Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Yoof and the Church/Communication of the Gospel

Now when I say Youth Im actually wanting to discuss generations and the implications for the Church. This generational interaction is fast becoming one of the most contentious issues in modern western classic church set ups (Im alluring to the evangelical/charasmatic, born or heavily influenced out of 80's Praise and Worship Movement in most cases). I have always been taught, and really believe that the local church (group of followers of Jesus in an area) should be able to meet, and interact cross generationally. In fact I think often it is what is so special about when God's people come together, that young can relate to old on the plateau of Christian faith. But when we look at the reality of Church services how is this worked out. Most of our sunday services (though planned with and full of good intentions) are set up for middle aged Christians. The facts of it are normally, 20-30 Minuites Singing, 20-40 Minuites speaking/preaching/teaching, 10-20 minuites fellowship, possibly an response oppurtunity. The durations and activities are all geared towards the audience of a middle aged adult. This prognosis isn't a slagging of these activities within a church service but we have to look at how there done, and if we really think about it they are normally set up in line with how the leader/leader's age group would recieve the most from a sunday service. But unfortunatly sunday services aren't set up for the leader/leadership teams benefit. In fact they are not even set up for the congregation, or any "target audience" within that. They are there to be a corporate expression of love to Christ. Within the congregation there are going to be as many thoughts as to how that expression is best acheived or outworked as there are people, but as in all things workable generalisations need to be established. Firstly we can identify a common Youth culture which spans the sub-culture within that umbrella of youth culture. This Teens/Youth/20's Culture can be seen as quite distinct from the culture of 40+ (of course there are exceptions to all these generalisations but lets just try and work with these ideas). The approach or communication is what I see as the key issue or difference between these two generations. Communication is such as massive thing as it affects the expression (how people express/outwork their love to God and to the people around them), communication of values (how the bible is taught in an effective, penetrating way), communication of Character (how people are discipled/progressing in their lives following Christ through the examples they are given). Communication models within the Church need to be addressed in order for this generational chasm to be bridged. At some point the pre-dominant Church model (within the disciplines outlined at the beginning of the post) emerged from the model of Church that most of the leadership aged people grew up in, and so for them to deny this emergence to the Y generation (a term Im not fond of but fills the gap for now) would be short sighted, and probably jepordise the effectiveness of the Y Generation for the Kingdom in the long run. A long sighted approach would be to ensure building effective foundations for the Teens/Youth/20's to be able to stand on, to go higher and better than those that preceeded them, too often unfortuantly when we look at many churches we can see an expression of church that looks to build a personal (particular leader) and/or stylistic (a way of doing things that has worked in the past) empire, this empire creation is then ensuring that cultural ideals and values (which are not inextricably linked to Gospel, but more a way that the particular generation/group have chosen to outwork the gospel) become "sucessful" within the terms mostly based within the common terms of sucess for business eg. Numbers (financial and body count) or longevity. This may seem like a particularly pessimistic view of the current status of many churches, but I would like to counteract it with the fact that there are many Y Generationers who LOVE the Church, LOVE their leaders and see their Godly authority and character but want the oppurtunity to develop Church models which enable them to be as missionally effective as possible to their fellow un-churched generation. Dan Kimball puts it nicely when he says the Frodo's need Gandalfs, and with this I agree entirely, The Church needs to work with all generations involved and needs to inter-relate in order to be a healthy representation of the body of Christ. So this post is in no way trying to advocate some poorly planned youth break off/church split situation, but is an appeal/answer to Pastors who are maybe wondering why there seems to be so little Teens/Youth/20's in the church, and the one's that are, are often disillusioned with Church (and therefore often their faith which will be linked to the status of the church, as it is for most young Christians who havent matured beyond this...which is fine, nobody has made it yet and were all on a journey). The ones that are in Church are bored because were trying to feed them in a cultural way that doesn't relate to their real life experiences, but allure to a world that they only see in their parents lives, thus resigning Christian community in their minds to being a middle aged (and often middle class unfortunatly) occupation. In church often we present the gospel, and invite people to come, invite Youth to be captivated by Jesus and live life for his Glory, and then set up endless cultural hurdles and hoops in order to achieve the goal. Which many are not willing to do as they hurdles seems so many that they crowd out what ever was so attractive about the Gospel.


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