A dear friend of mine once joked that good theology is like good pizza, it isn’t innovative. I could not help myself from rebutting, “Well explain to me stuffed crust pizza and Catholicism.” To my Catholic brothers and sisters out there reading this, know that I say this with the utmost respect. The point is, just because something is out of the norm or puts a new spin on things, does not automatically dismiss it from being worthwhile, healthy, biblical theology or practice*. We no longer live in the confines of a 9-5 world. So why accept the 9-5 traditions so many churches in America have been known to hold fast to? Many young people do not feel challenged by, interested in, or accountable to the normative functions of the cultural Christianity we grew up seeing.
But perhaps instead of lamenting that so many Millennials are leaving the church, we should explore the opportunity Millennials have to create church in a new context. If the Sunday morning Christianity just isn’t working for you, I humbly propose that the time has come to spice things up. Crucial elements of the Christian life can be pursued in a piecewise fashion, drawing on the fundamentals of practical theology but pursued with a healthy dash of creativity and nonconformity. Now, just to be clear, I do want to clarify before you read any further that this article is not about challenging the theology and practical aspects of Christian worship laid out in Scripture. I believe that framework was given by the Lord for a reason. However, I am saying that we can—and sometimes should—rethink certain man-made traditions and how we live out the Scriptural framework. With that biblical fidelity in mind, let’s talk about a different way of doing the whole church thing.
A Different Kind of Sanctuary
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of typical church going is really feeling disconnected. Especially at larger churches, it is all too easy to slip in and out unnoticed. If this is true for you, perhaps it is time to move to a smaller sanctuary. In the early days of the church, believers often met together in their homes (Acts 1:13-14, Romans 16:3-5, 1 Cor. 16:19). The home itself lends a more comfortable and laid-back atmosphere, which can make it easier for some to experience authentic fellowship with other believers. But it doesn’t necessarily even have to be a house. It could be the coffee shop, the park, or any other space in which the group feels comfortable enough to be open with each other and with the Lord. The key component of this is sharing a space and a time with others in fellowship, worship, prayer, accountability, and conversation (Hebrews 10:25, 1 Cor. 14:26). Moving things to a smaller, more casual setting can also be particularly helpful for friends who are new or even outside of the faith, and who do not feel comfortable or welcome in a traditional church setting.
Getting Wisdom, Receiving Discipleship
As young believers, it is important to remember that there is so much we have yet to learn. Whether independently, or in the small group setting of a house church, it is essential to pursue knowledge and mentorship from older believers with more experience. This is especially true if you are meeting in a small group or house church that is mostly made of peers in your same age range. Proverbs 4:5 instructs “Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.” We have a biblical responsibility to pursue wisdom, and we should have a desire live out that responsibility (Proverbs 18:15, 1 Timothy 4:7-8). Ideally, that can and should take the form of studying Scriptures together, reading books on theology and Christian living from more learned believers, sitting under the teaching of a spiritually-mature pastor, or receiving one on one discipleship from an older believer you trust (Proverbs 19:20).
We are not called merely to speak of Christ and learn biblical truth, but to live out what we learn and receive. The words of James 2:14-26 have long since married faith to works. That means presenting the gospel to the world around us in word and deed. It also means pursuing justice (for more on that, click here). In your private life, this can be as simple as giving a ride to someone whose car is in the shop, or helping someone struggling financially to pay for their groceries. It may even mean watching the kids for that young couple in your new house church who haven’t had a night to themselves since the kiddos came along. You may even find that through sharing in group community service projects—like cleaning the local park or helping that struggling family work on house repairs—that your house church really finds its own sense of community.
Now, all this said, a word or two of caution. When undertaking any spiritual exercise, examining motivation is crucial. A piecewise practice is no exception. If you want to try these things just because you think they will be easier, don’t—because they won’t be. Besides, when it comes to faith, easier does not usually mean better.. Also, I would not want to encourage anyone who is faithfully attending church to give up that meaningful church family. If things are working for you, great. But when Sunday morning Christianity seems drab, or you’ve simply hit a spiritual dry spell, trying something new and different may be exactly what is needed. As young believers, walking out our faith requires intentionality and a healthy measure of grace. So while a bit of trial and error may seem daunting to some and outright heretical to others, it is certainly better to mix things up than to give up altogether.
*Legal Disclaimer: This should not be read as a theological or medical endorsement of stuffed crust pizza as a healthy diet choice. Stuffed crust pizza is a deliciously dangerous substance linked to expanded waistlines and feelings of regret. Eat responsibly.