There is a new world waiting for us.
If you are a follower of this ministry then you know that this statement is at the very core of everything that we do. We sit at a crux point in history, the moment when the old is going and the new is coming. And what “the new” looks like is wholly dependent on the choices that we make in this moment.
The word “revolution” has been greatly overused in recent years. And what began as a prophetic trumpet call has become synonymous with youth groups and tragically hip Emergents. And in the end, we have not seen revolution or revival. But what is most needed right now is exactly that; a revolution of shocking size, scope and breadth. We stand in need of a genuine coup d’church, overthrowing an entire system and building a brave new movement in the shell of the old.
As we have been pioneering these last years, we have seen that the issues that we grapple with here are just a microcosm, a pantomime of issues in the larger context. And in attempting to solve these issues locally, it is my heartfelt belief that we will find generational solutions as well.
In case you haven’t noticed, there is a generational gulf fixed in place that is only getting wider. Not only does my generations have completely different ideals, goals, priorities and passions than the status quo does, but we seem to be nearly incapable of even understanding each other.
The differences between generations may stem from the fact that Boomers began to be exposed to post-modernism as late teens and early adults while Gen-X was the first generation to be reared in it from birth. As Gen-X’s worldview was completely incubated in post-modernism, anything outside of that metanarrative is rejected as stuffy, conservative and narrow-minded.
This in turn has led to an almost complete rejection of everything Boomer and a feeling that all that they do is somehow, impure. There is a near consensus (right or wrong) among our generation that the Boomers somehow sold-out, compromised and became even worse than those that they rebelled against as they created a society that was more and more plastic and mass-produced.
In the same way, the Boomers have entrenched mindsets when it comes to Gen-X. And unfortunately, them being in the driver’s seat means that these mindsets are oftentimes communicated as being “the right way” to do things. And for many in my generation, this causes us to chafe even more under Boomer leadership ideas.
These generational paradigms can be most clearly seen in the Petri dish of the American church system. For the last say, 30 years or so, it has been Boomer sentiments and outlooks that have driven the church. And in many ways, it has completely taken over. It is so far reaching that you would be hard-pressed to find a single area; church growth, church success, organization, preaching and worship styles, children’s ministry, even evangelism- that has not been completely colored with the Boomer’s brush.
The contrasting stances of the Boomers and Gen-X are both fundamental and mutually exclusive. Sadly, there does not even seem to be a clear way to compromise for unity’s sake. You are forced to choose sides in this as worldviews are simply not that easy to shake off and adjust. When we step back and look at just a few surface areas, this becomes crystal clear:
In the church, Boomers tend to be highly organized and structured where Gen-X tends to be communal. To Gen-X, the business of the church is the business of the whole church and being together is of the utmost importance. Community is more important than systems and it is everyone’s business to pitch in and do what needs to be done. The phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child” fits exactly here but as, “It takes a village to be a church.”
Boomers tend to focus on programs while Gen-X relies on relationships. To the Boomers, a program is most often the solution. They truly feel that they can find a solution in a program that can then be mass produced, packaged and distributed en masse. Gen-X on the other hand feels that solutions are found in relationships with one another. This difference can be most clearly seen in the area of evangelism. Gen-X has, up to this point, rejected almost every area of programmed evangelism that was in wide use previously. A definite evangelistic solution for today has yet to be rediscovered and implemented.
Boomers like mechanical excellence and Gen-X demands realness instead. In fact, the spit-and-polish approach to worship, preaching, etc is almost contemptible to Gen-X. We would take flawed music that was genuine and imperfect preachers over the dog and pony show, used car salesman approach of some Boomers any day.
Boomers love being contemporary while Gen-X tends to embrace future-primitivism. We dig technology but also history, i.e.; Augustine on I-Pads trumps the mega-Church. We have some kind of internal alarm that goes off when a thing does not pre-date Boomer culture. And so, in many Gen-X churches you will find Reformed Doctrine, Monasticism, Ancient symbols of faith, etc. What you won’t find is much of the “innovations” of the last 50 years.
Boomers are rationalist while Gen-X is holistic. Pragmatism is the rule of life for Boomers, and the most important question that they ask before embarking on a project is, “Does it work?” Their churches are built as businesses with bottom lines and a “whatever works, use” mentality. Gen-X tends to focus on the whole man, intellect, reason, emotions, doctrine and even personal opinion. And while temporal things are important to Gen-X churches, eternal things possess much more significance in their decision making process. When faced with this mindset, Boomers often say that Gen-X cannot be a genuine success, and to these protests Gen-X simply replies, “Define success”.
Finally, Boomers tend to be competitive and Gen-X is highly cooperative. Gen-X will not be content with simply drawing people from less successful churches in their region; they desire unity and cooperation between all of the local churches. To many Boomers, feeding the poor or fighting an injustice can be nice things to do, if they have a profitable conclusion. To Gen-X, those things are the heart and soul of who we are and why we do any of this.
The final results of all of this is that never before, except perhaps during the Reformation, have two generations been more diametrically opposed than the Boomers and Gen-X. And the bi-product of this polarization is that an entire generation remains lost, looking for answers everywhere except the church, due to a inherent repulsion to the dominant mindset of that group.
Those who look to minister in a Gen-X fashion today face a very steep climb. When you no longer poach sheep from churches across town, you must find a way to evangelize in the midst of a culture that is post-Christian at best. When money and numbers are not your focus, you must get creative and cooperative communally in order to reach a lost people group.
And in this idea of voluntary redistribution and communality, we have what may be the only solution that will actually work for getting the work done in Gen X and Y.
Make no mistake about it; my generation is as foreign to the church as a savage tribe would be that is living in the midst of the jungle. And if we do not begin to find some genuine answers, I fear that we will simply become as religious as Europe within 20 years. Exactly 2-4% church attendance is how religious they are, if you were wondering. And that could be our future here as well, unless we do something to turn the tide and speak Jesus in the vernacular of this generation.
The evangelization and reintroduction of Gen-X and Y to church is the single greatest challenge of our day in the church. And the issue is not just a Gen-X problem, it is a whole-church problem, both Boomers and Gen-X together.
What we cannot afford is to continue the way that we have been. Boomers must accept that Gen-X will absolutely change your changes. The torch will not be carried on by the next generation and the Boomers must face up to that. At the same time, Gen-X must understand that the Boomers did what they needed to do in order to reach their generation. And wisdom is justified by her children, for the Boomers and in the future for us as well.
Gen-X is faced with an open mission field, 96% of which do not attend church. And we have had to attempt to reach them, up to this point, without any resources whatsoever. And our failure is your future. Please hear me on this; OUR FAILURE TO REACH THIS GENERATION IS YOUR FUTURE AS A CHURCH.
Within 20 years, many experts predict that many of the mainline denominations will close down due to a lack of attendance. And this generation is the attendance that can keep that future from happening. But we need the support, financially and spiritually, to do that. The methods that worked for the Boomers simply will not work today.
In this ministry, we have shifted focus on doctrine, intercession and a fire for God, coupled with social justice and servant evangelism. We have stressed biblical masculinity in the home and at church, service to the church and the community and love for the outcast.
But we are only just scratching the surface of what needs done. What may need to be done, no, what I believe must be done now is a complete reboot. To attempt even one more service where we attempt to tweak Saul’s methods may have terrible implications.
We must all step back, dismantle the entire system and do what is in our heart to do. This is how God will visit a generation with revival – when we stop coloring the pre-drawn Boomer coloring book with Gen-X colors and instead, create our own book.