When I was 28, newly single, and new to Ohio City, I was looking for a church I couldn’t find. As a Cradle Methodist, I was seeking a place to be a part of something theologically progressive, welcoming, and nontraditional. I discovered I could get one or two, but not all three. If I wanted something nontraditional, I would have to forgo a progressive point of view. If I wanted progressive, I had to go to a very traditional worship service. In my own search, I found a gap, a space, a place that was missing in Cleveland’s worship landscape.
As more young people move into the city, I can’t possibly be the only one seeking a space like this. We want to begin to fill this gap: to offer space for connection in conversation, for engaging the presence of God and the story of the Gospel – all while building a community and being a part of and contributing to the Cleveland Renaissance.
Millennials are leaving the church in record numbers. They aren’t returning when they get married or have kids. One contributing factor is many of them aren’t getting married or having kids. This is our new reality. We can blindly hope and pray millennials will “conform” to the historical, traditional behavior pattern. But this isn’t happening, and expecting conformity might just lead to a rebellion.
The message of being in the world and not of the world (Romans 12:2) can mean we have to adapt instead of expecting others to conform. It’s time for something adapted and adaptable that invites participation and builds relationships. If we want to reach young people, we need to go to them: physically, spiritually, and personally.
This region is crying out for community and connection. Residents in this region are concerned about finding a partner with whom to share their lives, as well as getting over past guilt and addiction. They worry about finances, finding direction, and the community in which they are living.
The radical message of Jesus – not the tame, domesticated Jesus – but the rebellious Jesus is at the heart of who Lacuna is seeking to be. This Jesus called unexpected people and healed the sick. He ate with sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors. He challenged religious and societal norms. He accepted everyone, even Samaritan women, short tax collectors, thieves on the cross, and Roman centurions. He ultimately overcame death.
This Jesus can help bring this region – and in particular, young people in Cleveland – the community, comfort, and challenge they seek in order to move toward the more fulfilling lives, healthy relationships, and vibrant city. The messages of inclusion and acceptance in the Gospel and the call to participate in the building of the kingdom of God are especially relevant for this group.