A friend sent me this article from Christianity Today recently. It was stimulating, so I was thankful. A problem with it is that it’s written for a periodical that, by and large, is read by boomers (at least none of my friends really read it). The author talking to an audience, boomers, that it presumes are still there. So are they? So what’s really going on? Is the author trying to start a generation war? Are boomers blaming millennials again?
First of all, her claim that boomers are marginalized is a joke. My friend Aaron noted that boomers are the most powerful and wealthiest generation of all time, and incredibly influential voting bloc. Calling them marginalized by the institutions they run–since 60 percent of pastors are boomers and, moreover, they are the only generation that hasn’t declined in seminary enrollment–is ridiculous.
Statistics can be manipulated in lots of ways to make whatever point we like. They are crafted to tell a story, naturally. And Barna’s studies have problems, of course. The example is this Pew Research study, which shows that that Americans who do not identify with any religion is on the rise, and particularly among millennials. The church might be failing everyone altogether–losing boomers and never including millennial to begin with. I think the author points out why here:
Once they’d cycled through years of running or supporting the church programs created for their children, planned and attended women’s events, and perhaps had even moved into mentoring a younger woman or two, a number of midlife women told me they felt there were few meaningful opportunities for growth and service in their congregations. One respondent put it this way: “I’m tired of same programs year after year. I want deeper relationships with fewer people, more spiritual exercises like prayer and meditation than the canned studies my church offered.”
I agree with her. I can totally see why a boring, repetitive, unoriginal church can be unattractive. In fact, I’ve left churches like that. Most millennial don’t even show up because they can smell the crap from a mile away.
Churches need to be real, and get rid of all of their institutional, impersonal programs (like what Frank Viola says), not just the repetitive ones. I prefer a cell-based church (as you know). And in my circle of ten, we have deep relationships, prayer, and meditation (not to mention stimulating Bible application and generally good vibes). Ideally and often our cells are committed to a mission and that’s what makes us work–we want to include people into what God is doing among us.
We have to get rid of the entitlement that the church is supposed to solve our problems and make us feel good. If we keep burying any group of people and blaming them or the people that cater to them for our problems, we are entitled jerks, to be frank. If we are looking for the church to feed us, we might starve to death.
First of all, Jesus is our Savior–He is our ultimate sanctification. If we lose that, then we’re done anyway. Second of all, we are the church. If the church becomes something that’s suppose to entertain us and sedate us, then just watch Netflix–there are much better shows for entertainment then there are worship services. The church needs to be more than just fun for us though. More than just a dog-and-pony show. It needs to be our life, it needs to be our vocation, our purpose!
We all have a place in the body, and we need to be working on a community that disciples others. We need to help people become long-term, real Christians. Those who find their purpose in building the church, not just to reacting to how it isn’t satisfying us. I want to include everyone in what we’re doing, that’s for sure, but I am committed to make a new generation of the church, because as of late, the same, old program-y church is killing me. We need to be forming a real community around the person of Jesus Christ and a mission for His sake. It’s not just about consumption and satisfaction–it’s about the main job of the church.
If we lose site of the Great Commission, we’re dead. If the Great Commission is no longer a meaningful opportunity for growth and service then what are we doing? If Christians of all ages can’t evangelize and don’t make it elemental to their existence, but can only complain about not being catered to, then we’re way dead.