Again and again adults in our Canadian Lutheran church pose the question “Where are our youth”. Having just returned from hearing Shane Claiborne speak, a Christian activist and author I have long admired, I am tempted to bluntly answer this recycled query. Before I begin, let me state strongly that the answer is not praise bands, watered down theology, technological advances, bribes, or even simply adequately funding our youth ministries.
The Canadian Lutheran church fails to fascinate young people because it fails to challenge young people to challenge society, and refuses to walk with them when they do. There is nothing fascinating about a church that sits behind closed doors discussing justice, but fails to be witness to the injustice inside and outside its doors. I know many Lutherans who challenge society daily, who live out justice individually, but as a community we do not. And being a 22 year old in a secular society, I can tell you it is very lonely to try and fuse the issues of my generation with our faith alone. As long as the church collective fails to adequately address issues of social and environmental justice in new, innovative, intellectually sound ways there will be no youth in our church.
This does not mean God’s work will not continue, but it means the future location of this work will not be within the framework of the current Canadian institutionalized Lutheran church. Hear this from someone who mourns the suffering of her home community, but can no longer be pulled into the black hole of financial discussions, identity crisis, discrimination, and aesthetic squabbling while remaining enlivened for God’s Kingdom.