“People are learning to live comfortably without God.”
This statement from Carey Niewhof in one of his recently reposted blog posts stopped me dead in my tracks.
I am not comfortable with that. I am not comfortable being in a world that is comfortable without God and I am not comfortable with my own life being lived without God. But as the blog post continued to demonstrate, that is indeed the case for much of the population, those who Niewhof refers to as the “second or third generations of the unchurched.” As discussions of faith and religion became compartmentalized to a time and a place (Sunday morning at church) and no longer part of the general cultural experience and home life, a generation who has never been “to church” have emerged with no framework upon which to imagine a life with God in the middle of it.
Niewhof goes on to offer a few suggestions on how the Church can reach out to people who have found themselves in this spot, where God and faith are distant concepts with which they’ve had no experience and no affiliation. Guess what? It didn’t start with having the perfect worship service, the nicest building, the coolest graphics, the smallest close-knit family feel, the tightest small groups, the most eloquent pastor, or the softest pews. Nope, didn’t have anything to do with that building we call “church” or that sacred day we call Sunday. His number #1 piece of advice was this… build relationships. He shares, “Jesus was deeply relational, and it seems he liked relationships with people outside the ‘church’ more than he liked hanging around people inside the ‘church’.”
And guess where relationships start; where we learn the nuances of dealing with other people, accepting their weaknesses, loving them in spite of them and maybe even because of them; the place where you learn to laugh, to love, to cry, and to be? The place where you share meals, games, stories, pictures, heartaches and victories? The very first place where you learn how to relate to people and circumstances outside of your control and within your influence?
Home looks different for each of us. But home is that place we go back to both physically and in our hearts; that place where our story started. It is the formational place that creates a framework for us through which we view the world and teaches us how do develop relationships. The Family Pediatrics Report shares “Families are the most central and enduring influence in children’s lives regardless of their education, composition, income, or values.” That’s pretty all-encompassing (with the HUGE exception of faith).
The point being… we don’t learn how to do relationship in church. We bring to church all of our different ways of growing relationships and sharing life and frankly, it can get uncomfortable. And often churches, in the effort to make all feel comfortable, resort to programs and platitudes that create a level playing field that lack relational depth and leave people feeling the effects of an institution but not the bounds of real relationship.
If the church wants to build relationships, if that is something that we recognize is a necessary part of sharing Christ with the post-Christian world of today, then it is imperative that we begin to reach into the home. The influence of faith and the centrality of Christ can no longer be relegated to a special morning in a certain place. It simply cannot be boxed into a place and time anymore.
Faith must permeate our homes, be lived out in the relationships of our families, and developed through our interactions with others.
Making disciples can’t simply be counting up our baptism numbers or listing off the people in our pews. It’s going to have to become something much less quantifiable – it’s going to have to be love lived out in relationships and that starts at home.
We must equip the home. We must support our parents and caregivers to make faith a part of the everyday, not the special day. We must expand our vision of what it means to “be the church” to things like neighborhood cookouts, softball games, walks around the block, conversations on the porch, and the dining room table. I’ve often heard it said, “Talk about anything but religion and politics.” I say, we MUST talk about religion; more specifically, we must talk about Jesus in our everyday.
Because just like those second and third generation of unchurched have grown comfortable to a life without God, if we make Him an essential part of our everyday, our children and their children will feel uncomfortable when He is not there.
But if we don’t, if we keep it in the building on Sunday morning, why should we be surprised when the relationships our children form are devoid of Christ and comfortable without God?
It’s starts at home. Build relationships, with your kids, with your friends, and with others you don’t even know (yet). And build them with Christ in the center, as part of your normal everyday experience, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you or others feel. In time, His daily presence will be missed if you allow it to permeate your life, and we will be very uncomfortable without Him.
Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.
For more information about practical discipleship in the home, the need for reaching the unchurched, or transitioning to a more family-focused ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.
About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.