I’m writing for 31 days about all the ways I see God showing up in my day-to-day life. Today’s “God-Spot” was an easy one. To read other posts from this month of October, go to 31 Days.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Baby Boomers leaving the church. A month before that, I responded to a couple of essays about why Millennials are turning away from church and from God.
Thoughts from both of those conversations came flooding back to me on Sunday morning as my husband and I sat in our usual pew near the front of the sanctuary, right behind the sweet little octogenarian who chooses the contemporary service because she likes the music.
Filling the pulpit in the absence of our interim pastor (temporarily called away to lead a retreat) was a young woman raised in our church who is currently leading the youth. This has been a season of change for our congregation of 350, with both our lead pastor and youth pastor choosing to step away from their positions with the church in the same month, and an associate pastor leaving earlier in the year. No controversy or conflict — just decisions based on leadings all of them felt were of God.
This young newlywed standing before us recently graduated from a Christian university in our home state and was welcomed back to her congregation and the community with open arms — a Millennial deciding it was her turn to “give back”. In addition to working with the youth (with her new husband as her strong support), she leads worship in our contemporary service. And, she works part-time for the local pregnancy center.
In a time when we’re being told that church doesn’t have much to offer either young believers (who risk becoming non-believers) or those of us in the empty-nest season of our lives (also at risk), it’s refreshing to see this young woman putting feet to what I feel is a viable, active solution to ambivalence, even disillusionment — involvement. In life, in your community, in ministry, in the church.
What this young “activist” gave us on Sunday morning was a beautiful, intelligent, heart-felt sermon on the importance of the crucifixion. It’s not the Easter season, a time when we usually talk about the cross, but God laid this message on her heart so she obeyed. With a large wooden cross standing at one side of the altar, she walked us through, with vivid imagery, the sacrifice Christ made in payment for our sins.
“For a Christian, it’s all about the cross,” she said. “Without it, we would not be calling ourselves followers of Christ. All of Scripture points to the cross — the Old Testament leads up to the crucifixion, and the New Testament is about everything that comes after the crucifixion.”
My heart swelled with pride and tears spilled from my eyes. This young woman’s faith is more than a heritage from her parents, it’s a living, breathing part of who she is as an adult, a wife, a sister and a mentor.
She closed her sermon with this prophesy from Isaiah 53:3-5:
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
At her invitation, the pews emptied as each of us moved to the foot of the cross, leaving our names and our commitment:
“That is the one whom I choose to follow. That is my Savior.”
So on this Monday after worship, I’m thinking this:
It’s not about the coffee in the fellowship hall, the quality of the children’s programs, the music in the sanctuary, the lack of activities for my age group, the type of Bible studies and Sunday School books we choose or whether we celebrate Harvest in Halloween style.
It’s not even about the hypocrite in the back pew or the gender of the person in the pulpit.
It’s about believing in and following Jesus. Baby boomers, Millennials, Gen X, Y or Z — and all those who came before and will come after — we can all find something lacking in the church.
Here’s a news flash — it’s not about US. It’s about the innocent one who gave His life so that we could have life.
It’s about HIM.