To whom it may concern and to whom, more importantly, it should concern:
Over the last few months I’ve met so many of you. Maybe I haven’t met you, but I’ve met others with enough similarities in their stories that I thought I should write. You’re over 40, and you’ve been in the church for years.
If you have children, then more than anything you want your kids to have a strong foundation, to grow up knowing the Lord. I think that’s beautiful. But now your kids are older–either following the Lord bravely or choosing to sin boldly. Depending on the day, your heart celebrates or mourns with your kids. It probably always will.
As the years have passed and the nest grows emptier, you’re no longer going to church for them, you’re going for you. And that creates a void. Deep down inside, you’re wondering whether you really should bother going at all.
Now that your kids are older, you can’t overlook everything you used to for their sake. You’re wrestling with what the church is versus what it should be. You’re not alone. We’re all wrestling. Why is the church more concerned with style than substance and marketing than making disciples?
The church you knew has been steadily changing and not all for the better. When your church added a contemporary service, there were some bumps in the road. Most of those have been ironed out, though hard feelings still surface from time to time. You’re glad your church is reaching to the next generation, but really, isn’t there a way to do it that doesn’t let go of your generation?
You’ve voiced your concerns, some heard, but most overlooked. And over time, you’ve grown weary. You’re tired of spiritual leaders who act more like celebrities and worse, for the Christians who treat them that way. Small groups are good, but if truth be told, most are shallow gatherings rather than real spiritual communities. You struggle that your own small group lacks depth, real connection or deep caring. And then there’s that one small group member who won’t stop talking or complaining about their life.
What’s happened to the church?
You’re not sure. But you know that your breaking point is near. One final issue will push you out. Maybe it already has. The issue doesn’t even have to be significant at this point–any one will do. A sermon that sounds more like a story than an exposition of Scripture. Another series of skits or video productions that once again transform church into a place of entertainment. Another gathering where food and fellowship are the main courses, and Jesus, well, He’s not invited at all. You may find your breaking point over the new building fund, a change in leadership, a moral failing of your leadership and/or secretary, or the brand of car/size of house/style of clothing your pastor chooses to buy. Truth be told, you can hang your exit sign anywhere.
But before you go, and even if you already have, I need to let you know a little secret:
We need you.
We need you more than you could know. We need you more than you can imagine. We need you, yes, you. Your own children may be out of the house, but your spiritual children are still inside–waiting for you to come in and offer your wisdom, your guidance and your friendship. We need you as mentors, encouragers and people who have our backs in prayer. We need you in our life.
We need to break bread with you, confess our personal, moral, relational, and marital conundrums and be assured that that those who have gone before us have made it. We need to know that God is as real and true when you’re 20 as when you’re 80, and we can’t make the journey without you.
I know you probably don’t miss church, but we miss you. To walk into a church and only see old people is tragic. To walk into a church and only see young people is devastating. The loss cannot be quantified. We have to learn to do this together. To be the bride. Yes, she may have stains on her dress, makeup smeared on her face and really bad hair, but at the end of the day, she’s still the bride.
So please, come back. We miss you.
What words of encouragement do you have for those over 40 who have left the church?
**Photo courtesy of here