So, you want to be effective with Gen-X? If you were to gauge exactly who this demographic is and how to win them by the current efforts of the church, more than likely you would start some sort of hipster ministry. For instance, you could take out all titles and replace them with something more hip: Pastor would be out and in its place would be “Pathfinder” or even just “Dude”.
Or you could place religious symbols from as many faiths as you could around your “community space” and then use bean bags and couches to fill empty areas. Oh, and don’t forget your incense and your U2charist… the kids like those; they make them feel like spiritual…
Now, that is exactly the way that many people are going about ministry to Gen-X and Gen-Y. Granted most of the visible ministry to our generation is being done by ex-youth group leaders who are now all grown up and keeping church cool. I have to tell you though, had you tried to win me with any of that I may have tested your faith a bit.
You see, I come from a different group of Gen-X called the Lazarus Generation. We are called that because we are a dead generation that Christ is raising from the grave. Big deal, you say, I was dead as well…we all were. Yeah, that may be technically true but in comparison to the “Lazarus kind of dead” most people were really just“mostly dead” if I can quote Miracle Max from The Princess Bride.
The Lazarus Generation was “all dead” which generally is regarded as a hopeless case scenario where the only remaining option is going through their pockets for spare change.
You have to wonder why the enemy went after Lazarus in the word, don’t you? I mean, he wasn’t an apostle or prophet or pastor. He had not shown himself to be of any consequence whatsoever when the enemy killed him off. In fact, killing him only had one visible consequence: causing grief to Mary, Martha and Jesus. In the end, I believe that this was his intention from the start. He knew that he couldn’t hurt the Lord but he could certainly hurt those that he loved.
Today’s Lazarus Generation were also those that the enemy had specifically targeted to destroy because of who loved them. Most of those considered to be a part of the Lazarus Generation came from the homes of believers before they fell away. Somewhere between the empty religion, the hypocrisy and the system of politics in the church world, Lazarus had had enough and decided that the faith they grew up with was a fairy tale, like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and a winning baseball team in Pittsburgh.
And when they left, they left hard. Lazarus tried Satanism, eastern religion, Nordic mythology, atheism and pretty much anything else so long as it was not the religion that they grew up with. They never really doubted that God existed; they just doubted what everyone was saying about him. And they sinned in every way imaginable, hurt everyone around them and burnt bridges like it was going out of style. And somewhere, someone cried for them.
My mother used to tell me that the “hounds of heaven”were going to get me. I had no idea what that was but it was a bit freaky. Of course, she meant that the “hounds” were goodness and mercy and that they would follow me all the days of my life. And she was right of course because one day during a suicide attempt those hounds finally caught up to me. And I am so glad that they did.
But like the biblical Lazarus, most didn’t want to see me raised from the dead either. “But Lord, by this time, he stinks” can pretty much summarize the first few years of my new life. Shoot, some still say that about me to be honest. They knew that Lazarus was coming back with baggage and as cool as seeing him raised would be, they weren’t entirely sure that they actually wanted him back. I can recall vividly this one established Christian who after hearing that the notorious sinner (me) had gotten saved decided to take it to the Lord in prayer. As he did, power dropped him to his knees as the Lord revealed to him that I was really a Satanist and was pretending to be saved for some nefarious reason. Remember the whole “Lord, he stinks” thing above?
I think in part this has to do with the fact that getting yourself raised from the dead changes your perspective a bit. The Japanese used to talk about the state of euphoria that came with coming back from the brink of death. If someone intervened when they were about to commit seppuku, they described the feeling as being transcendent. Colors were brighter, the air was crisper all around them, and every movement had a delicate beauty that had previously gone unnoticed to them. Life had not really been lived up until that point and there could never be any going back.
How much more would this be the case after having been “all dead”? What would your perspective be like after landing on the other side and experiencing the total hopelessness of death? And then, suddenly in the dark, when all hope that you should ever be saved was taken away, a light suddenly breaks all around you and you hear your name being called down the corridors of eternity! And before you fully know what is happening, you are being violently ripped from the pits of hell, with demons grabbing at your feet and snapping their jaws at you as you take your place in the last place you ever expected to see again: the land of the living. How would that change your perspective?
What kind of conversation do you have with someone who has been raised from the dead? How would you convince them to go back into the very thing that killed them in the first place? How do you tell someone that is full of this ‘gratitude from the grave’ to sit down and just relax a bit? Guess what, you don’t, hero. From the moment that they come back from the grave, they will be a step off from everyone else. Believe me, this kind of thing can make normal people nervous around you to say the least.
I have personally experienced this over and over again through the years. A couple years ago, there was an apparent “error” in my ministry that was so grievous that it was compared by a well-known preacher to homosexuals praying before going out to talk to people about a God who loved gays. Sound extreme? The error was that we teach mixed martial arts (MMA) to men instead of teaching them to hold hands with each other and share their feelings and sing ‘kumbaya’.
This kind of thing is nothing new for me, I am sorry to say. At one time I had some 00 plugs in my ears and some other body piercings. So, of course there were those who took issue with me because I looked too much like “the world” for their tastes. Some still hate the fact that I have full tattoo sleeves on my arms. Some hate the fact that I preach while wearing steel toed boots. Some others think I should not have a shaved head (been told that, true story) and there are still some more who think that preachers should not have long facial hair.
But what these well-intending folks do not realize is that when I was saved the last thing that was on my mind was getting a new wardrobe so that I could fit in with the cutesy church people. All that I had, like Lazarus, were the grave clothes that I had on when I died. Add to this the new perspective that you gain from being raised from the dead and what you have is someone who doesn’t really care one way or the other what you think about them.
It doesn’t matter what some people think of our ministry techniques, what matters is what God thinks. It does not matter that we do not do things the way that you do them because we do them exactly the way that God has led us to. It doesn’t matter that we don’t preach in a way that you like because if you hate it, it probably is not for you.
No, in the end the only thing that you can do with the Lazarus Generation is the very thing that Jesus commanded them to do with the newly-raised Lazarus:“Loose him and let him go!” Just get us free, get out of our way and let us loose for some payback. Don’t try to control us, don’t try to understand and don’t try to change our thinking until it looks more like your own. Our mission is to monkey stomp the enemy and we will do it at any cost.
We that are the Lazarus Generation have something inside that is pushing us. It keeps us up at night with an insistent whisper that says that now is the time. If we don’t play nice, forgive us, we seem to have left our ability to play nice in the grave. If we don’t sound like everyone else, forgive us, we have a different perspective that is driving us. If what we say or do bothers you, by all means forgive us, dying and coming back seems to cause you to cut to the chase.
We may not agree about everything but believe me, we need you in the church and you need us as well. We need fathers and mothers who can keep us grounded and spare us from mistakes. You need someone unafraid to take this message where no one else cares to go. Together we have the potential to literally shake Hell and see millions come into the kingdom. At this moment in time God has chosen to raise something from the dead that was considered totally lost. And in so doing he has created a juggernaut of zeal that is ready to run to the battle. And we need you church. If you cannot understand, don’t try, just loose us and let us go