A Letter to the Church
This letter was presented to CBM earlier this year.
Printed with permission.
by Julia Rhyno
I grew up in church. Attending Sunday worship, weekly activities and worshipping with other believers was an important part of my life. I honestly wish that I was still as in love with church as I was as a child.
Everything changed when I entered my teens and started searching for my role. I wanted to contribute to the community I was connected to and to give back. Unfortunately, the more I got involved, the more I felt disconnected. I had less of a voice, my opinion didn’t matter and I was only important when contributing something specific.
Now, in my 20s, I constantly face these questions: Why am I still going to church? Am I seen as a real person? Is my participation valued? As a pastor’s daughter, I have attended and been involved in a variety of churches. The pattern I have witnessed is that the younger generation should be seen and not heard. Sure, sometimes you humour us with fun activities and events, but when it comes to the core of what the church is doing, we are often shut down and dismissed. Feeling this way inspired me to write this letter.
I see a large number of churches pouring all their time, energy and finances into preserving their buildings and the memories and traditions that come with them. Churches are raising funds for the latest technology and sound systems. Congregations are going into debt or pushing huge fundraisers to expand or construct buildings with the best features and lots of space for better “ministry and outreach.” What really bothers me is when pastors and youth pastors are reduced to part-time or churches forego pastoral leadership to stay “afloat.”
I can honestly tell you that when I look for a church I do not care about the building. You could be in a traditional building or a new one. Maybe you are renting commercial space in the town centre. I don’t care if you have the latest technology, gizmos and gadgets. That is not what worship is about. I don’t stress over whether or not you play the latest music. I enjoy contemporary songs, but I also see the value in having a variety. These are not deciding factors.
I am searching for a community, a family, for people who honestly care about me. I’m looking for raw worship, where it is not about putting on the best show, but about coming together and humbly worshipping God. I’m looking for a community that has a great love for God and is devoted to loving all people – loving outside the inner group, beyond the “four walls” of Sunday morning.
What if we let go of all our material desires for the church? What would happen if we worshipped in a responsible, affordable manner?
What if we focused our fundraising abilities toward helping others? Think about the thousands of dollars drained into mortgages, renovations, new buildings and technology that – let’s be honest – we could most likely do without. What if we sold the huge building that is only half full and rented a reasonable community space? What if we integrated worship into the community instead of secluding ourselves? Imagine the impact we would make if all the money raised was dedicated to serving and helping those in need? We need to let go of our desires for the church and realize God wants us to get outside our “four walls” and genuinely love people. What would happen if we let go and worshipped simply? Maybe people would see that our hearts are focused on more than just ourselves.
I believe that people see the church as an exclusive group, whose members think they are better than others and know better. A community who creates comfy clubhouses where they feel good about worshipping and never have to leave their comfort zone.
I want to see these barriers broken down. We should focus on feeding the hungry, providing for those in need, giving friendship to people who are alone, encouraging and inspiring young adults, assisting single parents and single individuals. We can show people the depth of God’s love, not by preaching, but through pure and humble actions.
Right now, I feel as though my voice isn’t heard. While I am not saying every church has these challenges, I feel that these issues apply to the church as a whole. You will probably read this letter and decide I am just another young “millennial” who doesn’t understand. Regardless, my heart tells me we should be doing more.
Kingston, Nova Scotia