There are way too many denominations. Between Catholicism’s reign for nearly a millennium to the ever increasing sects of protestant denominations, you can call yourself practically anything and still claim to be a Christian. And with each of those sects and denominations comes different interpretations of scripture. SEVERAL different interpretations. And while some sects of the faith will tell you that it is wrong to “interpret” the scripture and that it should be taken literal in its entirety, interpretation of the scriptures is not wrong. By the way, ask those people why they still have eyes and hands and then send them to Matthew 29 and 30, see how literal they take it now.
Interpretation of scripture isn’t wrong, but if it is not approached with the correct attitude it can cause argument and division (thus the whole denomination thing). Interpretation that is approached correctly by wise individuals will spark discussion and debate, and those who participate will find they grow and learn from the discussions and debates. But one of the glorious attributes of the wise is that they are willing to question whether or not they are right, and are quick to admit it when they aren’t. There is a depressing shortage of wise people in our churches today.
And so, as I stated previously, people do not approach the subjects with the right spirit and attitude. And the people are divided out of arguments (and most of them about issues that have very little to do with our faith and our Salvation through Christ). And often each side not only believes they are right, but attempt to enforce their interpretation – and works based on that interpretation – as Holy edicts which are required to be adhered to in order to claim to be a Christian. These new “doctrines” – which come from the minds of humans and not of God – are often the wedges that divide us into our seven and a half billion denominations. (OK, slight exaggeration.)
Again, there is no problem with interpreting scripture and acting on it. It is not until one starts enforcing them as keystones of the faith that problems arise.
So to my point: Enforcement of man-made doctrine is one of the largest causes of the Millennial exodus from churches. Why? Because we aren’t mindless sheep! We do our homework! We apply critical theory! We invest time and thought into what we study!
And because of that, the things that people say are all-important which in reality matter hardly at all stick out like a sore thumb. Especially when we see those who disagree become ostracized by the larger herd. When we see some member questioned because he doesn’t subscribe to an oddly specific edict of the denomination. When we see a member denied a position in ministry or a minor decision has to wait to be made while the “Board” or the “Elders” check their ever precious “charter bylaws.” There aren’t any “charters” or “bylaws” in scripture! A majority of the doctrines that separate our denominations have nothing to do with the pillars of the faith! They are trivial, yet we treat them as essentials!
And Millennials leave, and do so without saying a word. We can only roll our eyes and ignore it so many times. We come to a fork in the road that requires us to make a decision: leave silently, speak and be slowly ostracized and forced out, or speak and leave (mic drop!).
So what should we do? So many Millennials have already left, surely they won’t notice another. If I speak, it won’t change anything except how they treat me. If anything, I’ll be the radical Millennial who should keep his mouth shut and blend in with the herd! Is it worth rocking the boat? (It’s ALWAYS worth it to rock the boat!)
This isn’t a new issue! In fact, the church wasn’t even a century old before enforced interpretations and teachings started to divide the early Church. And guess what!
Paul to the rescue!!!!!
He spoke to Timothy and Titus about this issue abundantly! Several times he warns them of “false teachers” and “false doctrines” that “promote controversies.” They have “shipwrecked their faith” instead of “keep(ing) hold of the deep truths of the faith.” Both letters to Timothy and the letter to Titus are very clear. False doctrine, or enforcement of interpretation, should be called out! Why? Not only does it divide, but is MISLEADS! Don’t take my word for it, READ THEM!!
Millennials may be young, but we know how to think! We know how to speak! And we are less afflicted with the shyness previous generations may have had. We need to be bold and speak up! We need to remember that we will have to take the mantle next, and with that we can shape the next chapter of the Church. We cannot correct the ship without first identifying that we are heading in the wrong direction!
So to the churches: Be careful how you present the attributes of your denomination that set you aside from the others. Remember that none of us can know the answers to the many mysteries God has left for us, and to claim to is folly! We need more humility in our judgments and knowledge, and need to admit we may not be right about everything. If we bash these minor doctrines into the minds of the congregations, we leave no room for study and growth. Just more sheep-like adherence.
And to the Millennials: Be the Timothies and the Tituses of our age! Be willing to call out wrongs, and to question what is enforced without Holy mandate! But do not be too quick to do so. Think! Study! Pray! When we immerse ourselves in what is Holy, pure, and true all else presents itself even more clearly. Be wise, but also be bold! Know beyond a doubt when you are in the right, and when you are do not fear the consequences.