The word “disillusioned” is used often in Sarah Cunningham’s book Dear Church: Letters from a Disillusioned Generation (Zondervan). It’s a series of letters written by the twenty-something who is the daughter of a Southern Baptist Church planter. I didn’t read it because of the church planter thing. I didn’t even know that until after my wife brought it home from the library for me. My initial reason for reading it was because I’d been to the author’s web site that encourages new authors and I wanted to see what she was all about.
The book was published in 2006, the same year Vanda and I left our church with hopes to plant one for another denomination. Sarah puts to words what I couldn’t. She’s not afraid to say what she thinks in describing our frustrations, from the things we use to gauge the church’s success (attendance, budget, programs, image, etc) to how discriminating we are in determining what kind of people are welcome at our churches. But, just when I was sure how the rest of the book would go, she made a surprising shift.
Sarah encourages young people to take responsibility for the church instead of running away from it. Having pointed out the faults of the church, she declares that the church has been established by Jesus Christ: and that Jesus says “Satan will not overcome it.” That means tough times will come, but the church will endure because we are his.
If we’re going to be a part of its success then we need to come to terms with the fact that God didn’t make us all the same, so differing approaches to worshipping him actually follow his design. We must be okay with that. Postmoderns don’t have all the answers because no generation does, so we must build relationships with people who don’t understand our rants even if that means we’ll end up worshipping somewhere else.
It’s a book written for disillusioned church-goers written great wisdom by a woman who has experience many angles of the Christian community: church planting, pastor’s kid, church staffer, church attender. Young people with be drawn in by her authenticity more than enough to listen to the challenge of the second half of the book.
And if you’re older and trying to get a handle on younger folk, don’t stop half-way through. You’ll be pleased with the hope Sarah offers.