Recently, Brian McLaren challenged us to ask new questions about the absence of young adults in most churches. Mike Sares, pastor of Scum of the Earth Church in Denver, continues the topic by discussing the divergent values he has encountered between older and younger generations of Christians.
You may recall Sares told the story last year of the poet who dropped the f-bomb during their Christmas Eve service - with his permission. That triggered one of the most vigorous conversations Out of Ur has ever hosted. While likely less controversial, I trust Sares will challenge your thinking once again.
Every generation is quick to point out the hypocrisy of the one that preceded it. The generation born just after WWII began rejecting the values of their parents during the '60s. Now it's their kids' turn.
Today's young adults see a generation of baby-boomer Christians that has striven for "excellence" in every part of church life. Boomers proclaimed in the 1980s that image is everything, and their churches have reflected that cultural trend. The nurseries have got to be sparkling clean, the church buildings are marvelously functional as opposed to artistic, the music is as close to FM radio quality as possible (even if they must hire a band), the Sunday services are seamless with perfect transitions (just like television), the preaching is entertaining and informative (but not so deep as to offend visitors), and the plants on stage are beautiful (but artificial).
As a result, according to Dieter Zander, the next generation has concluded that "everything is image," and therefore nothing can be trusted. Church is too slick, too good, too polished to be real. And the twenty-something hunger for raw authenticity just doesn't fit in.
Reece and Keith were twenty-one and still idealistic enough to think that church should be a place that accepts people just the way they are. But that idealism was challenged when the last church they attended asked them to "Please remove your lip rings and nose rings, and cover up your tattoos so you are not a distraction to the other worshippers." Thankfully Reese and Keith's commitment to Christ outweighed the misguided reverence of their older siblings in the Lord. They were able to find another place they could worship, learn, give, encourage, and be held accountable.
But what about the rest? What about the ones who never recover from the stares, whispers, or misapplied Bible verses that condemn the way so many young adults dress and live? What about the ones who never see Christianity as relevant past grade school? What about the thousands of young adults who have never stepped foot into a church, and judge Christianity solely by what they see in the movies, on television, or in other media? How do we welcome them back into our churches?
- Monthly issues on web and iPad
- Web exclusives and archives on Leadership Journal.net