Let the Work Begin
What will pastors be pondering as they return from the National Pastors Convention?

The pastors who attended last week's National Pastors Convention have now returned to their churches across North America. David Swanson presents his final reflections on the convention and the issues it brought to his attention.

Now that the National Pastors Convention has ended, I'd like to offer my highly unscientific observations about some trends I observed this past week.

The Denominational Dilemma

During the conference, the Pew Forum released its U. S. Religious Landscape Survey, which demonstrates the ease with which people move between denominations. According to the survey, 44 percent of Americans have made a significant shift in their religious affiliation, whether moving between faiths and denominations or detaching completely from any tradition. This week different presenters have noted that this survey presents trends many of us have experienced in our churches.

In many ways, this conference, with its speakers and worship leaders from many denominations and backgrounds, reflected the Pew research. Some there considered this fluidity a positive development because it allows people to experience more of the Christian tradition. Others were wringing their hands, claiming this "pick and choose" mentality keeps believers from being deeply rooted in the Faith. What most agreed must be addressed is number of those reflected in the survey who leave the faith all together.

A Place for a New Generation

On Wednesday I attended a session about how churches can attract and retain the younger generation. I was surprised to find this session absolutely packed: church leaders were standing in the back of the room and sitting on the floor hoping for some insight into this generational dilemma. From my vantage point I watched the room of mostly 40 and 50-year-olds furiously scribbling notes as the two 30-year-old presenters spoke about the traits of their generation.

It was clear from the popularity of this session, and others like it, that pastors and other church leaders have awoken to the disconnect between their church subcultures and those who have grown up in a postmodern environment. But what will this interest lead to? Will churches look for new programs and methods to attract this generation? Or will they be willing to adapt at significant levels, so that a new generation will see the church as a worthy investment of their lives? Time will tell.

The Global Church

Throughout the week, we were we addressed by church leaders from South America, Europe, and Africa. We had the choice to attend seminars with titles like: "Redefining Power: Finding Our Place in a Global Church"; "Hispanic Integration in the USA: We Can be United Under the Cross"; "Two-Way Mission: When Globalization Changes the Way We Think." It appears the American church may be realizing that the influence of the global church has shifted away from the West.

March 04, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 13 comments


March 11, 2008  5:08pm

I am a minister currently between calls. My last church was a 128 yr old mainline church that, like most of our churches, insists on maintaining its "traditional" ways of being church. I am going to take this time and "put my money where my mouth is" and try to see if an emerging church can grow in my hometown. I don't believe that most existing churches are prepared to significantly change and so will continue to bore and ignore the post-moderns. I strongly feel that God is calling the church to a new way of being and doing in the 21st century. It's an exciting, and nerve-wracking, time for the church!

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Eugene Edwards

March 11, 2008  3:46pm

I have heard this over and over again, how people are leaving churches and quitting church due to not being "fulfilled" or whatever they are after. Church is a place where people should go to meet Christ - not have a personality contest with other people. Young people today are not good at commitment, because that requires accountability and when you don't have it at home, you grow up without it as an adult. We can struggle and agonize over this - but in reality it is indicative of the last days - a falling away from the church. We must be faithful to our faith and allow God to work in these people in the way God does it best. Church membership and attendance is a calling of the Holy Spirit. All the gimmicks we can come up with won't work for long, because someone will have a better gimmick. We are living in the last days when there will be a falling away - we're seeing it aren't we?

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March 11, 2008  3:00pm

I was not at the Pastors conf. even though I wanted to be. My son a former Youth pastor gave me this insight not long ago. He asked me why the reality based T.V. shows were so popular. I didn't know because I don't watch them. He said my generation (35) and the younger gen. is watching them because they are real. "If the church doesn't get real it will lose my generation". I said that to young man recently and he answered "it already has". Young people want to know that the things they struggle with, we all struggle with as life goes on. That pastors doesn't have it all together. We shouldn't have to go to church and pretend we don't sin. I have learned to be transparent and real, and I get very positive results when I speak. Tom

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March 11, 2008  2:48pm

The problem with younger leaders is that often they lack experience needed to present Bible truths. They need to be more than entertainers and that is what many younger ministers are - they are there to entertain, to tickle ears and bring in lost souls... but once the souls are there - do they really connect? Or are they telling people what they want to hear? We have enough of that ... we need younger ministers who are not afraid of preaching the ENTIRE truth of the Bible, not just the feel-good part.

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David Roadcup

March 11, 2008  2:19pm

To David Swanson - can you send me the name of the seminar from the Pastor's Conference that dealt with the 30 something leaders sharing characterisitcs of their group which would help us understand how to reach non believers in that age group? Thanks!

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March 07, 2008  9:06am

"...some insight into this generational dilemma. From my vantage point I watched the room of mostly 40 and 50-year-olds furiously scribbling notes as the two 30-year-old presenters spoke about the traits of their generation." Sheerahkahn may have a point that facts may be better than opinion, but there is one glaringly obvious fact from this statement. The church leaders, ministers etc are 40/50 year olds. No matter how 'in touch' they try to be what's really needed is the new wave of younger leaders - with all their faults, recklessness, enthusiasm - to mix and share life with their peer group and disciple younger Christians.

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March 05, 2008  10:22pm

I attended the NPC and appreciated... 1. The wide variety of seminars: There was an abundance of opportunites to learn and grow in many different areas. 2. The diversity among the presenters: They were from many different traditions, ministries and places. NPC seems to have a healthy ability to bring together believers who share our common faith at it's core while being different in some aspects of theology and it's application (EX: Politics & having Church Colson & Greg Boyd together) 3. The heart of the worship leaders: I really sensed they were all there to love on pastors - loved the MC's - their joy and sincere faith was a blessing. The music was terrific. 4. The speakers in the main sessions were all terrific. We know the church has serious struggles - and we know the church is deeply loved by God. The church for all it's faults seems to be God's main plan for touching his creation. With this in mind, I'm simply thankful for the NPC. Being a pastor is a wonderful blessing & honor. It is also challenging. I see the NPC as a wonderful opportuntiy for leaders & pastors to come & try to gain something - whatever it might be - to assist them in their important task.

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March 05, 2008  11:10am

"...some insight into this generational dilemma. From my vantage point I watched the room of mostly 40 and 50-year-olds furiously scribbling notes as the two 30-year-old presenters spoke about the traits of their generation." Were these two presenters presenting their own views, or social demographical research based on a quantifiable statistical evidence? Just on the surface, this part seems, in my perspective, that the older pastors are seeking insight into the minds of the "thirty-somethings" and that the selection pool, two presenters, imo, seems to wanting in randomness and population for making an insightful statement on that generational subset.

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March 05, 2008  8:49am

I have not read the entire Pew report, so I am not aware of this question has been raised - but what is the function of denominations in this era? When the were first instituted it was often over ethnic lines or deep theological differences. Those issue have been diminished for the most part. There arne't that many Swedes that are looking for the Covenant. How much difference is there between the Free Church and the Southern Baptists? Add to this the rise of the independent mega church with theri influence and resourcing capacities why are we surprised at the results? What then is the place of denominations? Accountability and licensing for pastors? Planting churches or sending missionaries or creating youth ministry opportunities or camping? Theologocal seminaries? Keeping the church orthodox? Denominational identity becomes less of an issue, which may not be a negative. Which is more importnant as an identity, Christ follower or Baptist?

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March 04, 2008  10:17pm

(My take)The average American is over worked, stressed out, tired and community starved. When I say community, I speak in the terms of real relationships that surpass the average "How are you doing?" and walking away. It was predicted several years ago that we would see the younger generations cocooning. They have been living high pressured lives with broken families, disconnected parents and the pressure to perform in the education & sports arena rather than enjoying this aspect of life. They want less stress and uncomplicated lives that are different from the high octane and pressure filled lives their parents have been living. They in many ways are looking for family that they feel that they were cheated out of by life's circumstances, but because they see so few examples of strong family life they don't know how to get from point a to point b. This is a learning curve for them but they place this at a much higher premium than the older generations because of their personal stuggles. In many ways the church (in a general sense)has failed because we have failed to disciple people from milk and toast to meat. Most believers have never moved beyond milk and toast and there is a huge gap in having elders in the communities to which they can turn to who are walking and striving to Christlikeness. They want to see real transformation of peoples lives and this is probably feeding into the globalization trends we are seeing as well.

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