This blog post was written in response to a thread over at OC.net called “Who’s To Blame for the Emerging Church Movement (Hint: Evangelicals)". The thread was actually a reply, in part, to a blog post of the same name located at Theoblogy that discussed how the author felt that certain attitudes with in Evangelical youth groups lead to the Emerging Church Movement. Please read both if you feel like you need more background.
I was usually very involved with the youth group for the churches that I attended, and I loved the closeness of those groups and how involved everything was. I recall two youth pastors of mine that were very influential in my life and i was great friends with both of them (one officiated at my marriage, even). I knew that "adult" church was different and not very involved as much as the youth group was.
I remember begrudging certain churches I was in when the adult congregation didn't partake of certain youth activities or even disapproved of the youth group as a whole. I mean, didn't these people understand that the youth they were driving away were the future of the church? I can understand why so many people - when moving from the youth group to the more "grown up" part of church - went their own way and made these emergent churches.
When I was home on leave on my first deployment my wife took me to this non-denominational church that had the rock music, people dressed in t-shirts and jeans (and usually chucks), tattoos, rock music, a sermon that touched on modern problems of my generation, and rock music (they even had boxes of ear plugs for those who sat too close to the speakers); in other words it was exactly what I wanted in a church. I went and I did enjoy it, but it was really lacking something.
I found that I had matured in my faith. I was seeking a more traditional based service that did not sugar coat the Gospel. Something that challenged me to be a Christian in church and at home - not a mediocre slacker in church and at home (still working on that one). I saw this church that my wife had found for me and found (in my opinion) that it was full of very immature Christians (in the sense that they couldn't let go of their youth group days or move on theologically). ISTM that they had this idea that since God accepts you just as you are, why try to better yourself? Why the need to dress up and pretend to be something you're not? Why not just be who you are in church and at home?(To be honest, I do respect them for their great community out reach programs and I think that particular church is a great place for those starting out in Christianity. I still love that church and the people who attended it are still great friends of mine, but I just found the place to spiritually immature for me. I say this not to puff myself up or to make it seem like I am some how a better Christian than they are, but to explain my emotions at that time. And I hope that any of those friends of mine may forgive me if they are offended as that is never my intention.)
I understand that sentiment as I also had the same feelings. If God accepted me for who I am then why force myself to appear to conform to someone else's standards. It was when I realized that I was getting no where spiritually with that attitude (aside from the occasional roller-coaster experiences) that I shouldn't dress up and look nice to impress the old guy sitting behind me, I didn't need to cut back on the vulgarity to appease the old lady singing off key in the choir loft, I didn't need to do any of that stuff for anybody, but I should want to do it to let God work in my life and change who I was into a better person. I wanted to be like Christ (essentially I was longing for theosis with out knowing it).
Through the grace of God when researching various Christian denominations I remembered the EOC from when my father mentioned it when I lived in Chicago. I did more research on it and decided to give it a try when I got home. I was lucky that there were two GOC's not too far from where I lived in Georgia. I went to one Divine Liturgy and I was hooked. I had found the involvement I was looking for in the form of the laity taking part in the service throughout and in a daily prayer routine (I know a lot of Protestants advocate at least having a time set aside every day for prayer, but I love the whole praying at certain hours continuously through the day). I had also found that there was no sugar coating of the Scriptures or the message that the priest was trying to get across, and also that the sermon was always based on and expounded on the Scripture reading of that day. I had found a Church to challenge me at home and in the Church and encourages me to better myself and to reach for being one with Christ more so than any other church. And I found a Church that involved the youth, from the youngest infant to the college age guy with the beatnik goatee in every single service and did not dare to separate or discourage them from growing in the faith. I found a very united Church.
In short, I found everything I wanted in the EOC that I was looking for in non-denominational/emergent churches and more to the fullest.