How Millenial Are You?

Pew Research, one of the most trusted names in public opinion polling, recently did a cross-generational survey to see what the differences on 14 areas were across 4 generations. These areas ranged from whether or not you read a daily newspaper to if you’ve set up a social media profile to if you have a land line phone. Interesting stuff!

They broke up the respondents into the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945), the Boomers (1946-1964), Gen X (1965-1979), and the Millenials (1981+). And then, rather than simply report the findings of their survey, they made a website where you can answer the same 14 questions and find out which generation you best fit into.

Being 30 years old, I am right on the bubble between Gen X and the Millenial generations, so I’m always interested to see where I fall on various surveys and questionnaires. This one surprised me.

My score was an 83, which put me well over into the Millenial generation. (average score for Millenials: 73. Average for Gen X: 33. Wow.)

The hardest question to answer for me was how important it was to me to live a “religious life”. Since I don’t think my definition and their definition of “religious” come close to one another, I tried to ascertain what they meant and said it was one of the most important things to me. That actually lowered my score by 4 points.

After you answer the questions, you can see the survey responses and the generational trends. It’s really interesting stuff. So now it’s your turn: how millenial are you? What generation do you “fit” in according to Pew? Take the survey and post your score in the comments!

How Millenial Are You?

Pew Research, one of the most trusted names in public opinion polling, recently did a cross-generational survey to see what the differences on 14 areas were across 4 generations. These areas ranged from whether or not you read a daily newspaper to if you’ve set up a social media profile to if you have a land line phone. Interesting stuff!

They broke up the respondents into the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945), the Boomers (1946-1964), Gen X (1965-1979), and the Millenials (1981+). And then, rather than simply report the findings of their survey, they made a website where you can answer the same 14 questions and find out which generation you best fit into.

Being 30 years old, I am right on the bubble between Gen X and the Millenial generations, so I’m always interested to see where I fall on various surveys and questionnaires. This one surprised me.

My score was an 83, which put me well over into the Millenial generation. (average score for Millenials: 73. Average for Gen X: 33. Wow.)

The hardest question to answer for me was how important it was to me to live a “religious life”. Since I don’t think my definition and their definition of “religious” come close to one another, I tried to ascertain what they meant and said it was one of the most important things to me. That actually lowered my score by 4 points.

After you answer the questions, you can see the survey responses and the generational trends. It’s really interesting stuff. So now it’s your turn: how millenial are you? What generation do you “fit” in according to Pew? Take the survey and post your score in the comments!

The Church is Literally Dying

This has been one of the main driving forces behind my thinking, praying, and processing about what the Church is, has been, and could (should?) be – and I realized I’ve never quite fully explained it here on my blog before.

The Church is literally dying.

We hear from various different groups how 80% of people on average are “unchurched” – that is, they have no meaningful connection with a local church body. But what we rarely see is a generational breakdown of that “known fact”. A publication of the Georgia Baptist Convention entitled The Christian Index looked into that very issue and came up with some surprising results.

There you have it: death of the church in visual form.

The four categories are people who were born in the years mentioned in parentheses. To read this, for example, you can say that when this study was undertaken (in September of 2007), 35% of Americans born prior to 1946 were unchurched. At that same time, 85% of folks born from 1965-1976 were unchurched.

In other words, we have gone from a generation that has 65% of people finding meaning in a local church to one that has only 4% doing the same.

This graph tells me that “Church” went out of style oh, about 50 years ago.

Somehow we had our collective heads stuck in the sand and missed the entire thing.

And now, even now, even in the face of numbers like that, we have people fighting against change in our churches, in our seminaries, in our small groups, in our structure and organization…! The thought continually boggles my mind.

We need to wake up and realize Church needs to be something different. Otherwise it won’t be anything significant at all.

The Church is Literally Dying

This has been one of the main driving forces behind my thinking, praying, and processing about what the Church is, has been, and could (should?) be – and I realized I’ve never quite fully explained it here on my blog before.

The Church is literally dying.

We hear from various different groups how 80% of people on average are “unchurched” – that is, they have no meaningful connection with a local church body. But what we rarely see is a generational breakdown of that “known fact”. A publication of the Georgia Baptist Convention entitled The Christian Index looked into that very issue and came up with some surprising results.

There you have it: death of the church in visual form.

The four categories are people who were born in the years mentioned in parentheses. To read this, for example, you can say that when this study was undertaken (in September of 2007), 35% of Americans born prior to 1946 were unchurched. At that same time, 85% of folks born from 1965-1976 were unchurched.

In other words, we have gone from a generation that has 65% of people finding meaning in a local church to one that has only 4% doing the same.

This graph tells me that “Church” went out of style oh, about 50 years ago.

Somehow we had our collective heads stuck in the sand and missed the entire thing.

And now, even now, even in the face of numbers like that, we have people fighting against change in our churches, in our seminaries, in our small groups, in our structure and organization…! The thought continually boggles my mind.

We need to wake up and realize Church needs to be something different. Otherwise it won’t be anything significant at all.

What is Truth?

Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, famously uttered those words to the Son of God just before declaring him innocent to the Jewish mob.

“What is truth?”

It’s a question, or maybe more of just an aside – a rhetorical sigh, if you will – that has earned him the condemnation of modern Christians everywhere. “What is truth?” we sneer. “Stupid moral relativist.”

But I think Pilate was on to something. Aside from the fact that Greek philosophers were still hotly debating what exactly “truth” was two thousand years ago, Pilate was touching on an issue foundational to culture. Indeed, what is truth?

In doing what it does best, modernity has reduced that question down into a false dichotomy: either truth is absolute or it is relative. What we miss out on by starting that far down the logical path is everything on which that presupposition is founded. Early Greek and Roman philosophers debated whether truth was inherent or perceived, talked about truth in the manner of being something that was “unforgotten” or “discovered”, and fought about whether truth could be found in people or objects or both. And that is just a small sampling of what they were talking about, and what was likely going through Pilate’s head when he asked his now-infamous query. Let us not pretend that a gross oversimplification of dichotomy provides us with complete understanding of his question.

When looking to understand the culture shift we are currently undergoing, this question is again demanding our attention – and many are choosing to answer by forcefully ignoring it. How we answer that question – or perhaps “answer” is too strong of a word for such a massive subject – how we begin to dialogue that question will determine where we go from here and how successfully we will be able to be “in the world” and reach our culture for Jesus.

The Scripture-Centered View
It occurs to me that the traditional modern church has transparently staked its entirety upon the declaration that Scripture is truth. Only Scripture, and Scripture only. That was one of the rallying cries of the Great Reformation, and contextually it was a beautifully and magnificently powerful statement. In a culture where truth existed only as the declarations of a corrupt church-state alliance of greedy, dishonest clergy and shady political rulers, the idea that Truth was found sola scriptura, scriptura sola was an amazing breath of fresh air and a necessary step out of the shadows of the Middle and Dark Ages.

But the side effect of that creed was the complete veneration of Scripture that morphed into what we can now see in hindsight as a troubling problem: the idea that all truth must be found in Scripture or else it cannot be truth. It made Scripture become everything it wasn’t: a science book, an encyclopedia, a self-help manual, a political science discourse, an anthropology text, a cosmology lesson, and so on.

Suddenly, instead of being a collection of writings about humans’ relationships with God and vice versa, Scripture became a fundamentalist go-to guide for every subject under the sun. And that is a problem simply because Scripture was never intended to be such a guide.

What sola scriptura, scriptura sola did was further divide our safe version of God from the dangerous picture we paint of the world; that is, the only thing that can be trusted in this mindset, when it comes down to it, is Scripture. It’s the only thing safe. Everything else is risky and automatically suspect until we can prove or disprove it based off of some random (and most of the time completely out-of-context) verse in the Bible (that was never meant as a commentary on x subject in the first place).

The main problem with this philosophy, however, is a huge one. If we believe only Scripture holds truth and truth is found only in Scripture, then what we’ve effectively done is relegated God to existing only in Scripture. It makes Him a tiny, easy to understand (and control) deity. Which, it seems, is what most people like.

The God-Centered View
I would like to propose a broader, more significant and visionary attempt at the foundational question of “What is truth?” – one that allows God to be huge and incomprehensible and uncontrollable again. One that says, “Thank you, sola scriptura, scriptura sola for the amazing role you played in the Reformation and for teaching us how important individual knowledge of Scripture is – but we are undergoing a new reformation now and we’ll need to find a new way forward.”

Because you only need a cursory glance at the statement “truth is found only in scripture and only scripture contains truth” to realize how flawed it is. There exists infinite amounts of truth outside the pages of Scripture, and much of that truth can and will never be proven or disproven with the words contained therein.

So instead of a Scripture-centered understanding of Truth, I would propose a God-centered understanding of Truth. Scripture is true, but it is but one method God chooses of communicating Truth. It is true, but it is just one piece of truth that God gives us. God communicates truth in many other ways than just through Scripture and we ought to let him be God and do that in our lives.

One of the main issues that the established traditional church is going to have with this is that it is messy. They will say it relies too much on subjective means of assessing truth.

But the thing is, believing Scripture to be the only authoritative truth is just as subjective – how else would you explain the more than 38,000 denominations in Christendom, each with their own slightly different understanding of truth contained in the pages of Scripture? Because when you say sola scriptura, what you’re really saying is sola my understanding and interpretation of scriptura. As fallible humans, it can be no other way with a Scripture-centered understanding of truth.

So belief in Scripture as the only truth is no more objective than our proposed alternative. Believing instead that God is truth and communicates truth to us in numerous different ways – of which Scripture is but one – underlines another dramatic need in our lives: that of community. Surrounding ourselves with friends who also believe in, love, follow, and listen for God helps remove a bit of the subjectivity in the process of discerning truth.

As Rob Bell has pointed out, it is a foundational question of how we view God. Is God truth, or does he give us/show us truth? If he is truth, then suddenly our world is opened up to new experiences of Him — because whenever and wherever we find truth, we find God.

So what is truth? That question cuts straight to the heart of the current debate on the direction and vision of the Church. We have a choice: we can grasp onto our narrow view of truth – and continue to miss out on so much that God is trying to communicate with us. Or, we can let go of what is safe and comfortable and embrace a dangerously exciting understanding of truth – one that forces us to submit ourselves to God and relinquish any control we foolishly thought we had.

What is Truth?

Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, famously uttered those words to the Son of God just before declaring him innocent to the Jewish mob.

“What is truth?”

It’s a question, or maybe more of just an aside – a rhetorical sigh, if you will – that has earned him the condemnation of modern Christians everywhere. “What is truth?” we sneer. “Stupid moral relativist.”

But I think Pilate was on to something. Aside from the fact that Greek philosophers were still hotly debating what exactly “truth” was two thousand years ago, Pilate was touching on an issue foundational to culture. Indeed, what is truth?

In doing what it does best, modernity has reduced that question down into a false dichotomy: either truth is absolute or it is relative. What we miss out on by starting that far down the logical path is everything on which that presupposition is founded. Early Greek and Roman philosophers debated whether truth was inherent or perceived, talked about truth in the manner of being something that was “unforgotten” or “discovered”, and fought about whether truth could be found in people or objects or both. And that is just a small sampling of what they were talking about, and what was likely going through Pilate’s head when he asked his now-infamous query. Let us not pretend that a gross oversimplification of dichotomy provides us with complete understanding of his question.

When looking to understand the culture shift we are currently undergoing, this question is again demanding our attention – and many are choosing to answer by forcefully ignoring it. How we answer that question – or perhaps “answer” is too strong of a word for such a massive subject – how we begin to dialogue that question will determine where we go from here and how successfully we will be able to be “in the world” and reach our culture for Jesus.

The Scripture-Centered View
It occurs to me that the traditional modern church has transparently staked its entirety upon the declaration that Scripture is truth. Only Scripture, and Scripture only. That was one of the rallying cries of the Great Reformation, and contextually it was a beautifully and magnificently powerful statement. In a culture where truth existed only as the declarations of a corrupt church-state alliance of greedy, dishonest clergy and shady political rulers, the idea that Truth was found sola scriptura, scriptura sola was an amazing breath of fresh air and a necessary step out of the shadows of the Middle and Dark Ages.

But the side effect of that creed was the complete veneration of Scripture that morphed into what we can now see in hindsight as a troubling problem: the idea that all truth must be found in Scripture or else it cannot be truth. It made Scripture become everything it wasn’t: a science book, an encyclopedia, a self-help manual, a political science discourse, an anthropology text, a cosmology lesson, and so on.

Suddenly, instead of being a collection of writings about humans’ relationships with God and vice versa, Scripture became a fundamentalist go-to guide for every subject under the sun. And that is a problem simply because Scripture was never intended to be such a guide.

What sola scriptura, scriptura sola did was further divide our safe version of God from the dangerous picture we paint of the world; that is, the only thing that can be trusted in this mindset, when it comes down to it, is Scripture. It’s the only thing safe. Everything else is risky and automatically suspect until we can prove or disprove it based off of some random (and most of the time completely out-of-context) verse in the Bible (that was never meant as a commentary on x subject in the first place).

The main problem with this philosophy, however, is a huge one. If we believe only Scripture holds truth and truth is found only in Scripture, then what we’ve effectively done is relegated God to existing only in Scripture. It makes Him a tiny, easy to understand (and control) deity. Which, it seems, is what most people like.

The God-Centered View
I would like to propose a broader, more significant and visionary attempt at the foundational question of “What is truth?” – one that allows God to be huge and incomprehensible and uncontrollable again. One that says, “Thank you, sola scriptura, scriptura sola for the amazing role you played in the Reformation and for teaching us how important individual knowledge of Scripture is – but we are undergoing a new reformation now and we’ll need to find a new way forward.”

Because you only need a cursory glance at the statement “truth is found only in scripture and only scripture contains truth” to realize how flawed it is. There exists infinite amounts of truth outside the pages of Scripture, and much of that truth can and will never be proven or disproven with the words contained therein.

So instead of a Scripture-centered understanding of Truth, I would propose a God-centered understanding of Truth. Scripture is true, but it is but one method God chooses of communicating Truth. It is true, but it is just one piece of truth that God gives us. God communicates truth in many other ways than just through Scripture and we ought to let him be God and do that in our lives.

One of the main issues that the established traditional church is going to have with this is that it is messy. They will say it relies too much on subjective means of assessing truth.

But the thing is, believing Scripture to be the only authoritative truth is just as subjective – how else would you explain the more than 38,000 denominations in Christendom, each with their own slightly different understanding of truth contained in the pages of Scripture? Because when you say sola scriptura, what you’re really saying is sola my understanding and interpretation of scriptura. As fallible humans, it can be no other way with a Scripture-centered understanding of truth.

So belief in Scripture as the only truth is no more objective than our proposed alternative. Believing instead that God is truth and communicates truth to us in numerous different ways – of which Scripture is but one – underlines another dramatic need in our lives: that of community. Surrounding ourselves with friends who also believe in, love, follow, and listen for God helps remove a bit of the subjectivity in the process of discerning truth.

As Rob Bell has pointed out, it is a foundational question of how we view God. Is God truth, or does he give us/show us truth? If he is truth, then suddenly our world is opened up to new experiences of Him — because whenever and wherever we find truth, we find God.

So what is truth? That question cuts straight to the heart of the current debate on the direction and vision of the Church. We have a choice: we can grasp onto our narrow view of truth – and continue to miss out on so much that God is trying to communicate with us. Or, we can let go of what is safe and comfortable and embrace a dangerously exciting understanding of truth – one that forces us to submit ourselves to God and relinquish any control we foolishly thought we had.

Keeping Up With Culture

By far, my favorite speaker at the Leadership Summit I went to was a guy by the name of Gary Hamel. He’s well known in the business community – in fact, the Wall Street Journal named him “the world’s most influential business thinker” and Fortune magazine calls him “the world’s leading expert on business strategy.” So what was he doing at a church leadership conference?

Trying to teach us church leaders what he teaches business leaders: that the world is changing. Quickly. And you run the risk of falling behind and becoming irrelevant unless you change with it. In fact, one of his opening remarks was “Are you changing as quickly as the world around you?”

He started off with a ton of statistics – many of which we’ve talked about on this blog before. Church attendance across every background – evangelical, catholic, and mainline – is declining. The view that outsiders have of Christianity is in shambles (only 15% of people outside of the church have a positive view of Christianity, and around just 2% of people have a positive view of ‘evangelicals’). 85% of folks say they know a Christian personally, and only 15% of those people say they see a difference in that person’s lifestyle.

On and on and on… the church is obviously failing to change as quickly as the world around us, and more and more people are being turned off to church because of it.

Just to clarify what the problem was, he asked this rhetorical question: “Is the gospel failing us, or is it our institutions that are failing us?”

Then he continued on to more or less explain, as we’ve discussed here before, that we are living in a post-Christian, post-evangelical world. We live in a world where more people than ever are claiming they are spiritual but not religious and a world which is becoming increasingly secularized.

But rather than wring our hands about this, Hamel says we should be thankful. We should be thankful that people are tired of going through the motions. We should be thankful that we can have discussions based on the fruit of the Spirit rather than apologetics. We should be thankful that the world is turning more and more cynical and craving authenticity, because Jesus models authenticity and the church has the potential to offer that.

He then went on to give us four key imperatives to help your church outpace change, which were great. I want to focus on two of them here because they spoke the most to me.

The first is deconstruct your orthodoxies. Re-examine and rethink everything you believe has to be a certain way. He threw out some great ideas to start the conversation, like:

  • Church happens in church.
  • More programs = more impact.
  • Why can’t we open source the sermon and get the congregation’s ideas before we teach?
  • Why can’t we bring laptops to church to take notes?
  • Why is church a lecture and not a discussion?

He then used the best one-liner of the day: “When you’re down in the trenches for too long, it’s easy to mistake the edge of the rut for the horizon.”

Yeeouch!

The other key imperative I loved was that change will not happen in autocratic, top-down leadership structures. In Hamel’s words, we’ve got veterans still running the show when their understanding of the world has passed its sell-by date.

He continued: “The challenge is not finding great leaders, it is building an organization that does not require superhumans at the top.” He pointed out that our institutions -church, business, or otherwise – were never designed to be adaptable. They were set up 100 years ago or more when the goal was essentially to turn people into robots performing certain functions.

But we need to tear all that down and start over again so our organizations are experimental, flexible, and malleable. He used Goretex as an example of a company who understands this, and I’m going to dedicate a whole post to them in the near future.

Hamel’s closing was a powerful challenge. In his estimation, the world has had more than enough of organized religion. He suggested that it was high time we tried a little disorganized religion – and pointed out that the early church was spiritually powerful but institutionally weak.

Then he ended with this zinger: “We are not going to get fundamentally better at changing lives until we get fundamentally better at changing our churches.”

I took a half page or so of notes for various speakers over the course of the conference, but for Hamel’s talk I ended up with 6 1/2 pages of notes. Sometimes I wonder if I’m out on a limb by myself advocating for the kinds of wholesale change in the church that I seek, and it was so great to be pushed and challenged and confirmed in that by a well-respected guy who understands this underlying culture shift in deeper ways than I ever will.

The question that still remains is this: will the church have the guts to make the changes necessary to regain our relevance? Will we dare to dream big and take radical leaps of faith into the unknown for the sake of the gospel? Or will we continue to lose the newer generations and be content with calling the edge of the rut our horizon?

I wish I could say with great confidence that the former was true rather than the latter, but the church throughout history has proven to be a stubborn organization when faced with opportunities to change. I know my church is about to undertake a two-year process to discern, clarify, and implement a new or refined vision, along with methods to implement that vision, and I want to throw my heart and soul into trying to affect positive change that will help us reach Laramie for Jesus.

Because after all, that is what this is all about: inviting people to experience abundant and eternal life in Jesus’ Kingdom.

Keeping Up With Culture

By far, my favorite speaker at the Leadership Summit I went to was a guy by the name of Gary Hamel. He’s well known in the business community – in fact, the Wall Street Journal named him “the world’s most influential business thinker” and Fortune magazine calls him “the world’s leading expert on business strategy.” So what was he doing at a church leadership conference?

Trying to teach us church leaders what he teaches business leaders: that the world is changing. Quickly. And you run the risk of falling behind and becoming irrelevant unless you change with it. In fact, one of his opening remarks was “Are you changing as quickly as the world around you?”

He started off with a ton of statistics – many of which we’ve talked about on this blog before. Church attendance across every background – evangelical, catholic, and mainline – is declining. The view that outsiders have of Christianity is in shambles (only 15% of people outside of the church have a positive view of Christianity, and around just 2% of people have a positive view of ‘evangelicals’). 85% of folks say they know a Christian personally, and only 15% of those people say they see a difference in that person’s lifestyle.

On and on and on… the church is obviously failing to change as quickly as the world around us, and more and more people are being turned off to church because of it.

Just to clarify what the problem was, he asked this rhetorical question: “Is the gospel failing us, or is it our institutions that are failing us?”

Then he continued on to more or less explain, as we’ve discussed here before, that we are living in a post-Christian, post-evangelical world. We live in a world where more people than ever are claiming they are spiritual but not religious and a world which is becoming increasingly secularized.

But rather than wring our hands about this, Hamel says we should be thankful. We should be thankful that people are tired of going through the motions. We should be thankful that we can have discussions based on the fruit of the Spirit rather than apologetics. We should be thankful that the world is turning more and more cynical and craving authenticity, because Jesus models authenticity and the church has the potential to offer that.

He then went on to give us four key imperatives to help your church outpace change, which were great. I want to focus on two of them here because they spoke the most to me.

The first is deconstruct your orthodoxies. Re-examine and rethink everything you believe has to be a certain way. He threw out some great ideas to start the conversation, like:

  • Church happens in church.
  • More programs = more impact.
  • Why can’t we open source the sermon and get the congregation’s ideas before we teach?
  • Why can’t we bring laptops to church to take notes?
  • Why is church a lecture and not a discussion?

He then used the best one-liner of the day: “When you’re down in the trenches for too long, it’s easy to mistake the edge of the rut for the horizon.”

Yeeouch!

The other key imperative I loved was that change will not happen in autocratic, top-down leadership structures. In Hamel’s words, we’ve got veterans still running the show when their understanding of the world has passed its sell-by date.

He continued: “The challenge is not finding great leaders, it is building an organization that does not require superhumans at the top.” He pointed out that our institutions -church, business, or otherwise – were never designed to be adaptable. They were set up 100 years ago or more when the goal was essentially to turn people into robots performing certain functions.

But we need to tear all that down and start over again so our organizations are experimental, flexible, and malleable. He used Goretex as an example of a company who understands this, and I’m going to dedicate a whole post to them in the near future.

Hamel’s closing was a powerful challenge. In his estimation, the world has had more than enough of organized religion. He suggested that it was high time we tried a little disorganized religion – and pointed out that the early church was spiritually powerful but institutionally weak.

Then he ended with this zinger: “We are not going to get fundamentally better at changing lives until we get fundamentally better at changing our churches.”

I took a half page or so of notes for various speakers over the course of the conference, but for Hamel’s talk I ended up with 6 1/2 pages of notes. Sometimes I wonder if I’m out on a limb by myself advocating for the kinds of wholesale change in the church that I seek, and it was so great to be pushed and challenged and confirmed in that by a well-respected guy who understands this underlying culture shift in deeper ways than I ever will.

The question that still remains is this: will the church have the guts to make the changes necessary to regain our relevance? Will we dare to dream big and take radical leaps of faith into the unknown for the sake of the gospel? Or will we continue to lose the newer generations and be content with calling the edge of the rut our horizon?

I wish I could say with great confidence that the former was true rather than the latter, but the church throughout history has proven to be a stubborn organization when faced with opportunities to change. I know my church is about to undertake a two-year process to discern, clarify, and implement a new or refined vision, along with methods to implement that vision, and I want to throw my heart and soul into trying to affect positive change that will help us reach Laramie for Jesus.

Because after all, that is what this is all about: inviting people to experience abundant and eternal life in Jesus’ Kingdom.

How Postmodernism is Changing… Everything

I started writing some thoughts about my experience at the Leadership Summit a couple weekends ago, but before I do that I want to lay more of a foundation for what this whole modern/postmodern culture shift is all about. Because for me, what I learned at the conference is just another step in that journey of discovery.

I love reading about and researching the underlying foundational changes our culture is experiencing right now, and especially how that relates to the Church reaching people with the abundant life of Jesus’ Kingdom. Almost a year ago, I put together a proposal for the church I’m on staff with regarding what the shift from modernism to postmodernism is all about and some recommendations of things we could and should change to more effectively remain relevant.

For example, postmoderns are by and large experiential learners – more so than any generation at least in recent history. They have an innate skepticism about claims of absolute truth (religious or otherwise) that is largely misunderstood and railed against by those in conservative churches (but actually displays a large dose of humility). They are results- rather than process-oriented and visual communication (rather than written or oral communication) is their primary and favored method to communicate. They place a high value on diversity, equality, and relationships and have an inherent distrust of institutions and hierarchy. They view the world much more holistically and far less compartmentalized than previous generations. And finally, they embrace mystery as something to be enjoyed and loved instead of answered or feared.

Why should any of this matter to the church? How could it not?

The first postmodern generation – those born in 1977-1995 – is 96% unchurched. That is, only 4% of the generation of which I am a part have a meaningful connection with a local community of faith. And is it any wonder, really, when we look at our churches? Read that list of characteristics and traits of postmoderns again, and then consider – those folks see churches that:

  • shun experiential learning, either implicitly or explicitly,
  • make bold claims of absolute truth every week about a myriad of subjects (that they often have no business making them about),
  • value orthodoxy (right belief) more than orthopraxy (right practice) – in other words, downplaying any sort of results-oriented philosophy and focusing instead on the internal process,
  • choose to communicate via lecture-style sermons and written bulletins with little to no visual communication (and if there is any, it’s very poorly done),
  • are usually not diverse and do not promote equality between men and women,
  • act very much like an organization or institution with a clearly defined hierarchy,
  • compartmentalize things all the time (for example: into “sacred” and “secular” or “the church” and “the world”), and
  • shuns doubt and questions and majors in apologetics as a way to explain away and answer any mystery about God we might have.

So there you have it. The church is about as anti-postmodern as you can get. And the sad thing is, there are actually a ton of church leaders that would applaud that last sentence.

It’s no wonder that 96% of folks ages 15-32 don’t really care about church. And I’m not recommending here that we simply tailor our churches and our belief system to whatever’s going on in culture. This is so much deeper than that. I would submit that it’s time to learn from them about Jesus and God and faith and the Kingdom.

Learning about that stuff from someone who doesn’t even go to church might seem weird to you, but that’s the whole deal with that compartmentalization thing again. If God really is God of the world and not just of the Church, it would serve us well to open ourselves to the possibility that He might exist outside our walls and gatherings.

So what do those 96% have to teach us about the Kingdom? That it is holistic and everywhere, not just in the tiny places in which we try to contain it. That its truths, while absolute, are so incomprehensible that to attempt to define them in human terms and human communication is close to blasphemy. That it is, at its core, experiential – come and see, taste and see, come follow. That it is about justice and restoration and equality. That it is organic more than we will ever understand, and was not designed to be institutionalized. That it’s full of mystery – that some things are better left to poetry rather than prose.

And that if we are to communicate about the Kingdom to this generation and the many to follow them, we ought to radically adjust out teaching styles. We need to place value in dialog rather than monologue. We ought to value interactivity in whatever ways we can foster it. And we ought to not only allow but encourage questions and doubts and wrestling with hard stuff together in relationship with one another.

These are the changes in attitude, in structure, and in understanding that I am still fighting for from a leadership position at my church. Oftentimes, change in these areas or acceptance of these ideas seem slow in coming if they are coming at all. But this is what’s happening in the world around us, and this was where I was going into the Leadership Summit when I heard Gary Hamel speak. More on that in my next post.

How Postmodernism is Changing… Everything

I started writing some thoughts about my experience at the Leadership Summit a couple weekends ago, but before I do that I want to lay more of a foundation for what this whole modern/postmodern culture shift is all about. Because for me, what I learned at the conference is just another step in that journey of discovery.

I love reading about and researching the underlying foundational changes our culture is experiencing right now, and especially how that relates to the Church reaching people with the abundant life of Jesus’ Kingdom. Almost a year ago, I put together a proposal for the church I’m on staff with regarding what the shift from modernism to postmodernism is all about and some recommendations of things we could and should change to more effectively remain relevant.

For example, postmoderns are by and large experiential learners – more so than any generation at least in recent history. They have an innate skepticism about claims of absolute truth (religious or otherwise) that is largely misunderstood and railed against by those in conservative churches (but actually displays a large dose of humility). They are results- rather than process-oriented and visual communication (rather than written or oral communication) is their primary and favored method to communicate. They place a high value on diversity, equality, and relationships and have an inherent distrust of institutions and hierarchy. They view the world much more holistically and far less compartmentalized than previous generations. And finally, they embrace mystery as something to be enjoyed and loved instead of answered or feared.

Why should any of this matter to the church? How could it not?

The first postmodern generation – those born in 1977-1995 – is 96% unchurched. That is, only 4% of the generation of which I am a part have a meaningful connection with a local community of faith. And is it any wonder, really, when we look at our churches? Read that list of characteristics and traits of postmoderns again, and then consider – those folks see churches that:

  • shun experiential learning, either implicitly or explicitly,
  • make bold claims of absolute truth every week about a myriad of subjects (that they often have no business making them about),
  • value orthodoxy (right belief) more than orthopraxy (right practice) – in other words, downplaying any sort of results-oriented philosophy and focusing instead on the internal process,
  • choose to communicate via lecture-style sermons and written bulletins with little to no visual communication (and if there is any, it’s very poorly done),
  • are usually not diverse and do not promote equality between men and women,
  • act very much like an organization or institution with a clearly defined hierarchy,
  • compartmentalize things all the time (for example: into “sacred” and “secular” or “the church” and “the world”), and
  • shuns doubt and questions and majors in apologetics as a way to explain away and answer any mystery about God we might have.

So there you have it. The church is about as anti-postmodern as you can get. And the sad thing is, there are actually a ton of church leaders that would applaud that last sentence.

It’s no wonder that 96% of folks ages 15-32 don’t really care about church. And I’m not recommending here that we simply tailor our churches and our belief system to whatever’s going on in culture. This is so much deeper than that. I would submit that it’s time to learn from them about Jesus and God and faith and the Kingdom.

Learning about that stuff from someone who doesn’t even go to church might seem weird to you, but that’s the whole deal with that compartmentalization thing again. If God really is God of the world and not just of the Church, it would serve us well to open ourselves to the possibility that He might exist outside our walls and gatherings.

So what do those 96% have to teach us about the Kingdom? That it is holistic and everywhere, not just in the tiny places in which we try to contain it. That its truths, while absolute, are so incomprehensible that to attempt to define them in human terms and human communication is close to blasphemy. That it is, at its core, experiential – come and see, taste and see, come follow. That it is about justice and restoration and equality. That it is organic more than we will ever understand, and was not designed to be institutionalized. That it’s full of mystery – that some things are better left to poetry rather than prose.

And that if we are to communicate about the Kingdom to this generation and the many to follow them, we ought to radically adjust out teaching styles. We need to place value in dialog rather than monologue. We ought to value interactivity in whatever ways we can foster it. And we ought to not only allow but encourage questions and doubts and wrestling with hard stuff together in relationship with one another.

These are the changes in attitude, in structure, and in understanding that I am still fighting for from a leadership position at my church. Oftentimes, change in these areas or acceptance of these ideas seem slow in coming if they are coming at all. But this is what’s happening in the world around us, and this was where I was going into the Leadership Summit when I heard Gary Hamel speak. More on that in my next post.