I was in conversation with one of my best friends about why I love belonging to the United Church of Christ.
My friend hasn’t attended church regularly for most of her life, but she’s always been open to it. She went to plenty of Lutheran services as a child, but she couldn’t reconcile the idea of serving a male God or Jesus as a male savior.
I told this friend there are many Christians who use gender-neutral pronouns for God and who even use gender-neutral pronouns for the Christ. She asked me if I could send her some reading materials about God being gender neutral, and told me she was looking forward to learning more about this idea.
My friend simply hadn’t considered there could be a group of Christians who believed in a gender-neutral version of God.
Because she never heard about such people.
When I talk to many of my millennial peers, I hear more of the same. They can’t believe I belong to a Christian denomination that stands for social justice, embraces evolving theology, and affirms all people.
I was even one of those millennials myself before I found a job listing (and later local church) in an unfamiliar denomination called the United Church of Christ.
Mainline Christians often discount people like my friend and me as misguided or spiritually lazy when they see us labeled as “nones” or “spiritual, but not religious.”
Many of the people progressive Christians assume are done with organized religion don’t even know mainline denominations exist, and might even consider joining us if they did.
It’s great to be a “progressive church” and to do the powerful work associated with it; but we need to reevaluate our approach to discipleship when people outside of our progressive Christian niche don’t know what we’re doing and that they can be part of it too.
We can’t support social justice crusades without shouting our theology just as loudly so people can’t separate our passion for justice and our passion for the gospel.
We are missing our chance for a true resurgence of the mainline church if people can’t make connections between our justice stances, biblical beliefs, and our identities as progressive Christians.
We can’t stay in our progressive Christian silos without working harder to reclaim the gospel from those who use it for hate.
As the United Church of Christ prepares to launch it’s next identity campaign, I hope this denomination, and all mainline Christians for that matter, are committed to being louder than ever about who we are and what we have to offer spiritual people who have a mind for openness and activism.
Because frankly, without answering the call to make ourselves more relevant than ever, I’m afraid one day, we won’t be relevant at all.
Marchae Grair is many things. A Netflix addict, puppy enthusiast, songbird, Millennial dreamer, and God lover, to name a few. She is the editor of New Sacred and social media associate for the United Church of Christ. Twitter: @MarchaeGrair