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.

Inventive Church

Ok. Two posts in one day. I know. But it’s worth it.

I’m reading Emergent’s latest blog posts and Mike Stavlund wrote a needed post entitled “Inventive Church.”

Here’s a taste:

Doug Pagitt’s recent book Church in the Inventive Age is not a clarion call for change. Rather, it assumes that change is normative, and that innovation is in fact a way of life. Moreover, it contends that younger generations are trending away from resistance to change, and are in factembracing it. That there is a shift from the ‘information age’ toward something that is more about discovery, creativity, and collaboration. What Doug terms the ‘inventive age’ is one where churches need to decide how they will relate to this shift in culture—will they get on the change train, or will they stay put? Pagitt is remarkably charitable to those who would choose the latter, arguing that they provide an essential function in a changing world, too. And while I might quibble with Pagitt as he argues that such shifts are largely demographic—rather than, as my friend Deanna Doan has put it, ‘psychographic’—I understand that more younger people will experience this psychographic shift, so it’s actually both. Fair enough.

It’s a short book that means to make its points succinctly, with money quotes like this one:

“The ability to teach and preach and lead is taking a backseat to the pastor’s capacity to create and facilitate open-source faith experiences for the people of the church.” (p. 33)

I wholeheartedly agree with this call for leaders who stop parroting the party line and repeating conventional wisdom, and who choose instead to open the door to let in the heat and cold, the light and darkness, the hope and doubt. And to, in equal measure, let that same stuff go out the same door and into the larger world. (Read it all here.)

I am not into change for change’s sake, nor am I into change as a marketing ploy or a ‘kick-start’ to re-energise or re-focus congregations. Like Mike and Doug, I believe people, organisations, things naturally change. These changes need to be encouraged, recognised and celebrated. In churches, especially, these changes can result in great movements of God in the community.

Lest this evolve into a rant, I’ll leave it here. Read the blog. Get the book. Open your heart to the flexibility and adaptability that will bring God’s change to your world.