While in seminary in the late 80’s, I remember learning about the predicted decline of Christian churches in the US as we moved into the 21st century. Some also imagined that instead of sending missionaries elsewhere in the world, countries in Africa and Asia would send their missionaries here.
Both if these predictions have come true. The decrease of participation in religious institutions is obvious to all of us who work in the church, and is well-documented by Pew Research and others. Rebecca Y. Kim, Professor of Sociology at Pepperdine University published a book in 2015 called, The Spirit Moves West: Korean Missionaries in America which documents the phenomena of missionaries who come here to revitalize and evangelize Americans.
Although it's a great start, the church needs more than to evangelize people into believers and follwers of Jesus. In his book, Religion and Spirituality: Explorations for Seekers, Robert Haight writes, “…religion has as its purpose to reflect and support spirituality. When religion fails in this function it loses its reason for being.” It seems that American Christianity is missing in action when it comes to engaging in activities, services and practices that connect spiritually with people today, especially Millenials. The question that rattles around in my head is, “what would our religious institutions look like, feel like and do if we were effectively 'reflecting and supporting spirituality' as people live it out today?” This goes deeper than worship and music style, opportunities for hands-on mission, and how to engage youth.
What would church look like right now if it were reflecting and supporting your spirituality? I would love for you to post a comment on the blog and let me know! This is a question I’m going to start asking more often. I started this conversation with my 18-year old daughter and she said that it would address holistic well-being—like healthy eating, physical exercise—an experience that integrated mind, body, and soul together. What would you add to this that would support your spirituality? What would it look like?