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.