Why Mil­lenials should go to church

South Florida Times - - PRAYERFUL LIVING - By

JONATHAN MCREYNOLDS

You’ve been at that event — some grad­u­a­tion, some con­cert, some cer­e­mony — where some­one gets up to the mic, shakes their head and says "see, the news cam­eras should be here show­ing the good things all these kids are do­ing, in­stead of fo­cus­ing on the bad a few do." The au­di­ence al­ways agrees be­cause we know, de­spite how we are rep­re­sented some­times, most black kids do grad­u­ate high school and most have never even touched a gun. But to some­one out­side of our cul­ture, just look­ing at the news, they'd think we were all wired to shoot and run.

This is the same "SMH" mo­ment I had when I read “From Ed­die Long to Kim Bur­rell: Why Mil­len­ni­als Should Aban­don the Church” on BET.com yes­ter­day. It’s the same mo­ment mil­lions of black Chris­tians ex­pe­ri­ence when Black Twit­ter spends days telling them that they are all just a bunch of hyp­o­crit­i­cal bish­ops and fa­nat­i­cal singers.

My long­time friends love and re­spect me. They think I'm a pretty good guy, but ev­ery so of­ten some send me a screen shot cap­tioned "this is why I don't go to church." My decade of un­con­di­tional love for them, even while know­ing all their suc­cesses and fail­ures, beauty and ug­li­ness, seems less im­pact­ful than a clip of some far-off YouTube preacher that went bal­lis­tic. A life­time of know­ing me and my Chris­tian mom, our im­per­fec­tions and our love, is im­me­di­ately can­celed by a trend­ing topic. No mat­ter how solid my Christ rep is, it can quickly be voided out by one crazy ser­mon thou­sands of miles away.

Truth is, the Church, even the Black seg­ment of it, is no longer al­ways that over­crit­i­cal, big hat, Amen cor­ner, car­toon of a build­ing we see in movies. Have you lis­tened to Le­crae's mu­sic? Kierra Sheard's? Mine? What about the cul­tur­ally sen­si­tive ser­mons of T.D. Jakes and E. Dewey Smith? We do our best to talk about real life, with grace, and love, and hard truths. But de­spite all those speeches and al­bums, the same way a fam­ily in sub­ur­ban Wy­oming may have a stub­born, in­com­plete view of young Black men, I fear some have that stub­born, in­com­plete view of Chris­tians. What gets the tweets, what gets the ar­ti­cles, what gets the press, is when we do this Church thing wrong. I ad­mit when we do it wrong, we do it wrong! Aban­don­ing that church may be nec­es­sary, but please don’t aban­don God and the Church.

I’m a mil­len­nial too and when some­one says some­thing we don’t like, our first mind is to pun­ish them, protest, by with­draw­ing from the com­mu­nity they rep­re­sent. Most of the time though, when we see a pop­u­lar Chris­tian trip­pin’, and when I am my­self, it's nor­mally be­cause they, I, have some­how with­drawn a bit from our com­mu­nity of be­liev­ers and friends our­selves. The trou­ble doesn’t come be­cause I joined the church, but be­cause I stopped go­ing. I stopped con­fid­ing in my like­minded friends. I started fo­cus­ing on the ones that didn’t un­der­stand me. I stopped pray­ing, fast­ing and read­ing — all that stuff the pas­tor told me I should prob­a­bly do. In true mil­len­nial fash­ion, I started pur­su­ing ap­proval from peo­ple in­stead of pur­su­ing God’s.

There are plenty of rea­sons for a mil­len­nial to be “in church”— in a real, lov­ing com­mu­nity of be­liev­ers. God loves us so much that he looks be­yond our faults and sees our needs, but he rarely leaves a love bomb on your doorstep. In­stead, he con­nects his peo­ple. It should com­fort you that church folks are no­to­ri­ously im­per­fect, be­cause we all are. Make your­self at home! Those im­per­fect peo­ple have found for­give­ness and a rea­son to wake up and try to do bet­ter. We have found iden­tity, hope, and a strat­egy for to­mor­row. We've found an an­swer to that feel­ing we get when we go to a fu­neral: "there's got to be more than this." We have seen le­git­i­mate mir­a­cles! We find friends, wives and hus­bands there. We learn how to sing and play in­stru­ments there. Some of us learned pub­lic speak­ing and writ­ing there. Twenty-thou­sand peo­ple, thanks to Dave Ram­sey, fig­ured out how to get debt free there. (Where was I at?!)

It's God's fam­ily, but it's a fam­ily none­the­less. It’s a fam­ily with crazy un­cles that we wish would shut up, overzeal­ous grand­moth­ers that can’t be­lieve what kids are wear­ing these days, and cousins that just can't seem to get it right. Luck­ily, we don’t de­pend on how much we get right, but rather how much we give God. Ev­ery­day I try to give God the reins to my life, my words, my ta­lent, my heart, my re­la­tion­ships, and my iden­tity, be­cause if He re­ally did all that Bi­ble stuff for me, He de­serves it and knows what is best.

I can't undo what the man is ac­cused of do­ing to those boys and I can't un­say what the woman said on that pul­pit. We know it hurts. Im­per­fect peo­ple try­ing to deal with their own im­per­fec­tions and love other im­per­fect peo­ple is a dou­bly im­per­fect process. There are mo­lesta­tion vic­tims with daddy is­sues try­ing to com­fort mo­lesta­tion vic­tims with gen­der dys­pho­ria. There are abuse vic­tims with guilt try­ing to teach abusers with in­se­cu­ri­ties. That’s church! We give grace to the sin­ner and we give grace to the ones that need help giv­ing grace. We’re all in the same boat try­ing to steer it to­ward the shore. And not just any shore, but the right one, the one we be­lieve is right. All of us are not just wrap­ping hate in faith, but we’re try­ing, suc­cess­fully and un­suc­cess­fully, to nav­i­gate his­tory’s most sen­si­tive gen­er­a­tion and present our truth in love.

Trust me, while us Chris­tian Mil­len­ni­als sit in church, we feel the cut when the preacher shows us how God doesn’t like some­thing we know we do and love. Even when it’s per­fectly said, we are quickly re­minded that Church is not built for us to feel good, but to feel God. And that's ex­actly why we need to be there.

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