Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What will we do about it?

hi all: I found the article below in Scott McKnight's Jesuscreed (now on I want you to remember that I said this a couple of days ago, and I have been saying it for the last several years in this blog and by email ... I didn't get it from McKnight, or McLaren, or even Gallup or Barna. We can see it with our eyes if we look around. There is urgency about this. Sorry to start another discussion thread -- you can keep responding to the previous thread, but this allows me to insert a link:

What will we do about it?
Research from a number of angles says the same thing: 20 somethings are not attending church. There is nothing less than a crisis in the church, a crisis that is far greater than most church folk know about and care to confront with the energies and focus that are needed. Here are the two facts:

1. The elderly people are exiting the church's back door.
2. The younger people are not entering the front door.

This means the numbers are declining. If something isn't done about it soon, the church will be facing a crisis in the next twenty years unlike anything the American church has ever seen. At a pragmatic level, it will mean a dramatic reduction in budgets ... I could go on. The more pressing issue is speaking the gospel to a new generation.

What will we do about it? Call for a conference. What are we doing about it?



John M. said...

Thanks for the link Joseph. It's very interesting to reaad the comments. Those on the "inside", pastors and youth workers are cheering the concept of revamping and investing in ministry to the young generation. Those who have already left are ambivilent and wondering if it will work or if it's worth the effort. Ed Chin (comment #7) makes a comment along those lines, wondering out loud if God is revamping the church to a more organic state.

The author of the book Scot mentions at the link, also comments (comment #71, I think). He mentions attending a youth workers conference with over 100 full-time workers. They all agreed on the problem as stated on the blog, but their strategy was to continue to do what they've always done only with more passion and zeal -- i.e. work harder, not smarter -- great way to revive a dead horse, beat him harder, right?

If the revival you prophesied on the other thread (yes, I believe you were prphesying) happens, I wonder how it will reshape the church?

If you look at most of the "alive" places and people in Evangelicalism today, I think most of the leaders who are middle-aged or older will trace their roots back to the Jesus Movement and the Charismatic move of the 60's and
70's. And I would venture that the younger generation of leaders were mentored and challenged by older leaders who had their roots directly in that move of God. Those leaders have shaped the present church. They have poured new wine into an old wineskin, which held it for awhile, but seems to be tearing. If the Lord chooses to move sovereignly again (please Lord don't pass us by), then I think that at least some of those new apostles will establish organic communities that perhaps will look more like your "God-party" and your "extended spiritual family" in homestead than a traditional institutional church. I'm sure it will also have a renewing effect on the present institutions as well.

Let it be Lord. Pour out your Spirit on us! Thank you for all you have done in the past. Thank you for your present presence in and with us. Come Holy Spirit!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

smokin joe said...

Good points John. I agree with you that the “Jesus-movement” had a huge influence on reshaping the evangelical church. It is important realize that the Jesus-movement did not originate in the church. Many, if not most of the early leaders of the Jesus movement were entirely unchurched, marginal people when they came to faith. People like Chuck Girard, Keith Green and Barry McQuire began to be encountered by the Spirit and started writing songs with spiritual content before they ever attended any churches or even heard the gospel. Eventually Evangelical pastors like Chuck Smith, Jack Hayford and Charles Simpson began to ‘disciple’ them and instilled evangelical doctrine and values in them. Calvary Chapel and Vineyard, as well as the 2nd tier of leaders in the various streams of the Covenant movement have their roots directly in the Jesus Movement. But the original initiative came from the Spirit calling lost young people to himself.

My understanding of missiology is incarnational and comes from Phil. 2 (Jesus was found in appearance as a Jewish man) and 1 Cor.9:21-23:

19-23 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

I have had the privilege of being able to ‘fly under the radar’ and be a graduate student among graduate students who are mostly 30 years younger than me. Although there is some respect for my life experience, for the most part they relate to me as a peer. Instead of trying to convert them, I am trying to learn to be a good friend, and to watch, study and learn how to see the world through their eyes. Although they have a tremendous spiritual hunger, it makes absolute sense to me that they are voting massively with their feet against the church. They have very low tolerance for bullshit.

If we are concerned about our cultural values, then we need to pray really hard for God to raise up dozens or even hundreds of ‘20-something’ St. Patricks and John Wesleys. And we need to build sufficient relational connections with this generation (not just in the church—but even more outside) to be able to influence them toward a fuller understanding of the historical legacy of Christianity once the Spirit’s move becomes evident. And with this generation, that will require acknowledging the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’ parts of the legacy as well as the ‘good.’

I really don’t know if we can do it. If we can develop the ‘eyes’ to see what God is initiating around us. (sorry John, I went over – 527 words)

smokin joe said...

Brian told me last night that he had a conversation with the 20-something children of a friend of his. These are kids that grew up in Brian's church ... none of them have left the faith, although they no longer attend his church. The oldest daughter and her husband left the Evangelical church and converted to Catholicism.

One of them observed to Brian (correct me Bri, if I say this wrong) that they believe their generation is just very, very lost. In turning away from the church, most 20-somethings have also turned away from God.

What do you think about this? is it accurate? I would love to hear from some 20-somethings about this...

Carloozian said...

John M. I agree with you fully. what we are looking for (as in change, revival, movement) whatever we what to label it, will come as something we can't label because it’s going to move with a different rhythm and in outer circles we are not accustom to moving in or seeing.

It takes a level of rethinking the thinkable. If we are the covenant thinklings then let us rethink the thinkable. The way I see it is that when God sent Jesus it was the unthinkable and look how many of our brothers missed the point then and sadly to say today.

In fact, I will go a step further and say let’s stop thinking altogether and just “Be”. Be available, be approachable, be teachable, be forgiving, be trustworthy, be thankful, and be ready to hear Father in ways and in places we have forgotten or forsaken. And better still be willing to go to those forsaken and forgotten places in the dark deep.

Guys its time to leave the shire and venture into mordor. Along the way we will encounter things we might not like and others that will affect us deeply. But what do we do when it seems like when Gollum said that we cant follow the lights...? if we cannot follow the lights of our world then who/what?

That my friends is the question our 20 somethings have come to and decided “not them”. Meaning the church.

We have failed Jesus. Its time to end the bullshit and start to “be”.

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" -- John 13:35

Brian Emmet said...

Thanks, Carlos, for helping us think more about being more. Do you think folks in their 20s and 30s feel the church focuses on the wrong issues in the wrong ways, or on the right issues in the wrong ways, or misses the right issues altogether?

John the Musician said...

I've said for a long time that my generation sees through the bullshit and I stick to my analysis. I think that people in my age group can easily tell whether you're real or fake, and if you're fake they don't want to have anything to do with you.

I think there's probably also a large part of my generation that has also adopted the "cover everything up with a smile" mentality, but I tend to think that the majority can smell a fake from a mile away and probably spit that far.

Brian Emmet said...

John, did you mean that your generation sees through my generation's bs, or that you see through all bs, regardless of where it originates?

smokin joe said...

good question Brian ... I will look forward to his answer.

My daughter Ruth (the bartender) responded to this discussion to me by email. Here is her response:

I don't think it is even an issue of the wrong issues in the wrong way or the right issues in the wrong way, I just think that 20 somethings can't relate to mentality, or presentation. Most 20 somethings are post-modernists, the church is still very much stuck in the previous era as far as teaching, the way they are presented, set up, outreach, etc. My generation can't and won't relate to that. If they are searching then then are searching for a very real encounter with a "higher power" "if he or she is out there", they are looking for B.O.B. himsellf, not a church disguised as a good place to get coffee.

Although I agree that the good word is still in churches, and I do not believe that God has lifted his hand and his grace from them, I just don't think that 20 somethings will find a route to connect in very easily if at all.

Another thing is we have grown up with so many "fake" things, sitting in front of a computer/tv/video consul, that a real encounter with God blows many of my generation away. We talked a little about this subject in our Tuesday night group last night, and while everyone agreed ( with one or two exceptions lol) that going to a service at a church can be edifying, none of us sitting there could see ourselves being a "member" of a church. Sitting around a fire on a cold night, smoking cigarettes, drinking Captain Morgan and Smirnoff, cursing, laughing, and talking about God, the Bible, Forgiveness, Sin....and knowing that all of us are on the same path, and can walk hand in hand helping each other find the way, that is more real than any church service any of us have attended.

You know what I like the most about it? The fact that I have never had to put on a face for our group. I've never had to sit through a meeting craving cigarettes or worrying about who saw me sneak out for one. Never had to worry about pretending I'm fine this week, and what if I can't pull off a good face. I don't know guys, just something I like about being able to show up scruffy looking and depressed and know that its ok, and the people sitting with me care about me enough not to judge that.

So, instead of worrying about how to reach the 20 somethings, and get them into the church, maybe the focus should be on becoming friends with them, relating to them day in and day out, and allowing God to work in their lives through you.


Brian Emmet said...

Great to hear from you again, Ruth. Your candor is refreshing and insightful! A couple of thoughts in response:

We're all ("church folk/older folk" and 20-somethings) guilty of the same thing: "ya gotta meet with me on my terms and turf. I think this stuff(and 'this stuff' can be things like church services, old-fashioned thinking, being a 'member of a church' on the one hand, and smoking, cussing, and drinking on the other)is all a bunch of crap and I'm just not going to deal with it..." which is simply a way to refuse to deal with one another. We all are having trouble learnng to love one another, and your encouragement to just engage with one another is on the mark. Is it possible that sometimes we could meet at "your place" and sometimes at "our place"?

You also wrote about loving the welcoming, including non-judging friendships you have developed with the group down there. That sort of thing does happen in "churches," also. Sure, not in all churches... but not in none of them either. My goal is not to get anyone "into church" but to work on tamping down the judgmentalism on both sides.

John the Musician said...

I'm a little late but to clarify what I was saying, I think that the majority of my generation is looking for real truth. I think that we are probably reacting against older generation's tendency to put up a front, and because of that we can see what is real clearly. However, I will say that seeing through it and not doing it yourself are two different things. I think that many young people don't like the facade that so many people put up to cover their insecurities, but at the same time that we do the same thing sometimes without realizing it. After all, covering up your insecurities with a false you is one of the oldest tricks in the book for trying to be "safe" emotionally.

Brian Emmet said...

Yup! I would add that there are several forms of "the false self," including the "me" I understand myself to be. The real you is you-in-Christ; until we're getting to that, we're still to some extent dealing with false selves. Modernist false confidence and postmodern false despair are expressions of false selves.

smokin joe said...

don't forget the false Christian "Church" self that only comes out on Sunday mornings.

The real-you-in-Christ is an exciting concept ... I am going to think about that. Authenticity!

Ruth Hillary said...

Thanks for the welcome brian =) even though I was indirectly on here haha.

I agree that the judgmentalism (is that a word? lol) is both within and without the institutional church, not just within it. I grew up in many churches that were based more on relationships and loving one another more than it was on having "righteousness" in others' eyes.

What I was trying to get at I think was that the traditional church as it is now is not appealing to gen x'ers and younger. I think one of the reasons is most of them have seen nothing but the hypocritical and judgmental side of it all. I also think there is more to it than just that.

I really don't think that the church has much to offer secular gen x'ers. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that the church should be done with, and don't think it is done with. However, I think that churches in general are going to have to change with the times to continue to have life and grow, because I believe that God is trying to move His church towards a more organic relationship based organism.

ok brain is shutting down for sleep lol. =)