Fear is a powerful motivator. It’s not a good motivator, but it is a powerful one. And a new kind of fear is motivating a lot of us to leave “church” behind.
It is not a fear of the future, of eternity, of what is to come; rather it is a fear of missing out on the present; of not being in the right place at the right time to experience the best things.
The fear of missing out (FoMO) has recently become an area of much interest to
researchers who study people. Some say that social media has fueled this fear; for example, one researcher stated, “Defined as a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent, FoMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.” Other researchers warn that our fear of missing out “spills over” into our kids. This exchanged between a psychologist and a young boy demonstrates this:
A 10-year-old boy I was working with was terribly unhappy with himself. “Why?” I asked. “Because I don’t always get the best grades,” he replied. “What’s so important about getting the best grades?” I inquired. “If I don’t,” this sweet boy answered, “then I won’t get into the best college.” “And if you don’t get into the best college?” “Then,” with tears in his eyes, he replied, “I’ll miss out on getting the best teachers, the best jobs, the best friends.”
Has this fear of missing out affected the church?
Absolutely. A quick Google search will reveal dozens of church-related blogs, articles and sermon series on FoMO and the spiritual hazards therein. However, I feel like maybe we are missing the mark on how we are addressing this particular phenomenon. I’ve read everything from “Make your church the place people don’t want to miss out on” to “Fear is a sin and you need to stop it” to “Here’s five ways to say NO to FoMO.”
It wasn’t until I read this in a paper written by my husband that things started clicking for me.
John Wesley had great success aiding a generation who desired to “flee from the wrath to come”. Our generation, though, does not fear “the wrath to come”. The greatest existential fear of our generation is “nothingness”. They do not fear dying and going to a place of fire and judgment.
Rather, they fear dying and being forgotten.
They fear that they have invested the scant 60-80 years of their lives on little of consequence. They fear that their work may be futile, their influence limited, and that their relationships, at best, chemically predisposed.
They fear this because that’s the very thing that secularism teaches them.
Here’s the Game Changer
The Fear of Missing Out is really the Fear of Being Nothing.
Meaninglessness, unlike fear, isn’t a state from which we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get over. Meaninglessness can’t be fixed by being the coolest church on the block or the “not-to-be-missed” place to be on Sunday morning. Meaninglessness can’t be solved in five easy steps.
But the antidote to meaninglessness is exactly what we, the body of Christ, have to offer the world today. A place of meaning and purpose. The knowledge that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. That we MEAN something, not just to the world, but to God and to eternity. That we have a part to play, an important part to play, in this beautiful act of grace called the kingdom of God.
We can offer these truths (and many more) to every person we interact with, with every child we minister to.
- We were created on purpose – We were created in God’s image with thought and purpose, not haphazardly or by accident. (Gen. 1:26)
- We are a work in progress – God is continually molding and shaping us for meaningful purposes so we can always have hope and expectation (Is. 64:8)
- We all have a part to play in His Kingdom – Every piece of the puzzle, every member of the body, every vessel He’s created has a purpose (I Tim. 2:20, I Cor. 12:12-27)
- We will leave a legacy behind us – What you are today, Who you are today, will affect the generations to come. Everything you do has meaning. (Pr. 13:22)
- Our story is only beginning – This time on earth is only the start of an eternal story that we get to invite others into (Heb. 12:1)
- We have been chosen – If it’s not enough to know that we were created with purpose, we were also chosen with purpose to be a part of God’s story (Jn. 15:26)
- We have meaning – In Ecclesiastes, the Teacher searches for meaning, high and low, in every conceivable place and finally determines that our meaning can’t be found here – our meaning comes from God. He is the reason we have meaning. (Ecc. 12:12, 13)
If we know these things, truly know them, we will not fear missing out.
We will endeavor to live each day, each moment, each second to the fullest.
Friends, we don’t need to convince the world that going to church or being a Christian better than “missing out.” We need to tell each person and especially each child that they mean something. Our lives have consequence.
We believe…that God has spoken into this void. Our story directly intersects with the deepest felt anxieties of our culture. This is because it begins with Meaning… God spoke Meaning into our chaos and gave order to the world. (In Jesus) the very Meaning of the world became flesh and spoke value and dignity into every human endeavor, every stage of life, every relationship. – Luke Embree
We have the words of eternal life because we have Jesus (Jn. 6:28)! We know the very meaning of life itself. And that is what our children need to hear most of all. That they have meaning. They have purpose. They will never be forgotten.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
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- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
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About this Blog
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, 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. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and Seedbed