Why Christianity doesn't work (Part 2)

"I think what makes more sense is that churches be organized around the particular vision that God has entrusted to the leaders, and that the church remain true to that vision.... Individuals, particularly younger generations, are saying, 'you know what, it's got to be genuine. It's got to be authentic. It has to reflect who I am, what I need, where I'm going.' So you are going to see all these other models: the house church; the cyber church; the boutique churches; faith communes; eschatological forums; marketplace affinity groups and so forth."
George Barna

As I've been thinking more about this topic and having conversations with others about this topic, I've really had to mull over what I was going to write about. I better be able to back up my "outrageous" claim. This first topic, hopefully, will discuss how we've missed the mark on the youth and young adults in our culture.

Let me preface this by saying I am a young adult, who is for the most part, is confused about his Christianity. As I talk to others my age, this seems to be the general consensus, for the most part. Especially for those of us that have been in "ministry" these past few years, we've been feeling much like a square peg trying to be hammered into a round hole. For the longest time, I thought that this was the pressures of being around people, planning events, trying to sort out my own life. However, as I've read the Bible, looked to others for advice, and just thought about many different things, I've realized that it wasn't what was going on in my life that was causing the tension, but my understanding of faith, and Christ that was pulling me taught!

Here is the deal, in the quote above, George Barna writes that young adults are saying that something in the the church isn't meeting them where they are at. So, our solution is to think of something else, some are great ideas, some not so much (Ship of Fools was a ridiculous idea). I do believe there needs to be something else, but I don't think that the solution is another church, organization, or group.

As I look at the New Testament Church I don't see a formula as we do it. Formula? You know, 1. Welcome, 2. Music, 3. Announcements, 4. Offering, 5. Preaching, 6. Music, 7. Dismiss. You may say no, no, our church is different, no it's not! You just do it in a different order, Announcements may follow your offering! I recently read a book called What I do see is this:

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
Acts 2:42-47

This was the church. They ate together, they hung out together, celebrated life together, and God came with them. The interesting part about this passage is, that as they were doing life, people were added to their numbers! By eating food, and talking, and learning from the disciples, they grew!

The idea is not another church for our young adults, it's another way of thinking about what they want. For the most part people having been getting dumb, dumber, and dumberer. No one is challenged to think for themselves, and if they are, they think things that are a waste of time thinking about. What I want is a young adult is to learn something, not necessarily be taught, but to learn, through conversation, from someone who has lived life differently or has a perspective that challenges my own.

This past week I had the privilege of going out with my fiance and a married couple who we like! As we hung out with them for the day, and finished our little double date day off with a meal, we talked, and talked well! For a good 2 hours we had conversation. From that 2 hours of eating, drinking, and talking I felt I had learned more about myself, about my soon to be wife, and about Jesus than I have from being in Church the last few months!

How is that possible? It is possible, it happened, I was there. I know how I felt. As I work these things out I realize that what I want, what young adults want
(for the most part) is to talk, and to talk well! The early church did it, they ate, drank, and met with God in their conversations. The disciples were there to teach and correct, but through conversation. Yet we always feel the need to organize our conversations, bring it into the same place add some music, and give away money. The early church did this too...and what happened once they got organized, people start making their own rules, getting drunk on communion, having sex with each other, and getting stern reprimands from a converted murderer (read 1 Corinthians again!)

I see the value in Church as we do it now, don't get me wrong, but I see more life change through having conversation, which we don't do nearly enough! Life happens 6 other days of the week, however, for whatever reason, we think that we grow on Sunday, or we should anyways. I'm gonna be frank, most of what I hear from the stage doesn't change me, the music I hear doesn't move me, the way I give doesn't make me feel like I am worshiping. When I am singing in my car driving to see my fiance I feel God singing with me, when I pay for someone else's meal I feel God saying "good job" when I talk with my friends about life, God joins me in the conversation. So let's have conversation...


Dan Richardson said...

This is some good stuff here man. I've been hashing through this myself for the last 3+ years and started as I sat in my youth pastor office asking the question "Is this all there is? Go to church and expect my youth to do the same?" And then I said a "really bad" thing - "If this is all there is...I don't want it. And what do you know, I started a church!

I agree with you about the church looking the same from one to the other and even with a house church, it all starts to look the same after a while...so getting into a debate what type of church is the best (ie, mega vs house) isn't even worth the discussion in my opinion.

What I have found is that it comes down to mission. What Rick watts said on Tues/Wed morning is exactly where I'm at - it all comes down to Jesus. I know that sounds cliche...but when you strip away all of the other crap that we've attached to Jesus, there is something there that just can't be explained.

I was talking with my UnderCurrent (just another name for small group) the other day and I was telling them how sometimes I find it very frustrating that I don't have a formula for what it means to "reconnect people to Jesus" (our mission). But that's what I do each and every single week in some form or another. We push people to get reconnected to Jesus without a formula. It's not about behavior modification - the way it's been done before.

And for some strange reason, when we've stripped away the formula, people's life get changed...surprise, surprise! It takes the control away from us - which I can't stand at the best of times - but it puts the control where it belongs.

Along the lines of Mission, a churches Mission is communicated in everything they do. They may say that they are about "lost" people, but how they do things doesn't communicate that - ie, music,language,focus,ethos, etc.

For the most part, from my experience and what I can see, churches have one goal, going to church. And in the world of a youth/young adult - that's not good enough. In fact, that's lame.

However, they will go if it's a means to an end (and if it's communicating in their language), at least that's what we've experienced. If it's a catalyst for some WAY bigger than church, they will give themselves completely because it's not about the fluffy songs or the ugly speaker on stage but about their whole life being lived the way it was meant to be lived.

And lastly, I'm just gonna throw this out there and see what you think, youth/young adult ministry doesn't work anymore. The number one thing that I get asked if we have is a youth ministry. And the number one answer that I give in response to this question is no. And it's risky because, for instance, we had another new family show up on Sunday and the safe thing to do would be to start a youth ministry so that they would stay. But we are so stubborn and mean about our mission/vision that we just keep saying no. And it's primarily because of this fact: If your 12 year old doesn't like coming on Sunday morning and can't relate then, first off, we're not doing our job and, second, they definitely aren't going to like a half assed youth ministry. So our deal is this, if you want a church with a youth ministry but a sunday experience that makes them fall asleep from sheer boredom, by all means, GO THERE!

Anyways, I've written way too much here on too many different topics but whatever, I was in a responding mood. I'd love to here your thoughts on my thoughts.

Adam Green said...

wow ... that was very pomo and emergent of you!

anyway, joking aside, I've been dealing with the same questions for the last year. What church should be, how it should look, what it should do, how to tell people about the real Jesus etc ...

I have this distaste for organized church and programs etc ... I don't like the Barna quote, I think it misses the mark - sounds like you agree.

My only concern in your blog is the last statement (about orginization screwing up the church), don't think that the early church had it all right, just read Acts 6! There were still prejudices and bigotry in the church!

Plus, the early early church still had structure, they met in synagogues - which was very structured (until they were actively kicked out after 70 A.D.)

Can't wait to read more ...

Geoff said...

I agree Adam and sorry for the confusion, I did shortly address this in the Corinthians quote, in regards to disunity in the early church...even Paul and Peter couldn't agree on how to do things...and they met Jesus!

Geoff said...

Dan, I agree too, that youth and young adult ministry doesn't work...the way it's happening now...we need to understand that as culture changes we need to be at the front pushing culture to a better way. Someone asked me if that means being more lax in our views (sex, homosexuality, stealing etc) and I said NO! What it means is challenging greater thought on what it means to follow God biblically, not culturally!