Is leaving the church the same thing as leaving God?
Just days ago, I received this text message from a teenager struggling with finding Christian community. God is important to her. She’s a young woman with faith much stronger than many adults. And yet she still wonders how the church and God connect.
I probe a little further. Why is it that she wants to leave?
There’s not a simple answer, but what it boils down to is this:
The church isn’t helping her figure out who she is. Who God has created her to be.
I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had with teens and young adults surrounding identity. We live in a culture where everything is about sex. Our entire identity is wrapped up in how sexy we are.
TV shows, movies, music, magazines, advertisements, commercials … they all portray an image of what we are supposed to look like. How we are supposed to act. What we are supposed to wear. If we dare to creep out of the norm, no one will love us. We will be deemed a prude. A conservative. A weirdo.
What an opportunity for the church to stand up and speak words of God’s grace!
Sadly the church has remained virtually silent on the subject. At best, the church says nothing. At worst, it proclaims that all things sexual are bad. Unless you’re married. And then it’s okay, as long as you don’t talk about it.
From the time we hit puberty, we begin to wonder why we feel the way we do.
Is it normal? Are we gross? Is something wrong with us?
Where the church is silent, we look to the world around us for answers. If the church won’t help us figure it out, maybe movies and music can. Or maybe our more experienced friends can help us along the way.
The church, in its silence, has lost its claim on sexuality. But in all actuality, the church should be the primary voice in the conversation about sexuality! After all, God has created us to be sexual beings. And declares it to be good! So why is the church so silent on the issue?
I get it. It’s a scary topic. And it’s messy. The topic of sexuality is all wrapped up in our bodies. And ever since Adam & Eve first ate the forbidden fruit, we’ve been ashamed of our bodies. We hide from God out of shame and fear. We forget that we are created good.
Our bodies are good. Our sexuality is good. It is a good and healthy part of who we are. But unlike what the world tries to tell us, our entire identity is not wrapped up in how sexy we are. Sexuality is only a part of who we are. A good part. A part worth talking about.
The subject isn’t going away. We can’t cover our eyes and hope young people figure it out on their own. We have to listen to what our young people are saying. We have to walk beside them along the messy road.
Like all areas of our life, there will be screw-ups along the way. We all make mistakes in the area of sexuality just like we make mistakes in other areas of our lives. And when they happen, the church has to be more willing to show the grace of God and less willing to simply say “fix it and move on.”
We can no longer pretend that sexuality is simple. Boldly acting on God’s grace, we must reclaim sexuality as a good and healthy part of who we are. Only then will we be able to help young people discover their true identities in Christ.
Grace, yes. But we also have to say the truth and teach abstinence to teens and adults alike. Before I accepted Christ into my life, I was promiscuous. Like I told someone else who confided in me about her trouble with abstinence in her relationship, it’s not easy. It’s a struggle especially in this culture where everyone says it’s okay. We don’t want to bend God’s truth just to get more people in the church and we don’t want to be hateful either. We should listen. And pray.
It’s a tricky walk to walk. I recall reading something about parents getting upset because a church youth pastor was teaching the kids about abstinence. parents say that’s their realm. Yet, a church is supposed to walk alongside families, but not take the place of families. They are like an extended family, in my view. I wasn’t sure why the parents were getting upset with that message considering it’s what the Word talks about. I’m not a parent, but if I were, I wouldn’t be upset if my church spoke to my teen about holy sexuality. I wish many times that I had been taught the love of Christ as the reason for practicing holy sexuality, but when you don’t grow up in a Christian home, you’re not likely going to get that message. As an young adult, I looked to fill the hole left from my childhood with all things of the world, including, sexuality. On a more humorous note, I think chaperones are not such a bad thing anymore. The temptation to do more when you are with someone you are attracted to is overwhelming as an unsaved adult and when you play with fire you will get burned. You will submit without strength found in Christ not to get in those situations in the first place.
It seems the discussion of how even the 10 commandments relates to our life’s activities is pretty much a taboo in the church. For those who say the church should have no opinion into the matter….. poppycock. It is the church that ought be speaking, sharing, teaching, leading the discussion. Without a boundary, without a line in the sand…we have no meaning or standing. If we have no opinion then we are of no value to others or to ourselves. As with the previous reasons why folks leave the church…..the church is also hiding behind its sacristy curtains to keep calm the membership, least they will leave. Too, the leadership is mostly clueless on opening or addressing these conversations. When will we learn the art of Christian Civility in our conversation with each other. The difficulty is not the issue of sex, or abortion or adultery, or the origins of our world…………the underlying cause (according to me) is our unwillingness to converse..our unwillingness to learn an art of conversation….of being vulnerable to another……When our only statement is “because the Bible says so”…we reflect our shallowness. We (parents and the church) are poor role models for our youth or those seeking to find a relevant thinking fellowship of committed Christians.
I agree it should be talked about more often.
I know for our church we hit it head on with our student’s, we have a weekend
called “DKSS” dating kissing sex and stuff, pretty much covers anything the
kids want to talk about relating to sex and there body’s and then some. we also
have a parent session just for the parents to help them relate to there kids.
we have had a great response from kids and parents. if anyone would like some
info about this weekend I am sure our church could help out. Ventura Missionary church in Ventura Ca. reply back and I will connect you with the right person to help you out.
Congratulations….yes, I would like to make the connection. Can you send me message at my Facebook page? My next observation would be to want to know how much more open are they to having a more public conversation now. I think that is important too when it comes to our need to participated in the GLB public discussion (if i even have the initial correct!). How comfortable or encouraged are the students as well as the parents will to have those discussion around the dinning room table…or with those whom they disagree with….or in the classroom at school…all while being civil.
Civil is the key word.
Suggested book: “When Christians Act Like Christians / God’s Call to Christlike Civility” by Jeff Rosenau. It has some very good points….scriptural…
I agree the church should be teaching about sexual morality, for a few reasons:
1. Some young people attend our church whose parents don’t attend any church. I don’t think they’re going to learn Biblical principles about sex at home.
2. It adds to society’s already overblown mystique regarding sex if the church doesn’t discuss it.
3. Our young people need all the help and support they can get in walking with Christ.
It’s about sex. And Saint Augustine couldn’t do it. But can someone else explain what kind of fruit Adam and Eve ate in the story? This may sound silly, but after 6000+ years we deserve an intelligent explanation. No guesses, opinions, or beliefs, please–just the facts that we know from the story. Treat the whole thing as an challenge. But first, do a quick Internet search: First Scandal.
Hello Robert….that is a good question and would be a good discussion..especially for those who may have some historical understanding of the various “sides” of the discussion. However, I don’t think that is what this series is to consider. This series is why do we not have these kinds of discussions publicly both inside and outside the church. What would be your insight for that consideration?
I love this: “And ever since Adam & Eve first ate the forbidden fruit, we’ve been ashamed of our bodies. We hide from God out of shame and fear. We forget that we are created good.”
And sex is FUN! 🙂 Man how many of us have messed up sex lives in marriage because 1. we are ashamed of it or 2. we did it before we were married and are ashamed of it or 3. we don’t want anyone to know we do it because we are ashamed of it.
There are so many things that the church needs to take back in the name of God.
Because when we live in shame… we defeat the work that Christ did on our behalf.
“there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. ecause when we live in shame… we defeat the work that Christ did on our behalf.” Romans 8:1
Hello Crystal, I read this article some weeks back and I must say I am really surprised that the rising issue of some people leaving the ‘church’ (or a part of it) due to biblical ‘views’ on Homosexuality wasn’t mentioned in this post. Maybe I should do some work on that.