Sky Links, 8-11-13

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
Say hello to Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners. They are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.
-Romans 16:7 (CEB)


Leonard Hjalmarson posted Scot McKnight's introduction to his book, Junia Is Not Alone. Junia was a female apostle, that Paul mentions in Romans 16:7. I was thrilled to dig into this text in a paper one time. It is interesting that some translations do not agree with Scot McKnight's, NT Wright's, nor Eldon J. Epp's conclusions; that Junia was a woman and she was an apostle.

Epp's conclusions, from his book, Junia, The First Woman Apostle:
1. Junia was a woman.
2. There is no evidence that any man had the name “Junias.”
3. Junia is not, as some have argued, a contracted name of Junianus.
4. “Among the apostles” means means Junia herself was an apostle and not simply that the apostles thought she was a good egg.
Translators and commentators seem to bring a bias to their work, that carries an extra-Biblical assumption that a woman cannot be an apostle.  Church father Chrysostom did not have this bias:
To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles— just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.(344 A.D.)

Millennials Leaving The Church

No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If they did, the wineskins would burst, the wine would spill, and the wineskins would be ruined. Instead, people pour new wine into new wineskins so that both are kept safe.
-Matthew 9:17

“We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.”
-Rachel Held Evans
Probably thousands of people have responded and reacted to Rachel Held Evans' piece on Why Millennials are leaving the church.  I want to share a few thoughtful ones.  Meghan Florian wrote:
One assertion is that the reason for this exodus is that young people are looking for Jesus, and when they don’t find him in the church they go elsewhere. Fair enough. But if we’re looking for Jesus, one place we are supposed to find him is in the gathered body of believers, and while I am the first to say I have not always seen him there, it is too easy to point to one simple issue and to ignore deeper problems. We’re not only supposed to be looking for Jesus, but being his presence for one another. People come and go from the church, but perhaps we were never supposed to “go to” church in the first place, because we are actually supposed to be the church. Those are different things.

...The thing that I miss most in this flurry of articles? Mention of the holy spirit moving in people’s lives. Encounters with the living God. That is why “looking for Jesus” isn’t enough.
Chris Morton shared 7 Lessons Learned from a church of Millennials, about his church in Austin, TX.
  1. Look (and sound) like your city: They need to know that they can come and learn about Jesus and still be themselves.
  2. Be a safe place to come back to church: Our gathering isn't meant to be "attractional", just familiar enough to be safe.
  3. Wear your brokenness: When we lead with our own brokenness, others know they can be themselves.
  4. Structure is your friend: "So structured that creative things happen."
  5. Everyone has a role: It's everyone's job to be a good host.
  6. Ask lots of questions: Make space for the word to do its job. (Open discussion after messages.)
  7. Live in proximity: Reality is that it is easier to be in each other's lives when you see each other every day.
Nate Pyle wrote on The Millennial Exodus and Consumer Church.  Nate wrote:
You see my fear is, that with all the talk of what millennials want from church, we are just playing consumer church with different words.  Outside of the call for more substance (which is a cry I echo), it seems like we all want the same thing done differently.

But here is the deal, unless we want a new wineskin, we don’t want something new.

Christendom is coming to a close. Church is going to have to change. Call it a new reformation. Call it a changing of the guard. Call it what you want, but change is on the horizon. This makes how we have this dialogue very important. My hope is that, if we do it with a lot of grace and love, our dialogue might just be as beautiful as whatever emerges.

Why We left The Church (Our Stories) Complied by Micah J Murray, who wrote:

We are not a statistic, a headline, an issue, a problem to be solved. We are not a
theological debate. We are flesh and blood. So don’t say that we left because we didn’t want to follow Jesus, or because we’re too consumeristic, or too selfish, or too sinful. I remember what it’s like to be facedown on the carpet praying to a God you barely believe in; the self-righteous assumptions and finger-pointing are a kick in the ribs to those already paralyzed by fear and aching doubt. Please don’t do that.
The Stories

David Hayward wrote this insightful comment in his post, Why Millennials Are Leaving The Church Really:
I agree that the church is fascinated with tweaking but not transforming itself. I agree there needs to be substantial change. I think maybe some millennials might want change in substance. But not all. So I would like to push Rachel Held Evans’ argument a little further and suggest that most millennials just don’t care what the church does. It is actually dead to them already.

You can change the style. You might keep some. You can change the substance. You might keep more. The substantial change people are talking about, in my opinion, is not substantial enough. Again, the substantial changes suggested are, in their own way, a more radical form of tweaking. I suspect a much deeper change is coming because the church is becoming not only less and less relevant, but less and less necessary. The suggested substantial changes can now be achieved without the aide or even presence of the church. This is the church’s problem that it doesn’t seem willing or able to admit. The church is gaping down the throat of its own death and can’t face it.

The millennials I know don’t even think about the church. It never crosses their minds. It doesn’t appear within the scope of their needs. As their fierce sense of spiritual independence grows, the need for external spiritual authorities, institutions and venues shrinks. I think that even using such words as “belief”, “faith”, “church”, “kingdom of God”, and “Jesus” betrays a desperate devotion to a passing paradigm.
The metaphor of death and resurrection applies here. Death, of course, means the end of everything. The story of Jesus’ death is not a mock up, staged, or, as some gnostic theologians taught, partial. It was total annihilation. Complete death. An utter and tragic end to all of it. 

Of course, this then sets the stage for the powerful metaphor of resurrection… something totally new and, compared to the old, barely even recognizable. This is what we are resisting because of our attachment to what is and our premonitory grief for its passing.
 Ten Myths About Church Leavers by Alan Jamieson
1. It is only the traditional mainline churches that have large numbers of leavers. While it
is true that people are leaving the traditional churches1 people are also leaving evangelical, charismatic and Pentecostal churches.

2. The people who leave are young adults, people on the fringe of our churches, and people who have not been in the church for very long. Obviously some leavers are in these categories, but they are not the only ones to leave. In the research I did - based on 108 interviews with church leavers across New Zealand - I found the church leavers from Pentecostal and charismatic churches were predominantly middle aged (70% were aged between 35 and 45 years) and had been involved in their respective churches as adults (ie beyond their 18th birthday) for an average of 15.8 years.

3. Those with children are less likely to leave. While we may have an understanding that children will draw people back, or hold them in our churches, this assumption is called into question by the choices the people I interviewed have made. 80% of them had children under their care but nevertheless they chose to leave their church, with the almost inevitable result that the children left too.

4. If Mum and Dad go to church, their children will grow up to be churchgoers too. The leavers I interviewed were made up of 28% who had strong church backgrounds as children (that is they attended children's and youth programmes run by the church and were supported in doing so by their parents' own involvement in the church). A further 40% came from nominal church backgrounds (that is they attended some church-based children's programmes and/or youth programmes but were not supported by the regular attendance and involvement of their parents in a church). Finally, 30% of the leavers interviewed had no church background in their childhood and teenage years.

5. The people who leave lack commitment. 94% of those I interviewed had also been involved in significant leadership positions within their churches and 40% had been involved for one year or more as either a full-time (paid) Christian worker for a local church, para-church group, or overseas missionary organization, or studied full-time in a theological institution - many had done both.

6. Leavers don't have an adequate grounding in the faith. The people I interviewed had been, on average, part of their respective churches for 15.8 years. 94% held significant leadership positions within the church and 40% had been full-time Christian workers for at least one year.

7. They leave because of the increased pressure on people's time today.... Underlying each person's account were far more significant factors than those raised by the time involved in being part of a church community. In fact, many of the leavers had gone on to replace time spent in church with other faith-nurturing commitments.

8. They leave because of personal issues and disagreements with church leaders... For the vast majority of leavers, however, such points of disagreement were a minor part of the overall decision to leave. For many they merely acted as a final straw in a process of leaving that had been going on for a period of months, if not years.

9. They'll be coming back. The leavers I spoke with were adamant that they would not be returning to the kind of church they had left... Even when people do go back to another evangelical, Pentecostal or charismatic church they tend to stay very much on the fringes and do not become involved in the leadership and core roles where they were once to be found.

10. They are backsliding and giving away their faith. When I began this research I expected to find that the longer people were out of the church community the more their faith would decline, and in the end most would to all intents move away from Christian faith. This was not the case for a very high percentage of the church leavers I was to meet. In fact, while these people are clear that they have left their churches and have no plans to return, they are equally adamant that they are continuing in Christian faith.

The good news, from the chart above, is that according to the research, only 8% of church leavers become atheist, new-age, or agnostic.  In Family Therapy language, you move from dependent, to counter-dependent, to inner-dependent, and finally to inter-dependent.  Another way to look at the stages are, spoon-fed faith, deconstructed faith, reconstructed faith, and integrated faith.