I've been reading Three Cups of Tea, The New Friars and am just beginning sub-merge. These stir a deep part of me that I'm not sure I can even identify. But this post will be an attempt to do so.
In his introduction to sub-merge, John Hayes (no relation to me), speaks of this younger generation as "...increasingly disenchanted with a faith life that peaks on Sundays and wrestles the remainder of the week in a spiritual crawl space....I sense that they do not want to attend church services that confuse worship and entertainment, joy and enjoy."
The past decade has provided me a unique opportunity to know several college and post-college Christian young people. I find them to be refreshingly radical in their outlooks and restless in their faith expressions. These are the reasons I relate to them.
Yet, I don't see this pain shared by young Christians alone. There is a radical nature in the call of Jesus that causes all sincere followers to expect adventure. I wasn't motivated to be a Christian so that I could have a cozy place to hole up on weekends. I wasn't called into ministry in order to make a living doing what I loved. My call was to make a living that mattered--to risk my life for the good of my fellow man and the planet--to introduce with my living the very reign of God.
The above mentioned books are records of risky living. They are stories--one after another--of young people going out into real and scary parts of the world, and experiencing real and scary risk. These are stories of heroes. These are stories of Jesus-meets the things that scare us most through regular ordinary people sold-out to his cause. These are the kinds of stories that drew me to faith, and that cause me to stay in it.
These stories, however, not only make me restless; they make me sad. They convict me and force me to face my safe and comfortable life. They force me to consider just how little like Jesus I have been in my expression of his reign and love. They make me understand just how little taking up my cross and following him I've done in my life.
We in North America (and "Western civilization" in general) live in a time of mega-churches and shrinking numbers of people going to church. We live in a day when following Jesus means you risk only being seen as smug, or as a prude. We will follow Jesus into the Christian bookstore, or with a fish on the back of our SUV. But we rarely fear for our health or our life or the safety or our children because of the Name. Perhaps that is why our faith is disrespected, banal, weak and bordering on being entirely useless?
Consider the radical challenge of the last lines of Amy Carmichael's poem:
No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?
And this leads me to another couple of books. If you know of a pastor like Trent in my book, The Runaway Pastor, then you probably know one with bigger dreams than arranging for your entertainment and enjoyment on Sundays. There are a growing number of pastors who signed up to have the boldness of a firefighter or a Navy Seal, and have found themselves never risking a broken nail... They are leaving churches in percentages even more shocking than American Christians. You can read another one of their stories in Leaving Church a book by Barbara Brown Taylor. I've read it with tears of understanding, and it's on my nightstand again.