Okay… so here is an unedited rant. I was thinking on the crux of my thesis and just spilled this out… plus I've been pent up in my house with a fever for four days:
I've been challenged a few times during this thesis process that perhaps what I was actually trying to accomplish was the triumph of the younger generation of emerging adults in the church. It was put to me that perhaps I had a bias towards this age group and wanted to see them "take over" or influence the worship style or spend ridiculous amounts of money on cutting edge media.
Huh. I have to admit that ten years ago the answer would have been yes. I was by then a well-worn youth pastor who knew teens were disgruntled about the churches they were in. I knew they had great, fun youth groups where they gave their lives to Jesus and grew in faith and passionately pursued a life of change. I knew that once they graduated their youth groups they had no where to go, no where to fit in, no one to accept them, and no one to equip them to keep growing in passion and faith. The "church" and the "youth group" were night and day.
No wonder generation lines have been drawn so deeply in so many of our churches. Churches weren't reaching teens… so youth groups started… These youth groups generally showed some raw and basic faith that fired teens up… and then churches refused to bring them into their fold because they had too much passion or too little maturity or too despicable of a respect towards the institution and the practices that they had made so rote for at least one of the older generations.
I don't know if that made sense… I'm ranting… but I can get passionately frustrated that churches have turned their backs to younger generations being brought up and given the baton of leadership without a leash. A kid is never accepted in his home church… (didn't Jesus say that?).
The bias of this study is not to champion the cause of the "next" generation. What good would that do!?! If I championed their cause, to the suppression of the faith and passion of the older generations, I would be a jerk and a pretty stupid pastor. If I championed their cause, to the severance of the "next-next" generation, I would be propagating the same frustrating paradigm upon others.
The bias of this study is that ONE GENERATION IS TO PROCLAIM TO THE NEXT about the Lord so that they grab it and then… PROCLAIM TO THE NEXT… etc etc etc etc etc etc.
Psalm 145:3-4 says "Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They will tell of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds."
The author hears about the Lord from those previous to him. They tell him over and over again. They bring him into their fold and teach him in such a way that he embraces it and it sticks! The author is so overwhelmed that he then naturally begins proclaiming the same story of God!! But notice, the older generation spoke of the glorious splendor of God's majesty… and the author meditated on God's wonderful works. Notice that the older generation told of God's awesome works… and the author proclaimed his great deeds. Not a huge shift there… but there is a nuance change. The author is given the freedom and blessing by the older generation to know the Lord for himself in his day in the way that makes sense. The author, in turn, learns to give freedom and blessing to the older generation to do the same. And in that chorus they praise God together intergenerationally.
My bias is not that there will be some kind of cookie cutter church formula into which every new generation needs to be brainwashed. My bias is that every generation must proclaim to the next and then empower the next generation to proclaim. This involves commitment, love, courage, confidence in Jesus, and the willingness to adapt… Never will the story be different… but it may be held triumphantly with a slightly different look with each passing season.
I think the key work in your response is “relationship”. Building relationships takes time and energy and commitment, and perhaps all generations are not as willing as we should be to make those commitments. We would rather create programs, give money, have meetings, blame others, etc. We need to invest in relationships as a priority. Isn’t that what Jesus did?
First of all, I loved your rant. Thanks for it! I think you are dead right. Every generation has to struggle with making the Gospel its own. The more the generations are aware of each other and are caring for each other on a relationship level, the more each will be blessed and free to personalize and proclaim the Good News. Thanks for you comment!!
Couple of thoughts. I am 62 yr old and I can recall having the same frustrations as a teenager/young adult. And I would venture a guess that if you talked to people 40-80 yrs. old who became Christians as young people, that many would express the same thoughts about their experiences with “church” as a young person. Because of the culture in past generations, we were probably less vocal, but we had similar feelings. Another thought – I wonder what would happen if teens had one meaningful relationship with another adult in the church (not their parent/youth leader), and they could spend 1:1 time together and got to know each other; ie. young person could openly talk about how they felt about their experience and what they felt they needed to worship and mature in their walk with God, and the older person could do the same, relating their frustrations as a young person and also share what had encouraged them to grow in their faith. When we understand another person more deeply, we are more able to change our own perspective, make compromises and sacrifices for the other person. The “institution” of the church can only change as individuals change, and that is often a slow process. And positive change can only happen when there is mutual respect and consideration. I enjoyed your “rant” – what do think of my “rant”?