I remember pretty vividly sitting on the floor, beside my grandmother’s bed in her house without a soul in the room…other than mine of course. I had my black NKJV Bible cracked open to 1 or 2nd Kings. I was reading about an epic battle that Israel was involved in. I remember closing the Bible in frustration. I recalled all of the Sunday school stories, the hokey Jesus movies, all of the pictures in my Bible of Bee Gee Jesus (white with long brown hair) laughing with the children and I was utterly confused. This same Jesus that I had been told to trust and love was also the God of war and anger.
At the moment I had closed that Bible, I had also closed the book on Christianity for a season. I had become, what experts now call, a “none”. “Nones” are individuals who check “none” in the religious affiliation category when filling out applications. This category of people is growing and becoming more common than not in our country. Some might be frightened by this trend but because I’m weird and a little optimistic, I think there are at least three reasons why becoming a “none” is a good thing.
1. RETHINK YOUR FAITH – I recently listened to a piece that NPR did on this very topic. Yes, I realize that listening to NPR classifies me as a commie to some of you but let’s try to look past that. They interviewed three twenty somethings about why they left the church. The majority of them were just tired of feeling like they couldn’t question their faith. God doesn’t call us to “blind” faith but one that is well thought out. Romans 12:2 tells us that we are to be “transformed” by “the renewing of our mind”. The reason we are to do that is so that we can discern what God’s will is. God is a BIG God and can handle your questions. Pray to Him in your confusion and lean on the fact that God may not fully answer your question but walk you through your doubt. What will happen at the end of that is either you will decide this Christianity thing is not for you or it will strengthen your faith and what you believe about God.
2. STOP PLAYING GAMES – This leads me to my second point. Giving “religion” the boot will allow you to stop playing games. If you don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God, don’t pretend that you do. It doesn’t help you or anyone else. It might also bring you to a place where after admitting that, God will reward your honesty with Him by working through your doubt. Once you put something like that out on the table, you know what you are dealing with and can begin to find answers to some of the bigger questions you’ve chosen not to deal with for fear that it will classify you as “a bad Christian” or reveal something about yourself that you already knew “I don’t really believe this.” God wants us to work out our salvation and to know why we believe what we believe. (Philippians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:15).
3. DO CHURCH DIFFERENTLY – Once we’ve made it through the above steps we can come to a place where we realize that we can’t operate in a scenario where it is “business as usual”. Church (which really consists of Jesus followers not a building) becomes a safe environment where we can put doubt out on the table, stop playing games and then become a place where all of that is perfectly acceptable. Peter had no qualms about shouting his wrong answers at the tops of his lungs in front of Jesus. He was corrected time and time again and Jesus still used him in a BIG way to establish what we know as the church today.
Let’s be a group of people that excels at transparency and is okay with the tension of unanswered questions. That is attractive to a group of people that are tired with “business as usual” religion. People are leaving the church in droves because we have adopted a “because I said so” mentality. Let’s be as comfortable with the tension as Jesus was and is. It’s all He had to deal with in the disciples that He chose. There was “doubting Thomas”, impetuous Peter and the traitor known as Judas (maybe we shouldn’t imitate this one). Let’s be committed to doing church differently and reaching a group of people that are exasperated by religion.