Is church essential to your life? Statistics continue to pour out from survey groups on how nearly two-thirds of college students and twenty-somethings simply drop out of church between ages 18-29. In fact, statistically, all age groups are backing-off on making church an important part of their lives. This does not necessarily mean that young adults are losing their faith; they simply do not view church as vital to their lives, and so with the pressures and deadlines of school, the need for a vigorous new work schedule, and trying to keep up with the demands of life in general, making church part of the fabric of a person’s life becomes optional. Young adult Christians, instead, may rely on intermittent personal devotions, community through existing networks of friends on campus or at work, and connecting with others through technology rather than face to face meetings and encounters.
The issue here is not one of church attendance; it is the reality that an entire generation of young people has chosen to put themselves outside of the means of grace given by God for their own benefit and spiritual formation. There is a profound lack of understanding concerning the nature of the church, as well as a paucity of significant relationships between many twenty-somethings and the rest of the Body of Christ. Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her so that she might become pure and holy, and become one with Jesus in practicality, as she is in reality through the cross (Ephesians 5:26-27). The church is God’s ordained means of bringing growth in grace to any person’s life; to neglect her like ignoring your mother.
Like a mother caring for her children, the church is to be a nurturing community for the exercise and development of faith and perseverance. Without her, the believer is at risk of being like an orphan, cut-off from the life-giving Spirit of God who uses the Word of God in preaching and sacrament to edify and feed. John Calvin has put this in rather vivid terms:
“For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother (the Church) conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like angels. Our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives. Furthermore, away from her bosom one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation… it is always disastrous to leave the church.”