The fourth installment of Unchained is written by fellow blogger, Jon Jacobs, who blogs at Imperfectly Perfect. When I asked for volunteers to contribute, Jon stepped forward. I like that in a young man! It sure beats twisting someone’s arm! Jon’s story is somewhat different than the other three, which you can read here, and here, and here. I met Jon by way of blogging and have come to really respect this young man’s thoughts. He shows a heart for God that I wish I had had when I was his age. Take your time and read through his thoughts and then feel free to comment after reading.
One of my all time favorite books is Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. Miller is very honest in the way he writes, and even though, our stories are vastly different, I could still relate to his feelings on the church. When Bill asked me to write a post on my own personal experience, I immediately thought of that book. I had wanted to pull up a quote from the book, but, not surprisingly, I have no idea where my copy of the book is. Funny, how that always seems to happen. Anyways, there is a part in the book, where Miller accounts his own churchgoing experience, and essentially, he states that sometimes a church is not for you.
I’d like to use that same line of thinking with my own personal experience. Also, I’d like to state, that my intention here is not to bad mouth anyone, but rather, shed some perspective on what I believe is a very important issue. Now, when I was thinking about what to exactly write, my mind was going in a thousand different directions. I could go on for pages about this and that, but I’m pretty sure you don’t want to read that, and I don’t really want to write that, either. Yet, one thing, really stood out to me: the youth.
I’m 22 years old, and I believe, one of the most fundamentally important things, about any church, is that there should be an environment that encourages future generations. I believe this aspect was sorely missing from the church that I grew up in. On paper, I guess you could say we had those kinds of things; we had Sunday school, we had monthly “youth” meetings, we had those yearly type celebrations…just to name a few. However, the problem was that, I never felt comfortable in my own skin, and I know I wasn’t the only one.
Our Sunday School felt really tedious; there were grades for different age groups with a curriculum. Obviously, when you’re a little kid, you don’t really know what you’re doing, but the bigger issue, was when I got to the older grades. The classes felt more like a lecture rather than a discussion. We memorized verses, but honestly, I couldn’t even recite half of them to you know (or tell you what they really meant). Also, Jesus isn’t boring, but it sure felt that way. Looking back at that time, I really wish we could actually talk about things that teens dealt with, how those lessons, those verses, could apply to our lives….to my life. But, we didn’t.
That really is the core of the problem that I faced at my home church. We didn’t talk about anything…everything was just swept under the rug. Not only did we not talk about anything, we weren’t really comfortable to talk about pressing issues. Why? Well, because, Sunday after Sunday, we were being told what we should and shouldn’t be doing. TV was bad…you were kind of looked down upon if you did have one. No one should go to the movie theaters because that was bad. Girls shouldn’t wear pants, or makeup, or jewelry. It was just a bunch of rules shoved down our throats.
Now, I don’t know about you, but no one wants to really hear that on a weekly basis, especially if you’re a teen or young adult. The sad thing is that it pushed a lot of the older youth away from the church. As a teen, I saw so many of the older kids leave, or just pretend to care. I knew what was going on; they knew what was going on….everyone was just saving face, playing the Sunday game.
The situation makes me sad because there are a lot of things; I wish I had said back then. Things, I wish I could get off my chest had I felt comfortable enough. Teens go through a whole lot of things, and to just ignore problems, just makes things worse down the road. The thing is, this is the future of the church, and, I truly believe, we should invest in them. Now, I’m not saying, ignore everyone else. What I am saying, is that there needs to be an environment where people don’t feel judged, where they see what the love of God really means. A place that cultivates community and allows people to form deep bonds. That’s what was missing from my home church.
I would also like to add before I wrap things up, that I am very thankful to my parents as well as my college experience. I got to really grow close to God during college; I was able to find a group, and church where I felt God’s presence, and I felt comfortable enough to talk about things. Also, to my parents, because they recognized the flaws with our home church, and were totally fine, when I told them that I’d be looking for another one. There’s a lot more I could say, but I’ll end it now.
Thank you for reading, and thank you, Bill for the opportunity to share a little bit of my story.
Thanks Jon for sharing your story. I will be away for the day attending The Elephant Room with some other pastors. I will okay comments but will not have time to comment. Jon will keep up with that. Thanks for reading. Would you like to submit a post for this series? Email me: pastor (at) ovcf.org.