August 2nd, 2013
08:00 AM ET
Why millennials need the church
Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, special to CNN
(CNN) - For a time, I counted myself among the spiritual but not religious, Christian but not churchgoing crowd.
Like many millennials, I left church because I didn’t always see the compassion of Jesus there, and because my questions about faith and science, the Bible, homosexuality, and religious pluralism were met with shallow answers or hostility.
At first I reveled in my newfound Sunday routine of sleeping in, sipping my coffee and yelling at Republicans who appeared on ”Meet the Press.”
But eventually I returned, because, like it or not, we Christian millennials need the church just as much as the church needs us. Here’s why:
As former Methodist bishop Will Willimon has often said, “you cannot very well baptize yourself.”
In a culture that stresses individualism, the church satisfies the human need for community, for shared history and experiences.
And in a world where technology enables millennials to connect only with those who are like-minded, baptism drags us - sometimes kicking and screaming as infants - into the large, dysfunctional and beautiful family of the church.
“Sin” is not a popular word these days, perhaps because it is so often invoked in the context of judgment and condemnation.
But like all people, millennials need reminding now and then that the hate and violence we observe in the world is also present within ourselves.
We can be too idealistic, too convinced we can change the world from our iPads.
The accountability that comes from participation in a local church gives young Christians the chance to speak openly about our struggles with materialism, greed, gossip, anger, consumerism and pride.
While the flawed people who make up the church can certainly inflict pain on each other and sometimes on the world, we also engage in the important work of healing.
At their best, local churches provide basements where AA groups can meet, living rooms where tough conversations about racial reconciliation occur, casseroles for the sick and shelter for the homeless.
Millennials who have been hurt by the church may later find healing in it.
Like a lot of millennials, I am deeply skeptical of authority - probably to a fault.
But when I interact with people from my church who have a few years and a lot of maturity on me, I am reminded of how cool it is to have a free, built-in mentoring and accountability program just down the street.
We can learn a lot from the faithful who have gone before us, and the church is where we find them.
One of the few things the modern church has in common with the ancient one is its celebration of the sacred meal— the Eucharist.
There is simply not the space here, nor in many volumes of theology for that matter, to unpack the significance of remembering Jesus through eating bread and drinking wine. But when I left the church, it was Communion I craved the most.
Churches may disagree on exactly how Christ is present in these sacred meals, but we agree that Christ is present. And millennials, too, long for that presence.
There are some days when the promise of Communion is the only thing that rouses me from bed on Sunday morning. I want a taste of that mystery.
Many churches practice a rite of initiation, sometimes called confirmation.
Theologian Lauren Winner, in her book “Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis,” quotes a friend who said:
“What you promise when you are confirmed is not that you will believe this forever. What you promise when you are confirmed is that that is the story you will wrestle with forever.”
The church, at its best, provides a safe place in which to wrestle with this story we call the Gospel.
Union with Christ
Those who follow Jesus long for the day when their communion with him becomes complete, and Jesus promises this will happen through the church.
The apostle Paul compared this union to a marriage. Jesus describes it as a banquet.
No matter what the latest stats or studies say, Christians believe the future of the church is secure and not even “the gates of hell” will prevail against it.
As much as I may struggle to fit in sometimes, as much as I doubt, question and fight for reforms, I am a part of this church, through good times and bad, for better or worse.
The astute reader will notice that each of these points corresponds loosely with a sacrament—baptism, confession, the anointing of the sick, holy orders, communion, confirmation and marriage.
Some would say there are many others. We could speak of the sacrament of the Word or the washing of feet.
But even where they are not formally observed, these sacraments are present in some form in nearly every group of people who gather together in the name of Jesus.
They connect us to our faith through things we can eat, touch, smell and feel. And they connect us with one another.
They remind us, as writer and Episcopal priest Sara Miles put it, that “You can’t be a Christian by yourself.”
This is why I haven’t given up on the church, and I suspect why it hasn't given up on me.
Rachel Held Evans is the author of "Evolving in Monkey Town" and "A Year of Biblical Womanhood." She blogs at rachelheldevans.com. The views expressed in this column belong to her.
Evans has written two previous posts for CNN's Belief Blog: Why millennials are leaving the church; and Not all religious convictions are written in stone.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
Isn't god day tomorrow? Remove this nonsense from my eyes!!
The numbers of atoms contained within just one human blood cell is more than the numbers of stellar objects we see in the known universe... Ergo, is a human being's body nothing more than a cellular shaped cosmos of inter-dimensional sub-spatial relativities..?
Yeah, subspatial relativities...that's what I was just thinking.
6 octillion atoms in an average human roughly – 6*10(27) = about a galaxy and a half of stars and planets ...my rough guess so a red blood cell would be much, much less than 1% of our galaxy... about what we can see I guess...
Since it might well take mankind a few centuries to even sum up "6 octillion" celestial objects and just as long to rightly calculate the numbers of atoms within a human being's embodiment, I surmise your desire to equate such a quandary as being sheer "calculative" in nature and cannot be made as any real measuring... Until further investigation becomes apparent by the "big wigs", I am left with dubious doubts that no one will ever bean count he real numbers... 🙁
It a very rough guess on my part...as galaxies can run from a few billion stars up to monsters containing a trillion or more stars...that's just stars . ....and theres billions of galaxies....want to feel small? start looking into astronomy.....it get addictive fast.
Did I ever blow that....atoms in the human body = 1.6 BILLION milky way sized galaxies....the numbers get insane pretty fast.
Of course but does not everyone know this?
Hmmm, this article takes a preposterous jump by presupposing that ridiculous traditions such as Baptism and Communion are "required" by all and this is why Millennials need church. Where does this kind of logic spring from? I think we should give those rituals the same kind of respect we do leechcraft and bloodletting in modern medicine.
Baptism and Communion are not 'rituals', but are commandments for those who choose to follow Christ. Make no mistake, the Fathers wrath is real, yet it is set in the future after the second resurrection and judgment.
Thanks Buck, a little dab of fear along with the inane rituals might just get a few more sheep into the flock...but not me thank you very much.
It's not about fear and even fear itself is not of God. It's about proclaiming the truth that the Kingdom of God is indeed a place of judgment (as well as a place of blessing). There are twelve thrones in the Kingdom as Christ said, and we all have to face judgment upon one of these set thrones.
You are fully delusional. You have no soul, nor will you 'travel' anywhere after your demise. There is no god (s), no heaven, no hell, no angels, no devils, no demons. You sir, are a complete twit 🙂
ps. I would wager that you waste hours each and every single day watching video and eating a lot of processed foods. Try a fast. Then try to study particle physics, biology, chemistry or something useful instead of that ridiculous "book" of toilet paper called the Dribble, I mean bible
Peggy that is so judgemental. Jesus tells us not to judge but to look at the log in our own eye. But apparently you don't believe that.
Oh I wholly agree that we don't have a 'soul' that 'pops out' when we kick the bucket. Many evangelists believe this false teaching, but it's not biblical nor scientific (i.e. observable). When we die, we return to dust and "sleep the sleep of death" as the Scriptures plainly teach (yet most church's don't recognize the truth, hence they will be judged first).
There are two resurrections of the dead (both will be voiced by Christ), and they are future events and there is 1,000 years in between the resurrections. The Scriptures plainly teach this, and if a pastor or evangelist does not, the they are a liar and are spreading a false doctrine. The dead are sleeping in the grave....
Peggy my sired lass...
I have had a long standing interest in quantum physics... Such physicists cannot seem to fathom the very real plausibility that quantum particles are actually nothing more than infinitely small stellar shapes quite similar to our mega-cosmologic chemistries... It really is a shame that sizes of proportionalities cannot be assimilated as being a factual basis in rudimentary quantum physics...
The way you express your opinion shows that you really don't have a soul. XD
sorry buck, i'm not falling for it. i'm no buyer of your snake oil.
Buck, you're not supposed to start with the threats. You're supposed to end the argument with them after your useless arguments have been refuted. Didn't you get the memo?
So the perfect being is subject to fits of anger...odd.
Doctrinal Pacifications are a needed entropy within all the minds of humanisms.
I thought she was talking about disaffected Christian youth? Where do you as an Atheist fit in there?
Are you a spiritual but not religious or Christian but not church-going?
Church is a great place to come together and worship but no church is perfect because we are all imperfect people. The saying is..."If you find a perfect church...don't go there because you'll ruin it."
Ancient Aztecs believed so deeply in their gods that they invested huge percentages of their resources into monuments to them. They sacrificed members of their community to their gods.
I bet there is no person on this blog that thinks those gods are real. It doesn't matter how strongly you believe in your god, anyone who doesn't believe in your god thinks about your belief just like you do about belief in Aztec gods.
This is true, and the massive cities pyramid ruins in Peru are also a testament to this 'building effort' by the ancient Americans. Unfortunately, they were blown away by super volcanoes and now they are dust waiting to be resurrected by Christ.
blown away by supervolcanoes? wow. that is nutty.
No, this is scientific because these cities and pyramids are buried in volcanic material, and are now being 'uncovered'.
Buck Rogers you do seem to be avoiding the reality of our history. I think you should stop mixing up the dig sites of Pompeii and Herculean (which are in Italy) with the dig sites of South America and Central America.
@buck, no. they are simply overgrown over time. there has been no super volcano in the western hemisphere during the time of societal man.
The capital of the Aztecs was destroyed by the Spaniards, not a super volcanoe
With faith, anything can be truth.
I'm not talking about the Aztecs, but about the ancient Peruvian indians that built the massive pyramids that are now in ruins. Most of them are 'pyramidal mounds' surrounded by other structures. Nonetheless, they are very impressive.
Buck Rogers there are no official group of ancient Indians called Peruvians.
There are no pyramids in Peru.
To Mark: You are a troll or really super stupid. Either way, you should try El Pollo Norteno in Oxnard, CA. Best tri-tip around.
That is so mean to say but expected from a true non believer. BTW graduated from Pepperdine and did my internship at Camarillo state hospital. Wait there was an Apple Bush there also. I tried my best to help you.
Did you go to El Pollo Nortano??
No...and tri tip is too fattening.
Well there you go, you can't be trusted because you don't like beef butt.
Hey, I love El Pollo norteno on The Boulevard,
To stay or go with a religion is a choice. She has made hers. You should make yours, on your own, free of someone else's bias. Do what's right for YOU.
Agreed, and then keep the religious nuts away from schools, government and children.
What about atheist racism indoctrination in public schools?
There is no such thing you troll. If there is provide the facts not your lies.
John, that all comes down (i.e. evolutions full exposure as fraudulent) when Babylon falls. No doubt the beast will shortly rise afterward following the mark.
Kind of how we feel abut you Apple Bush, stay far far away from our children too. Thank you, your hate spews from your words and I for one don't want my children to have to put up with the likes of you either.
Rachel is a believer who has made the discriminating choice lethargic brains prefer. It's sad that one her age would still hold to the indoctrination of blood sacrifice and ancient myths.
It makes her feel good.
Spoken like a true know-it-all.
Are you implying education is bad Mark? Because yes, when you get educated you do know more than other people who aren't. Only a dimwit would celebrate ignorance, but that is religion for you.
Science in primary education is from the 19th century and mostly no longer true.
Really because their are scientist 900 times smarter than you who believe in God. Theory blown, try not to be such a cliche atheist generalizer. Some atheist believe in pedophilia, therefore all atheist are pedophiles.
Mark, over 90% of the Academy of Science are non-believers. The handful of guys you can point to are meaningless, the scientific community overwhelmingly doesn't support your myths and volcano-worship.
I'd like for 90% of them to answer the question something from nothing. Whoops!
@mark, who ever suggested something came from nothing?
It's the only explanation a true evolutionist can give. Of which I am one but mine is guided by an an knowing God.
@mark, lol! sure it is.
Funny that's the classic come back. Can't be answered, I understand.
@mark, of course it can't be answered. your assertion is absurd.
Yeah okay just take your ball and go home. Typical.
Here goes the couch potatoes atheists losers again.
I am sitting in a chair.
does a recliner count?
I forgot to add that the Church wants Millennials babies to brain wash and their money in the collection plate.
Without religion, we would still have morals, kindness and compassion. But..we would be smarter and more advanced and the world would be a better place. Churches serve no purpose.
You mean like Detroit?
you can bet there are plenty of churches in Detroit.
snow, Detroit is a wreck (like evolution) and I can take you to plenty of abandoned churches. Eventually, they will ALL be abandoned....
@buck, maybe they could be put to good use for a change. maybe a community center.
Perhaps Obama and his racist preacher could organize there.
@john, are you really some partisan hack? I am disappointed in you. often you sound intelligent.
If Obama had a City it would look like Detroit and Chicago is trending that way.
Yes, when I traveled in europe in towns without many believers there was almost no crime, streets were spotless, and I never even saw a church. When I travel in the US in any state in any city, wherever you find the most churches you also find the highest crime rates. Lock your doors if there is a church on every block. Density of believers is the highest indicator of safety.
No I don't, why do you ask?
The purpose churches serve are political to guide the sheep. They even call the members sheep and the sheep act like dutiful sheep. Just makes ya want to cheer for the Wolves. 🙂
Spoken succinctly like one of satan's minions.
Remember, that the wolves were brought to the point of extinction by people who where Christians. It can happen again without any problem. remember that oh speaker of death.
@dar, is that a literal "wolves" or a figurative "wolves"? either way, it is most likely false.
And where do you think these morals started from?
Many laws were and still are based on the 10 commandments. Like it or not, that is the truth.
Each one can be found in older civilizations
3 of the ten commandments have any resemblance to the laws here in the US. Those three also appear in non-Christian civilizations. Claiming that our laws are based on the 10 commandments is absurd.
Maybe the 3 laws that you can only think of right now. Do some research then open your mouths.
Quit sounding like a child that just wants something to say.
dar: you should quit blathering on with comments you cannot support. which of the ten commandments other than stealing, murder and (in some states) adultery are represented?
supports freedom of speech or freedom of religion? Also which one condemns slavery
Ahhhh the small mind of the hateful throws his words out to try and change what God teaches. Love, not hate or slavery is what is right. FREE MY PEOPLE, did you ever read that in the bible?? Didn't think so.
two, maybe three of the ten commandments are represented in our nation's laws. hardly counts as "many"\
@dar, morality is a construct of society. it varies across time, community and around the world, though the majority of humanistic morals are consistent across societies.
Your wrong. The church does serve an important purpose. They keep the stupid, stupid. Without these people, who would fight your wars ,or unknowingly participate in voting to elect what they think is somebody who is on their side thinking they only have two choices of which are different, or watch TV and it's advertising convincing them to buy Pharmaceutical drugs, or Vote, or go into debt to buy things they can't afford, etc.. Church is for the 80 percent of the 80/20 rule, or as it is popular today to say, the 99 percent. The 20 percent need these fools to remain foolish for more reasons than I have the time or space to write. All societies need these people, just as all modern societies need an enemy image to create a feeling of Patriotism, etc. The wold needs the poor and the ignorant, who else would we have to do the dirty work without these folks- they are useful idiots, or as Henry Kissinger has put it -Pawns used to fulfill foriegn policy.
You're, not your.
Its, not it's.
CHINESE PROGRAMS USING SATELLITES TO CREATE MURDERERS.
SALE OF VENEZUELAN PEOPLE SELLING FOR MATURE NICOLAS STUDIES OF THE HUMAN RACE.
AN IRRADIATED 100 000 CHILDREN FROM SATELLITES.
Now that evolution has wholly bitten the dust (Darwinism and the Copernican myth), and since all of NASA's fakery has now been fully exposed (HERE: http://heiwaco.tripod.com/moontravel.htm, http://www.fountainsofthegreatdeep.com/IFS.htm, http://apolloreality.atspace.co.uk), then the Bible is indeed true as there truly is a "building of God, eternal in the heavens", earth is fixed and to be dissolved, and there will indeed be a "new heaven and new earth". Thus all religions are indeed just as fake as evolution. "Every man presses into it", i.e. the Kingdom as Christ said.
your bible should be used for toilet paper
Interesting comment and even prophetic as the enemies of Christ will indeed become "dung upon the earth" as the Scriptures plainly teach. Of course, this will happen after the second resurrection.....
Keep believing in your mythology...none of it will come to pass, it never has and never will.
For there to be a second resurrection, there would have to be a first. Please provide factual, objective, independent and verifiable evidence that conclusively proves even a single resurrection.
Kind of like your mouth sounds when a toilet is flushed, Crap.
When I was in college the sidewalks would be lined with ministers giving out bibles in the fall. I used to take a bunch of bibles each day and burned them for heat in the winter. Thank you Jesus.
Shhh, you're embarrassing yourself, Christtard.
Oh I'm not ashamed. He is the truth and evolution is fake.
Even if evolution were proven false (and it has not been), that would not prove the origin myth of your religion to be true. That's a false dichotomy.
Religion is fake as well. Christ did not come to establish a "religion". He came to expose the frauds and die for the "sins of the world". If He did not do what He did (i.e. being obedient to the Father) and offer up Himself, then mankind would always remain dust and will never live again. But since He is "the resurrection and the life", then he will resurrect the dead from the dust as the Bible teaches.
Beware of false teachers who believe in "departed spirits". This is non-biblical nor scientific. Christ will resurrect everyone, both "the just and unjust" and there are two distance resurrections and 1,000 years between these events. Any other teaching is a lie.
@buck, all your teachings are also lies. stop believing the myths.
Totally agree that religion is fake. No idea how you rationalize separating religion and the Jesus character though. Under the definition of religion, they are inseparable. I mean the actual definition, not some contrived nonsense.
So why are there still monkeys running around??? I guess evolution forgot about certain parts of the world??
"So why are there still monkeys running around?"
Anyone who asks this is ignorant of evolution. If you truly care about that answer to that question, research it. I suspect that isn't the case though.
dar: the idea is not that we came from monkeys. the idea is that we developed alongside monkeys. pick up a book sometime
I really didn't think there was anyone so uneducated to use your argument.
.Protestants came from catholics, why are there still catholics running around?
thanks for the laugh buck! you never let me down when it comes to wacky proclamations.
Well hiya there me old friend! Glad to keep ye entertained 🙂
you certainly do!
> Now that evolution has wholly bitten the dust (Darwinism and the Copernican myth), and since all of NASA's fakery has now been fully exposed (HERE: http://heiwaco.tripod.com/moontravel.htm ...
You are right. Science is fake. In fact, Zeus actually still creates lightening the old fashion way, and Bill O'rielly is right about the tides. That's right, also Zeus. Zeus actually keeps planes floating in the air, and keeps data flowing over internet wires, not science. It's a tough job.
Evolution as a means to species and the big bang are not science; more like a comic book for atheists.
I am quite certain that even the catholic church has given up the fight against the overwhelming evidence of evolution.
from catholic answers:
"Concerning biological evolution, the Church does not have an official position on whether various life forms developed over the course of time. However, it says that, if they did develop, then they did so under the impetus and guidance of God, and their ultimate creation must be ascribed to him. "
"Pope Pius XII declared that "the teaching authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions . . . take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter—[but] the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God" (Pius XII, Humani Generis 36). "
fountains of the great deep is one wacky website. who falls for that nonsense?
Evolution is fact. The earth is billions of years old. Creationists like Buck are not even ignorant, they are stupid. You cannot fix stupid.
Seriously – these 'christians' don't even read their own bible. They rely upon someone at the pulpit to tell them what it says and means. No one needs any church/religion. Its a scam the relies upon fear. IF Jesus was so awesome – why the conditional love? U have to believe or else you don't the 'reward.' Yet we all know that UNconditional love is the real answer/truth – yet bronze-aged cult mythology is seen by many as the 'path' – absolutely pathetic. Real U'r bible Matt 10:23 – jesus is a 'false prophet.' So look w/in and learn to love one another unconditionally – without judgement, without pause.
I have only met two pastors that I believed had ever read the bible.
It is important for those in the know to keep a percentage of the population remaining poor, ignorant and still believing in things like morality, God, Patriotism, Voting, etc. If we did not have these people, who would be there to participate in the theater created by those in the know in such plays as "Wars", "Voting", "Racial Division", etc and other such plays that keep the slaves of those in the know distracted and busy keeping the power lines working, the roads paved, and the demand for firearm sales,Oil. Pharmaceuticals, Cancer treatments, etc booming and filling the pockets of those in the know..The world needs poor people and religion, it is a great way to keep the poor and ignorant where they need to be, which is distracted, busy watching breaking bad, worrying about a man in the sky watching them, eating fast food, rooting for their favorite sports teams, printing permanent slogans up and down their limbs, wearing sports jerseys with other grown men's names on them, wearing baseball caps, drinking beer, ordering pizza, etc. For those on here posting that do understand this, please do not post comments against religion, but rather, promote it, it is one of the best ways to keep those in the know comfortable and powerful. Thank you.
That's ok until they push their fantasies into your schools and legal system. They never stop trying. In some countries blasphemy is punishable by death.
Those people need help. What is important is Atheists coming out and sharing what we believe.
Please. Why would you, the author of this article, tell people not to leave the church? You have nothing to prove you're argument. The only thing religion does is give certain people power over other people who are going through mental, or other hardships. Basically the church takes advantage of people for money and power.
Some people may psychologically need the church, but no, not everyone needs the crutch
Normal human psychosis is the fear of death and religion cures that psychosis. To reject religion is to remain insane.
Fear of death is not a psychosis, and a placebo isn't real medicine.
You mean Freud was not a psychologist?
@John P. Tarver Yes, by modern standards, Freud would not be a psychologist. Nothing of his is used or taken seriously in the profession anymore, he was an interesting pioneer but ultimately wrong about most of his theories. Only fools like you would use him as a defense, but any current psychologist would laugh at you.
I believe Freud's early work is stall valid and it is only his cocaine years that are suspect. On the other hand, the racist Darwin's work is completely discredited. For what reason, other than atheism, is the false notion that species are an come of evolution taught in our schools today? Are educators aware that they made Trayvon and he died for it?
"Are educators aware that they made Trayvon and he died for it?"
what fresh nonsense is this?
America teaches Darwin's racism as fact in public schools. Did you not know there are consequences to immorality?
Tarver get a clue. I can see that you are a fool. Darwinism Racism? Seriously? How long did that take you to make up?
@john, are you really going to pretend that teaching evolution creates immorality? that's just plain stupid.
Tarver, your posts are getting progressively sillier and sillier. Who knew you were a Progressive?
Freud was a psychoanalyst not a psychologist. Not that it matters since psychosis falls under the realm of a psychiatrist which is neither a psychoanalyst nor a psychologist. Know your meme John, know your meme.
All religion is woo hoo and churches are the Walmarts of woo hoo. Selling worthless junk to mindless sheep.
the only substantive benefit of church is community, which can be replicated in other ways.
Like Detroit for instance?
shall I chime in with another absurd comparison, too? nah. that's just dumb.
Here we are in the 21st century and people still think there is some sort of god out there watching and directing what happens it their daily lives. Nonsense! If there ever was a god, he gave up on this little science project long ago.
Atheists suppress science after the 19th century and if these Millennials were in possession of an education in science from this century they would have different ideas.
Tarver if science was being "suppressed" as you say, then why have we advanced in technology for so many years? God had nothing to do with it. It had nothing to do with individuals who believed in God most of the time either. Atheism never suppressed anything you troll. As an Atheist, I look to explore the areas of science. You on the other hand are looking to create fallacy science because you cannot find a way to prove that God exists through actual and real science.
God is very good at proving himself. For example, Jesus dying and raising up again so others can believe him and have their sins forgiven. All kinds of witnesses too, i witnesses that God is there and does what he says.
Blue – "...lots of witnesses..." so ONE of the four gospels say (and we don't even know who wrote it). I would imagine that even HALF of the events that supposedly surrounded the death of Jesus were true we'd see SOME extra-biblical evidence for it but oddly... nope. Nothing. Not a SINGLE other person decided to write down the events from their perspective:
"Dear Diary – Was out gathering firewood when there was a HUGE earthquake, the sky turned black the dead started to rise..."
seems like you feel God has let you down and you're angry at Him, don't be. Trust Him. 🙂
You confuse anger at the Christian god with frustration at the actions of his followers.