships flourish, but I think you can create a culture where that’s happening.

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