How High is the Bar?
Last month, I wrote a post call “Millennials and their Paradoxical Desires for Worship.” I dug into some survey data from the Barna Group about what millennials want from the church and what their ideal church looks like. As the post was shared and discussed online, one of the primary pieces of feedback concerned the consumeristic approach to the topic. I can’t argue with this, as that particular section of the survey was conducted from this perspective.
For some, this made the survey results virtually pointless, as a consumeristic approach to church is the opposite of what is called for in Scripture. For others, it was helpful because it seemed to give direction concerning the barriers to entry, or at least what would be most attractive, to an age group that is largely absent from our churches. Still others expressed dismay as what millennials seemed to want were things their church was not capable of offering–at least in their current form.
This past weekend’s lectionary included the story of “Doubting” Thomas (poor guy- you have one bad day…). One of the things that stood out for me this year was that, in some ways, Thomas is approaching the resurrection from a consumeristic point of view. He was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them, so he has every reason to have questions about the resurrection. Yet he is not able to accept the testimony of his friends and colleagues with whom he has followed Jesus for years.
He proclaims, “Unless I see… and put my finger.. and my hand… I will not believe.” He bases his faith on his own personal experience and set of qualifications. This, of course, does not make it ok. Jesus even notes at the end of the narrative how powerful faith is when it is without these kinds of personal requirements. However, it is evidence that from the very beginning evangelism and outreach, even amongst the positively inclined, involved encountering certain bars which God and the fellowship of believers needed to clear.
One of the details of the story that I have overlooked in the past, though, is the fact that when Christ appears and offers Thomas the opportunity to put his fingers in the nail marks, Thomas doesn’t do it. He doesn’t need to! Instead, he simply proclaims, “My Lord and my God!”
The presence of Jesus and Jesus’ willingness to meet him where he is at is enough for Thomas to come to faith. The bar was not actually as high as even Thomas himself thought it would be.
This story can give hope to those churches and leaders that read with despair about what millennials and other “nones” want. It doesn’t mean that we give up on trying to create an inviting space or experience. We should always try to build connections with the people we are called to reach. However, at the end of the day, what brought Thomas to faith was not his high bar of expectation but rather an authentic experience with Christ.
Image by Flickr user Michael McGimpsey. Used under Creative Commons License. Edited from Original.