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For many Christians in the American South — especially younger people — churches do not feel welcoming.
People who don’t look, think, believe, or live as we do are telling us as much. Some who claim the name of Jesus engage in blatant lies, gaslight the hurting, and even physically harm others. Human anatomy is often more important to becoming a leader than good character, empathy, and basic competence are. Many folks confuse “what the Bible says” with their own narrow interpretation of Scripture, boldly claiming “it’s always been this way.”
But has it always been this way? I began asking this question over a decade ago without even realizing. A series of bad church experiences finally sent me looking for answers. What I’ve discovered, and am still discovering, is that the answer is no, it has not always been this way.
I was recently invited to share about the crises many churches find themselves in with a group of fellow believers in my home city of Memphis, TN. Most are in their twenties and thirties and are — or previously were — deeply engaged at their churches. Some are trying to turn the tide of a fracturing community they love. Others have already left hurt and confused. But they all love Jesus and are searching for something better.
And that better something is out there waiting for us to find. Scripture invites us into a deep and rich conversation about how the community of God should and does change, as does 2,000 years of the historic Christian tradition. Both can help us identify the main problem that lurks behind so many of our challenges today. And both offer us a path forward for renewing the Church in our time.