Young Adults and the Church, Truth and Christian Identity

Bruce Reyes-Chow has put up another insightful post on his blog, this time focused on why he believes the Church is ‘doomed’ when it comes to reaching the elusive young adult. Do yourself a favour and read the full post. Here’s one paragraph that stood out to me:

I find it interesting that most of the conversations about “reaching young adults” take place among people who are distinctly NOT young adults. I think it is a way that many of us try to prove that 40 really IS the new 20 and extend our youth for as long as we can. Sorry folks, but as we age, our roles and perspectives change. I for one do not regret this, rather I embrace and welcome the roles that I will hold in the future. If we are reach young adults with integrity, then young adults must to be at the table and part of the direction setting in significant ways. Much like we would never plant a Korean American church with a team that was 90 percent non-Korean, we must not try to create relevant young adults ministries by relying on the musings of even the best intentioned 40-, 50- and 60-year-olds. For as hip of a 43-year-old as I fool myself into believing I am, I do not and will not experience the world through the eyes of a 20-year-old — and there is nothing I can do to change that. The best thing I can do is to acknowledge this reality and then find the best ways to empower, guide and support that 20-year-old as she/he discovers a place and role in the future of the church. This posture must be taken in all aspects of the journey: planning process, fiscal management, organizational development, etc. if we are to truly create and sustain ministry with and for young adults.

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While we’re at the Patheos Progressive Christian Channel, Kevin Miller has written about why he would rather seek truth than defend an idea.

. . . [A]s much as we’d like to believe we are primarily rational beings, we simply are not. Emotions play a huge role in the truth-seeking and idea-defending process. Even the term we use to describe a moment of intellectual discovery—an “A-ha! Moment”—is primarily emotional in its connotations. This is nothing to be embarrassed about. We enter the science lab and the theological library as whole persons, not disembodied minds. And we need this kind of emotion to spur the tremendous effort required to coax new insights out of stubborn data and then to gain them a fair hearing. . . .

. . . Problems arise, however, when we become so emotionally attached to an idea that it no longer exists independent of our selves. We have invested so much of our lives into articulating and then defending the idea that it becomes fused with our identity. We don’t just hold an idea; we are the idea.

“I don’t just hold conservative views; I am a conservative.”

“I don’t just believe in universalism, I am a Universalist.”

If we’re not careful, we go from thinking, “My idea might be right” to “My idea can’t be wrong.” And the reason it can’t be wrong has less and less to do with the idea’s relative merits. It’s the fact you’ve ordered your entire existence around that idea, and if it’s wrong, well, you’ve wasted your life. (Read more here.)

The way I see it, when the truth becomes so much a part of your identity that you cannot live with the thought of finding out you may be wrong, then it is held too tightly. At that point, you are so emotionally invested in this way of thinking being right that you can no longer distinguish the idea from reality, the ‘fact’ from the emotional response to that ‘fact.’

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Speaking of truth and identity, Brian Mclaren’s new book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World, is being released next week and I, for one, am eager to see Brian’s take on interfaith dialogue and Christian identity. From what I have read so far here, it seems like the greatest obstacle we face in relating to those of other faith communities is that of our own fear.

The single greatest obstacle to rethinking Christian identity won’t be imposed from the other side by other people, whether “us” or “them.” The single greatest obstacle will arise inside each of us. Your greatest obstacle will be in you and mine will be in me. In the end, it’s not the threats of others that cause me to shrink back, but rather my own fear.

You can order copies of Brian’s book postage-free here.

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2 thoughts on “Young Adults and the Church, Truth and Christian Identity

  1. There are some really good points in the first post. Before I go and read the full version, I wanted to comment that the quote (and most of the discussion I hear about young people and the church) falls short for me (a middle age almost 50 male) on two points:
    1. we start with “how do we reach young people?” “how do we minister to young people?” “How do we let young people into *our* church?” We need to turn the questions on their head and ask “how do we open ourselves to let young people reach us?” “when will we let the young people minister to us?” “when will we make it their church and ask them to invite us in?”
    2. and this really bugs me – is calling young people the “future generation” – sorry, they are here now in the present. they have something to offer right now, right here – not sometime in the future. Lets stop pretending they are not part of our current reality. I remember how much we objected to that when we were 20-something. So lets stop with it. If nothing else, if young people are the future generation, in 25 years time, we will be the ‘past generation” and I am buying that either.
    Anyway – good on you for posting this. We have to get the conversation started. But it has to go a lot lot further. Now I will go on to read the full version.

    • Good observations, David. I haven’t thought about it that way. I think so-called ‘Boomners’ and ‘Gen Xers’ feel like it is their church since it is their efforts that have been predominant in building it in the past 20-40 years. It is difficult to loosen the grip and start letting go and allowing the responsibility/ownership to shift. I think we do the inter-generational thing well in our church, yet I know some of the stuff the younger folk bring to the community is loud, impulsive, in-your-face and, though graciously accepted, not so greatly encouraged (or seen to be helpful/appropriate) by the older generations. We have a way to go in this area.

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