Like Jesus, but not the Church?

Dan Kimball, in his book They Like Jesus but Not the Church, shares research that says many younger people are disillusioned with the Christian church in the U.S.A. because they perceive several unattractive characteristics of the church that don’t seem to reflect Jesus.

Unfortunately, those churches are usually the loudest; but there are many other Christians and churches in the U.S. that aren’t like the louder ones, but tend not to have their advertising budgets.  Holy Spirit Lutheran Church is one of those congregations, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (with which we are affiliated) isn’t like those loud ones, either.

Kimble says those under 40 perceive Christian churches to have the characteristics in the left-hand column of the chart below.  He says what younger people are looking for is more of what is listed in the right-hand column of the chart below.  Holy Spirit is trying to be an expression of Jesus in today’s world and, as such, we are much more aligned with the values expressed on the right of the chart.

 PERCEPTIONS HOLY SPIRIT’S GOALS
The church is an organized religion with a political agenda. The church is an organized community with a heart to serve others.
The church is judgmental and negative. The church is a positive agent for change loving others as Jesus would.
The church is dominated by males and oppresses females. The church holds women in the highest respect and includes them in the leadership of the church.
The church is homophobic. The church is a loving and welcoming community.
The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong. The church is respectful of other people’s beliefs and faiths.
The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally. The church holds beliefs with humility and strives to be thoughtful theologians.

We are certainly flawed people, but we believe we are forgiven sinners always desperately in need of God’s unconditional love.  Our attitude towards others can be summarized by something Martin Luther is credited with saying: “We can be like beggars telling other beggars where to find bread.”

You can learn more about the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) on its web site.  The introductions to the ELCA’s Social Statements and Social Messages are sometimes a little dense to wade through, but they do contain specifics on many issues, such as abortion; death penalty; economic life; education; environment; health and healthcare; peace, race, ethnicity, and culture; sexuality; AIDS; commercial sexual exploitation; community violence; end of life decisions; homelessness; immigration; Israeli/Palestinian conflict; people living with disabilities; suicide prevention; and terrorism.  Holy Spirit is made up of many individuals, of course, but in general we are very supportive of these Social Statements and Messages.