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How does church become a welcoming sanctuary for all?

Published 9:31am Friday, March 14, 2014

 Across the Pastor’s Desk, by the Rev. Kenneth Jensen

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” — Hebrews 13:8.

The 16th century was a century of radical change. It marked the rise of the nation state and the birth of modern science. The printing press enabled mass communications to take place. European colonization of Africa and the Americas was in full swing. It was in such an environment that the Protestant Reformation took root transforming not only the message of the church but also society’s politics and culture.

It is the belief of Christians everywhere that we are called to the world for the better. The apostle Paul wrote, “God was reconciling the world unto himself in Christ…and God has entrusted to use the message of reconciliation.” — Second Corinthians 5:19.

The question is, are there ever times when the world ought to change us, that is, the manner in which we share a message of reconciliation? Pope Francis put it this way. “How can we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing?”

The millennial generation of Americans (young people in their 20s and 30s) are leaving the church in droves including those married with children. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently said the church in England will be extinct within a generation unless things change.

How much the media contributes to the negative perception of the church is open to debate. However, a growing member of millennials view the church as judgmental, hypocritical, hateful, anti-gay, anti-doubt, anti-woman, anti-sex-education and anti science. One young evangelical put it this way. “We want a community of faith in which we can feel safe to wrestle with tough questions surrounding such issues as science and secularity.”

Many millennials feel that the church is failing to connect them with Jesus. They want, in their words, a more “traditional faith,” a church focused on social justice issues such as caring for the poor.

Yes, Jesus is the same today, yesterday and forever. Yes, we are called by Christ to bring people into a meaningful relationship with our Lord. Yes, we have been chosen to transform the world from one which is focused self to one which seeks the welfare of others. But as happened in the 16th century, does the world need to change us?

Although, it is not my intent, I realize many will find this devotion controversial. My intent is for us to consider the question, “How we do, as the church become a welcoming community to those outside the community of faith?” It is a question facing theologians, pastors, as well as us who warm the pews.

  • albertlea44

    Thank you for your thoughtful article. If you are suggesting that the Church compromise the Gospel to accommodate the majority view, then you only need to look at what has been going on in many of the mainline Protestant churches. I disagree with your premise that millennials are looking for a church that is in keeping with society’s latest social and political leanings. On the contrary, they are looking for something and Someone to believe in that is rock solid and is not subject to change. The Bible alone. Christ alone. Faith alone.