Three months ago, I received a proof copy of Thom and Sam Rainer’s new book Essential Church? So I’m finally getting a gander at the pages between the covers. I’m hoping to find some usable material as I try to develop the heart and mind of a mid-Western congregation. One of the questions that keeps coming back to me whenever I read books like this is: What is the most important part of Christian Discipleship? The answer, quite frankly doesn’t re-echo with church attendance.

Before you lambast me with a good amount of proof-texting, I am aware that Christ intended for the church to gather—and I believe that the local congregation for the most part is the expression of that gathering that is intended. At the same time, I get a little curious as to whether Christ intends for us to be more consistent with our church attendance or with our Christ-like demeanor.

And now to the purpose of this entry: one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when reaching a new generation who doesn’t seem to have the brand-name embroidered on its lapel is what I would call inadequate answers. You know about those inadequate answers—they’ve been around as long as people have been asking questions. What makes the answers inadequate is that, though they make complete sense in the mind of the one giving them, they lack foundational trustworthiness in the heart of the hearer.

“Why do I have to clean my room?” is answered with “Because I’m the mother and I said so!”

“Why do we have to learn this?” finds a retort from the exasperated teacher, “because it’s part of the curriculum.”

One of the most difficult for me to swallow was one that I encountered over my extended years of singularity. People would constantly inform me that I would know when the right woman came along. I would badger them with the constant refrain of the single person, “How will I know?” The most inadequate response always returned, “You just know.” Today when I’m approached by a single friend who would like to get married and have a family (it’s the same with men and women alike), and they ask the age-old question of how they might be able to discern whether Mr./Miss Right Now is Mr./Miss Right or not, I know that they are searching for the answer as to whether or not marriage is even a possibility for them or not. I feel the creeping fingers of inadequacy wrap themselves around my throat as the words escape my lips, “You just know!”

So how does this relate to the church and keeping our younger generation from bolting at the first sign of an open door? It has to do with inadequate answers. I am convinced that we as the church are guilty of only halfway fulfilling the Great Commission. I know that it is evident in my own denomination. Check out the (ESV) statement of the Commission from the book of Matthew:

18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

As we go, we haven’t any problem making new disciples, nor do we really have any difficulty running them through the baptismal pool, but we are the worst lot at teaching. Consequently, the younger generation, while they have been led to Christ, and have accepted him as their savior, following up with “Believer’s Baptism” we have neglected to teach them how to grow. This means that when they ask, “Why should I make church an active part of my life?” we only come back with a weak, “Because you ought to,” or “It’s good for you.” Inadequate answers.

Until our children start seeing that church involvement (and following Christ for that matter) is more than just religious activity in our lives, until they notice that there is a difference for us, we will continue to say to them, “We miss you at church, won’t you come back?” And until we teach with our words and our actions that Christ following is more than just church and that church is more than just an event to pass uncommitted time, they will continue to find other avenues to occupy their energy.

What do you think?