By Jessyka Dooley
In the past handful of years, I have had the privilege of visiting churches all across the country and even a few spots across the world. Before I continue on, I want to be clear that every church has been loving and filled with wonderful people. But I can’t help but wonder what the average 20- or 30-something working professional would think if they walked into one of these buildings. More often than not, when stepping foot in the door at 75 percent of these churches, I feel as if the foyer acts as a fully functioning time machine. The decor begins to morph into colors, patterns, and baskets from the mid ’80s, people’s language seems to shift into a foreign language, the service seems to follow repetition more than worship, and the songs we sing and the words we speak are peppered with “doths,” “thous,” “haths,” “doom,” and “gloom.”
When I walk into a Seventh-day Adventist church, I am able to take these things with a grain of salt. This denomination is my family. When I walk into a friend or family member’s home and it’s a little messy, I’m not going to judge them. I know the week they had, the stressors that they face, and it gives me understanding. I walk into our churches with understanding because I’ve been there, because I know the people and the culture. When I walk into a new restaurant or doctor’s office, I enter with an observant eye. If you were to walk into a hospital where you would be getting surgery or a school where you are planning to send your child, you would walk in with an observant eye.
If your hospital had outdated surgery equipment and your doctor wasn’t interested in any of the new techniques in medicine, you might be a bit stressed. If your child’s school had science books from the ’90s and a bulletin board that the teacher had kept up for the past four years, you might be a bit leery. You see, we say our churches want to be places of outreach that we can invite friends and strangers to. We say that we want our churches to be for the kids and teens of the next generation. We say we want to be beacons of light for our community, but at the end of the week, we hop in our time machines on Saturday morning to take us back to a place of tradition and comfort, often leaving any new visitor confused and feeling left out.
I believe this epidemic isn’t because we simply do not care, but rather because we have refused to budge, to respond to little changes along the way. As time passes, so do our opportunities to grow, adapt, and change. Before we know it, we are left with the dilemma of whether to continue the path of no return or take a sudden “about face.” Shaking things up in the church does not mean that we aren’t thankful for what it has done in the past. Songs we have sung, traditions we have upheld, instruments we have played have all served and can still serve a purpose, but they are not the only way of worship.
The church needs to be relevant. Chances are, the way your church is decorated is not the way you, your family, or your friends decorate your home. Worship needs to be relevant. Chances are, the hymns and the music you play at church are not blasting on your car stereo throughout the week. Our relationships need to be relevant. Chances are, the Bible version you read is not the way you speak to your family and friends. Chances are, you might step into a time machine every time you attend church.
We need to be relevant for ourselves, our kids, and those searching for Jesus. It’s time to quite literally go back to the future. It’s time to prepare our spaces and our services in a way that says, “We want to welcome all to this space” rather than just wanting to welcome those who understand. The upcoming generations do not understand. The upcoming generations do not attend church out of the obligation of peer pressure, but because they find a relevant place to connect with God and others. It’s time to be intentional about being relevant.
Jessyka Dooley is RMC assistant youth ministries director. Email her at: [email protected]