With his short-cropped hair, beard, and Sunday-not-go-to-meetin' wardrobe of sneakers, baggy jeans, and a bland shirt, 24-year-old Chris Seay looks more like the lead singer for an alternative rock band than the pastor of one of the most successful new churches in Texas.
But that's just fine for the hundreds of young people who attend University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, every Sunday. And it's fine for Seay, a third-generation Baptist minister who says the thought of being a pastor once looked "pretty revolting." Seay's views have changed, however. He has accepted the calling to take the gospel to the so-called Generation X, that much-maligned group of 40 million young people between the ages of 18 and 34.
Open to God, not church
"They're open to the God thing," says Seay (pronounced "see"), "but they're not into the church thing." Nor are they into the typical hymn-and-sermon routine, if a recent Sunday at the church, which meets in Waco's downtown Hippodrome Theatre, is any indication.
Instead of laid-back, Jesus movement-style praise choruses, a seven-piece band belts out aggressive Christian rock, while young congregants sing and sway. Unable to find songs they like in the contemporary Christian praise genre, the band writes its own, like "There's No Chain," which captures the congregation's hunger for authentic spirituality: "There's no heart too wounded. No heart so broken that he can't mend. No life so hopeless. No life so empty Jesus can't fill."
After the musicians lay down their instruments and take their seats, Seay strides to a stool in the middle of the pulpitless stage, sits down, props his feet on a nearby speaker, takes a drink from a bottle of Snapple, and launches into a meandering monologue based on the ...1