Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reset -- Is there a Hope for the Next Generation

A few days ago it was the delete button. Today it is the reset one.

This week end has been devoted, unintentionally, to the 18-25 year old crowd. For one, my 24 year old son and his new girl friend came home for the week-end as did my 20 year-daughter. My 22 year old son played in a big concert this morning. But these things are all related because my out of town children came in because of the music festival my one son performed in.

The festival is just ending with the finale . . . which is Kimya Dawson (voice of soundtrack of Juno). She is actually still playing but I came down from the concert, with my 18 year son, to the coffee shop to put down some thoughts . . . or at least the start of them.

All week end I've been listening to the voices of the next generation. This morning, four of them (including my son's girlfriend) and I sat in the coffee shop and talked for an hour and a half in lieu of church. It was a good time.

I went straight from there to the outdoor concert area. My son's band was the first to play. The name of his band is Caulfield and His Magic Violin. My son wrote the lyrics to most of the songs. His friend, Mike (another product of our Evangelical church) wrote the others. They created the title based, of course, on The Catcher in the Rye. It is their statement about rebelling (too strong of a word here) against the status quo of the phonies . . . which would mean my generation. It was when I was trying to understand the name of the band that my, now, 18 year old suggested that I start to read fiction. I did and I started with J.D. and the Catcher.

I will be back and I want to take this further but I can tell my 18 year old is getting bored sitting here and I'm about to become brain dead from his long day.

But my question has to do with how to we reach the next generation with any kind of sense of truth? I'm thinking about Michael Spencer's book, which I read a couple of weeks ago, and his sense of the demise of the Evangelical Church. I'm thinking about HUG's statements today about Evangelicals are making the same mistakes that the old Church made fifteen hundred years ago. Is there anything that we can do? Do we need to hit the "reset" button to our cultural Christianity and start completely over?

I want to come back and share some of the lyrics, which I've heard today. I will just mention one by Mike (who was a Christian child prodigy at our evangelical church a few years ago and his dad is still one of the most conservative leaders). I wish I had all the lyrics to the song as I could not hear all of them. I asked Mike for them after the concert but he didn't have them.

I know that Mike has a powerful influence on my son. I know that he fights with his dad a lot over issues such as global warming and evolution (his dad does not believe in either concept). So the song describes how he had bought into the Christian story until he was 16 then it didn't make sense with "no answers for his brother's pain" and the "crazy ideal about all his friends being destine for a lake of fire."

I've had several talks with Mike. In his view, the conversation is over. He did the Awana thing, the years of youth groups and etc. So now, to even try and speak to the topic is hard. That is when I started feeling hopeless in trying to communicate anything with the next generation I started thinking about a reset button. There are days I would love to throw away everything this next generation has ever heard about Christianity . . . and start all over.


Anonymous said...

A very necessary topic to discuss. You talk a lot about evangelicals, which inlcudes, I would assume, the Evangelical church. However you say all of Christianity needs a reset button. I see what you are saying about the Evangelical churches, as I have attended them. I wonder if this extends to the other churches. I see youth groups improving and holding quite a large number in the churches I've been involved with, as a need was fulfilled for caring, passionate, God loving & Jesus following leaders. But is the youth, in this case middle & high schoolers, really becoming followers and committing their lives to Jesus? Are they truly hearing what the bible says or do they feel like they were "cheated" or feel the way mike feels. How to tell when its in their own hearts and minds, if they are too afraid to speak out or tell the truth about their doubts. It's hard for even adults to ask doubtful questions in fear others might judge.

MJ said...

I don't know the state of the Catholic Church, so I can't speak to it. I've seen their campaign on TV, asking their people to come home. Maybe it is working. Maybe the Catholic Church might become a new home for some of the old evangelical youth.

I am a little concerned even about those youth who were so involved in youth groups. Like Mike, whom I described here, I see many youth group stars become totally disillusioned with Christianity by the the time they are in their early 20s. I'm not sure about this next statement, and I just had this very conversation with my daughter, that those youth who do come out of the youth group movement and continue on with the church, seem to do it out of guilt rather than personal conviction.

What I mean, some kids who were raised in very evangelical settings, either rebel or become brain-dead followers because they don't have the courage to disappoint their parents' expectation. Just a thought. Not to say that there are not plenty of youth who do take Christian very seriously, who take ownership of their own faith and who think with great courage asking the really hard questions.

PRS & ALS said...

This is a challenging post and one that all followers of Christ need to think about. I think one thing we can do for the upcoming generation is their questions and doubts and anger and struggles...without chiming in with answers to everything. Sometimes that's what they need most. Then we can begin to discuss with them, not preach at them. I've been so privileged to have the kind of relationship with my now adult children where we can discuss these difficult issues. I think they are probably comfortable being open about these things because I've been open with them about my struggles, questions, doubts and journey with God. I think God honors honest sharing of these struggles and walks with us on the journey.

MJ said...

PRS I just commented on my last post and it seems to be on the same page as you.

Sixwing said...

Can you reach the next generation with any sense of truth?

Yes, provided two things are true:

1. You allow room for their truth. Their world - as you've probably seen - is not identical to your world. Their mannerisms, ways of thinking, are not yours. They do not perceive things the same way you do. I know this because I am part of the generation you're talking about and when I try and talk with my dad... oh my.

2. You actually believe what you're saying.
It gives your argument no weight if you do not back it up - "do as I say, not as I do" will get you exactly nowhere. AWANA failed it there, for me. They preach love and understanding while supporting, even catering to the vicious cliquishness of the kids involved. Their actions completely undermined their message. This is the single biggest pitfall I see in the church - especially the evangelical branches - the meaning of the words they shout seems to be entirely lost on the shouters.

So, does that require a reset? A hard reboot? Maybe not. But it sure requires some thought on the part of those who want to reach out.

MJ said...


Any idea what the Church would look like that this generation can relate to?

Sixwing said...

Any idea what the Church would look like that this generation can relate to?

After some thinking on this, it could be an entire series of blog posts in itself; unfortunately it's a series I do not have time to write right now. So, you get a scrambled series of thoughts rather than anything polished.

This generation is not a monolith and thus the church it would relate to would have to not be a monolith (assuming you're after an entire generation, and not a specific group within it.)

It would need to respond to world events and local events without trying to dictate a response. In fact, attempts at dictation in general will probably not be received well.

How does that work with a received religion that purports to give you all you need to live your life?

Less prescription, is my immediate thought. Time for actually thinking, actually discussing things that matter, rather than going over the same six stories a dozen times each. (This is not an exaggeration.)

Let people engage with the material from where they stand rather than hectoring them about SHOULDs.

MJ said...

Sixwing, keep writing. I'm on vacation right now and don't have much time on the computer. But when I get the chance (and if you agree) I will take what you write and paste it together as a major new entry and we can start this discussion again.

Sixwing said...

Sounds good. Hee, an invitation to ramble on your blog. I can't turn that down. Because it might be unclear, I am using little-c church to indicate an individual congregation and big-C Church to indicate the overarching organization.

This piece I am still up in the air about but I think it needs to be said anyway: get the politics out of the Church. (All of them. From all sides.)

Yes, a church with strong political views will draw people who agree with it. It will also drive away people who disagree with it. If that church is sufficiently obnoxious about its political views, it will taint the larger Church and start driving people away from even less obnoxious branches.

Individuals have the power to act politically as well as the right to worship as they please. The two shouldn't be conflated, though. I do not go to church for a dose of nationalism or a lecture on politics (in fact, I avoid sermons likely to be either). I do go to church to seek a higher understanding of God, or myself, or the relationship between me and God. That is the purpose and focus of the Church - allowing a place for individuals to pursue their relationship with God.

That may turn into political activism motivated by my morals, those being influenced and shaped (but not exclusively given) by my relationship with God. But that is my choice and not at all the realm of the Church.

Sixwing said...

All right. I've gotten a bunch here about what the Church should avoid. I need to put up some of what it should include.

It needs to include, intentionally and specifically, people.
All the people who want to be there.
Maybe even all the people who don't want to be there, in case one should ever come anyway. That means accepting all the Others we spend so much time defining and pushing away. Others being whatever group of humans your sermon railed about a few weeks ago. I bet it changes by region, denomination, even congregation. THOSE people. You know who I'm talking about. Let them in. Show them your love and let them be who they are. Frequently, the people of my generation are THOSE people. I've been one of THOSE people, and when my section of the population is disincluded, I notice.

It needs to include God.
I can't tell you how many sermons I've heard that have Bible verses in them, but no Jesus. Barely any God, even. And what is the entire reason (or at least, supposed to be the reason) we come together in a congregation anyway? Though this is less of a problem than including people, I've still seen it be a problem.

And it needs to include room for imperfection. We're all human here. Us people and them people alike. We make mistakes. If the Church has no room for them, who will?

MJ said...

Great Sixwing. I will collect, copy and paste your thoughts as a new posting tonight after work.