Church and the Next Generation

At the Christian Chronicle website there is an article titled “Are We Loosing Our Young People.” Here are some quick thoughts I have:

The problem is not in how many young people we retain or how evangelistic we are (or are not). The problem is a paradigm shift in the way the upcoming generation thinks. For most Churches of Christ, church is a 3rd person entity that is done from a building with a chapel that imposes a complete set of rules on how we worship, fellowship, and minister: We must all sit in pews, we must have worship leaders who always do so from the stage and they must be male, We must follow the scripted worship order planned by someone else, fellowship is a Sunday School class or a bridal shower at the building, ministry is a VBS at the building or a clothing drive at the building, etc… Though there is nothing inherently wrong with this model, it has a number of limitations in allowing a new generation to express their worship and faith in God in the 1st person which is what being church is about. In the worst forms, there are some who believe this model of being church (3rd person) is biblical and therefore unchangeable.

We must come to grips with the reality that for the upcoming generation, church will not be a 3rd person entity done from a building. Church will be a 1st person reality and acted out in ways that will not fit into our mold. Worship, fellowship, and ministry may be practiced out in a house church, by a small group at a coffee shop who will never see the inside of a church building, in a city park among the company of the publics most disenfranchised, and many other forms that is even difficult for my mind to fathom. The upcoming generation will care little about what gender does what when worshiping. They will care little about whether their singing is with or without instruments (if they meet in a coffee shop, they may not even sing but instead encourage each other just through the communal reading of scripture). From my viewpoint, these shifts have nothing to do with being or not being scriptural. I realize that for some, there are biblical issues at stake. Regardless, unless we can learn to start allowing expressions of being church that are beyond our traditional box called a building we will only continue to experience the frustrations already being felt.

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5 responses to “Church and the Next Generation

  1. Have you read Revolution by Barna? Sounds like some of the same things, though I think Barna is pretty weak theologically, he does have a good handle on the cultural trends. I believe that once we get a handle on the fact that “church” is not a place to go, but a people to serve, then we will not have such a hang up with the changes we see in the configuration of our worship and serving spaces that need to come about to engage incarnationally.

  2. No, I haven’t read that book yet. Two books I am reading right now is David Bosch “Transforming Missions” (which is a rigerous academic read) and Reggie McNeal “The Present Future.” I hope to read also “The Shaping of Things to Come” by Michael Frost.

  3. Rex,

    Timely thoughts. I hope and pray that we notice the cultural shifts around, see them as an opportunity rather than a threat, and spread the dynamic kingdom of God into our neighborhoods and coffee shops.

    Ben

  4. Wow man! You really articulated that well. Amen brotha, amen. Perhaps this is the postmodern shift. And that’s a GREAT thing. My friend talked about it in his post Emerging Church

    Cecil Hook also talks about very similar topics in his books.

  5. Good comments, Rex. We read your letter to the Christian Chronicle, too, since we just got it in the mail and I am just now getting caught up on your blog. 🙂
    Jason

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