C.S. Lewis was our biggest fan. Don’t get me wrong – Clive Staples died in 1963. From his writings, however, we know his heart. And from his heart, we know he appreciated the spirit of the rogue (Aslan was one), the spirit of the Millennial, and the beautiful identity of the universal Church versus the flaws inherent in the institutionalized business churches of his time and ours.
As I read The Four Loves, I realize how well Lewis nailed the views Millennials would come to adopt. “Every Christian would agree that a man’s spiritual health is exactly proportional to his love for God.” Checkmark that box. Not how often he goes to church, how much money he gives a church, or what rank he rises to in some ecclesiastic leadership hierarchy. “No kind of riches is a passport to the Kingdom of Heaven.” Check that one too. We’re back to valuing a faith lived out in community and expressed in love and not restricted to Sunday morning 10:30 to 11:50, at which time we sneak out during the final praise chorus in order to beat the Baptists to lunch.
How about, “Our model is the Jesus, not only of Calvary, but of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions, the lack of all peace and privacy, the interruptions. For this, so strangely unlike anything we can attribute to the Divine life in itself, is apparently not only like, but is, the Divine life operating under human conditions.” YES! Jesus did ministry day in and day out, as a noncommissioned priest – outside of church buildings through his words and deeds. And he promoted his every follower to the noncommissioned priesthood, charging them to follow in his footsteps: in the workshop, on the road, in the crowd – not just at a special time carved out at a church.
Rogue Millennials want to put faith-practice back in the trenches, instead of sitting around at headquarters once a week and calling that the sum total of our Christian service. We want to serve amidst demands and opposition, lack of peace and privacy. In the interruptions, we are there. When Jesus acted out Church in the flesh as an example for us, he didn’t build a building even though he was a carpenter! He didn’t pick a specific place, he didn’t follow an order of service and he didn’t hand out certificates of ordination. He did Church with friends on the road and in the living room, around the dinner table and one-on-one at a well.
“Nothing is either too trivial… A game, a joke, a drink together, idle chat, a walk, the act of Venus – all these can be modes in which we forgive or accept forgiveness, in which we console or are reconciled, in which we ‘seek not our own.’ Thus in our very instincts, appetites and recreations, Love has prepared for Himself ‘a body.’” We can be Church outside of church! In fact, God has uniquely equipped each of us for this task. We were MEANT to be Church outside of church.
“The Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; he does not find, but makes her, lovely.” Patriotism toward your church business might make you feel good, but it isn’t where the Church’s identity or beauty lay – not in your church’s accomplishments or features or architecture or ministers or attendance records or income. “Christ sees in the flawed, proud, fanatical or lukewarm Church on earth that Bride who will one day be without spot or wrinkle, and labours to produce the latter.” That’s the essence behind anti-establishment, pro-Church. We, just as Christ did, see the problems of the church and look to refine, purify, reform her. We know one day she’ll be perfected and we’ll be a part of making her better until then.
Sometimes church folk forget, Jesus was a revolutionary – and his movement challenged 1st century Temple worship and eventually all religions in Rome. Remember, this is the rabbi who took a 12-man brute squad into the Temple courts and began flipping tables, releasing livestock and driving out men with a whip. As Lewis points out, “He was not at all like the psychologist’s picture of the integrated, balanced, adjusted, happily married, employed, popular citizen. You can’t really be very well ‘adjusted’ to your world if it says you ‘have a devil’ and ends by nailing you up naked to a stake of wood.” Remember THAT when someone tells you Millennials aren’t particularly “well-adjusted.” Take a moment to remind them that this can be a very good thing. Well-adjusted people rarely challenge the status quo – they aren’t what God needs to bring periodic reform to his people. Millennials going rogue might be precisely what the Church needs more of!
(All quotes taken from The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. For more quotes relating to church in this book, check out this post: Failures of Churches, C.S. Lewis-style )