Are We “Worlds” Apart?
Linguistics is such an art! When thinking of church leadership, I think of pastor, elders, deacons, church boards, etc. Recently I met with a “twenty-teen” minded church leader who is a facilitator, director, planner, implementer, spark igniting, social networking overseer of a local church. Well, I call it a church; he choses to refer to it as a gathering of people who tell their stories, build relationships within and outside current church norms and boundaries, and facilitate these relationships on a social networking level or in a deeper personal level. As Kent Hunter refers to flat worlding (see earlier blogs about the 21st Century Church), my friend and his “twenty-teen” generation, as I now call them, are not the least interested in church hierarchy. In fact that turns them off. They don’t look at church from a business model sense like my generation with budgets driven by tithing, but merely from a loose relationship angle. Church offices and titles make no sense to them, relationships do. Social networking keeps them on a sociably equal level with each other. On Facebook, Myspace, and Tweet, there are no social levels, no societal hierarchal levels of importance. You are on an equal platform of “esposure”, and “vuneralability”.
He told me that although he still meets with a pastor’s group for prayer and fellowship periodically, he feels a detachment, almost an alienation to the old guard. He understands where they are coming from because of history, but they can not understand going the other direction, toward the future. What will the Church look like in 2025? The old guard would be content if the Church still had its present structure, for that is what they identify with in their generation to their culture, but there is now a different culture and a different generation.
For examples, the way we view the Great Commission is changing. My generation sent out “missionaries” to foreign countries or supported grand Billy Graham Crusades. “Twenty-teeners” are beginning to despise Billy Graham three point techniques as “archaic” and ineffective to their generation. Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, are all spiritual giants to my generation tried to breed their children to follow them in ministry. It is hard for them to realize, but their grandchildren are not responding well to their strategies. It is a new culture, a new world. Tent Evangelism of Oral Roberts, Billy Graham city wide Crusades, and Pat Robertson’s view of Christian television, the advanced technology of his generation, is giving way to the internet, the world wide web, and social networking. Their grandchildren would preferably only listen to a “podcast” of one of their sermons in the "archive" section if they were interested at all.
Evangelism has changed. Billy Graham preached the world was going to hell in a handbag, and repenting and turning to Jesus was the answer. Christians were not to be part of the world, but saved from it, thus the “Leave It Behind” series became popular to my generation, but is ineffective to “twenty-teeners”. Their “missional” outlook is to “infiltrate” the world, not avoid it.
“Life is how you live it”, is a common theme to both generations. My plain, almost Amish, conservative dressed background emphasized that “our lifestyle” proved to be our testimony, thus we were not verbal about our faith, for our outward appears defined our stand on righteousness. Church dress, as defined in the 50’s through 90’s, has all but disappeared in the current seeker friendly church atmosphere. The “twenty-teener” blends into his culture, preferring to listen to secular music to pick out spiritual principles that to church hymns and choruses, the reversal of my generation’s experience who went from pure secular music to contemporary Christian music. Both generations are trying to “live out their Christian faith” but in structures that are defined by their culture. To the “twenty-teeners”, the dividing line between secular and church mindsets are getting muddied. I am sure the “old guard” will combat this new movement with their own defined “righteousness” movement, judging and condemning this “new works of God” as being unholy, secular, and unrighteousness. They’ve done that throughout Church history; why change now?
“Old School Church” is predictable because it has history; “New School Church” is unpredictable because it is looking ahead and has no history, only a walk of faith. As my “twenty-teener” friend conveyed to me, “It is like Abram walking in faith into a land he is not familiar with.” That’s the pioneering spirit; that is the spirit that moves the Church forward. It challenges the Church from stagnation to flow again. Quiet calm lakes are great for a quiet day of fishing if you can stay awake, but white water rafting on a fast pace stream creates a rush! I felt this spiritual rush in the movement of God in the 1960-70’s, but eventually found myself in the stagnation of an established lake. I empathize with the “twenty-teeners” because they are ready for their generational rush that will change their culture for Jesus Christ.
Jesus prayer as recorded in John 17 is to protect his Church who he is leaving behind in the world. He knew the tuggings and temptations of the world, yet he knew that his mission was to come and die for this world! He’s died; He’s risen; and by his Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Church is moving forward. Both generations are in the same world, but are looking at it generationally and culturally different. God, fulfill the calling of John 17 and bring unity to your body of Christ, the Church in this century to these two generations. May this “movement of god” bring unity among us! amen….