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Millennials stress worship, not labels

Survey respondents ages 31 to 40 feel historical ties to fellowship, but not brand loyalty to the name 'Church of Christ.'

Millennials, more than the other age groups, focused on worship as they responded to the Chronicle’s survey.

A Church of Christ has “a desire to be true to God’s Word and worship him in the way he has instructed,” said David Rollert, preacher for the Lakes Region Church of Christ in Tilton, N.H.

Jessica Solonka

But congregations in 2018 worship in different ways, respondents acknowledged. A few attend churches that have added instrumental services while others, including Jessica Solonka, said that Churches of Christ should focus on teaching “why we use our voices and heart to worship.

“We have been worried about looking like other churches in the world,” said Solonka, a member of the North Woodlands Area Church of Christ in Magnolia, Texas. “Young people are wanting entertainment instead of learning to give God our worship.”

Respondents in this age group tended to divide their definitions into two categories: what a Church of Christ is and what it should be.

“I truly believe the original intent was that the Bible would define the Church of Christ,” said Billy Jeffers, a member of the Echo Meadows Church of Christ in Oregon, Ohio. “But because we are sinful the church has become defined more by our traditions and policies. People know us for how we put people off, don’t show love and stand for traditions.”

What is a Church of Christ? Part 3 of 8. Click the logo for the full list.

Some referenced the Restoration Movement of the 1800s in the development of Churches of Christ and used the word “autonomy” — largely absent in the under-30 group’s responses — when describing congregations. 

The fellowship has “a sense of connection to our roots in desiring autonomy from exterior authority,” said Brian Bowers, minister of community life for the Rochester Church of Christ in Rochester Hills, Mich. “Stated positively, Churches of Christ want autonomy to evaluate Scripture for ourselves.”

But as they evaluate Scripture, too many Churches of Christ have stressed correct theology, being “right,” over compassion for postmodern thinkers, the unchurched and those struggling with same-sex attraction, several respondents said.

Others added that as they become parents, they feel a renewed sense of attachment to the fellowship.

Kacee Blackwell

“I have so many relationships within the church that it would be difficult to leave,” said Kacee Blackwell, a member of the Edmond Church of Christ in Oklahoma. “I feel that my family’s presence in the Church of Christ can help shape its future for the better.” She and several other respondents stressed, however, that their loyalty is to Jesus — not to a particular “brand” of church or label.

“I’m not a member of the Church of Christ as a denomination,” said Jonathan Henry, a member of The Hills Church of Christ in North Richland Hills, Texas. “I am a member of the church body that belongs to Christ — that happens to have Church of Christ as its heritage.”

NEXT: Gen X seeks compassion, not politics

PREVIOUS: Believers under 30 question fellowship’s nondenominational claim

Chronicle readers ages 31 to 40 respond to the question, “What would you say defines a Church of Christ?” The largest words appear most frequently in their responses.

Filed under: Big Questions Big Questions National Survey What is a Church of Christ

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