I was pretty excited about my first day of middle school at I. Ellis Johnson in Laurinburg, NC. Not because of the school part, but because it meant that I was finally allowed to go to youth group meetings at Caledonia UMC. I'd seen teenagers come and go from UMYF, and I knew what was waiting for me when I joined up. I'd be a part of all the in-jokes, tell the kids in the church what to do, and go on the glorious trips to ski slopes, theme parks, ACC basketball games, and the beach. All I had to do was ride over to the church with my dad on Sunday nights and eat pizza and play basketball for a few hours.
Sure, there was confirmation. A few of us gathered for those classes and learned about Weslyan Quadrilateral, circuit riders, and who the audience is during Sunday morning worship(the answer is God); but we never really came alive until the Little Caesar's was ordered and the basketball came out. This was the era in my life in which going to church stopped being a chore and started being something I did for the stuff. Still not a very spiritual center, but at least I had started looking forward to it. The problem is that my enthusiasm wasn't for a spiritual understanding my myself and my relationship with God, nor was it an excitement for the good things that the church was doing. I went to church for pizza and basketball, and didn't care if I never knew why it was important that Tradition is the first point on the Weslyan quadrilateral...I just knew that it was and that was good enough to get me a trip to Durham to be confirmed into the United Methodist Church. We probably even had pizza on the way home.
This is where I see a lot of people in the Church now. They've learned a few things and are excited about what they're doing, but still haven't put the whole picture together. More dangerously, they don't care to. I see people enthused to hit up the contemporary service so they can belt out a Michael W. Smith song with no more than 2 unique verses, no less than 8 repetitions of the chorus, and the theological depth of a t-shirt(I'm sure I'll take some time to elaborate on this idea in a future entry). They're more than willing to contribute to all the hoopla that's drummed up by those willing to take political advantage of their faith, without ever really taking some time to question the source or motivation behind that hoopla. In general, there seems to be no effort from a majority of the Church to learn anything more than what they know.
The Church is moving away from intellectual curiosity about the very things that define it. That can be exploited(by more than just people with a political agenda, by the way). That is dangerous.
I'm not at all suggesting that I've got it all together. If I did, I would be offering up solutions with these entries rather than my vague discomforts with my faith. Maybe someday, if I keep my intellectual curiosity sharp, I will be able to offer up something in the way of a solution. In the meantime? I pray for the future of the Church.