Why The Church Is Losing My Generation Pt.3

Day one we explored the overarching themes of why my generation is leaving the Church (http://wp.me/pFnzm-dJ) and yesterday we went into more detail of the first reason why this is happening, Community (http://wp.me/pFnzm-dP). Today, we will be talking about the issues of substance. For those of you who are interested in where I stand, this has been the biggest struggle for me in my living embodiment of the Church.

In 1440 Gutenberg created this tiny little invention called the printing press. Also along a similar time frame a guy named Martin Luther began translating the Bible into the common language, German. What happened out of that was a great production of the Bible in the common language and could be distributed to the Common person (not a bad thing). However, once the Bible was given to the common people on their terms, it altogether stopped what was going on for the first 15 centuries of Christianity, wrestling with faith as a community. Christian faith became highly individualistic. We fell in love with what seemed then as a mass of information, and Christianity moved from a communal setting to an individual setting.

Around 20-25 years ago, the internet was created (everyone jokes by Al Gore, but, they believe it was made by a guy named Tim Berners-Lee). The internet has blessed us with Instant Netflix, Youtube, and, even this blog you’re reading. This has also become of the biggest curses to my generation. It is said that we can double our information that we have within a matter of months. My generation has been given so much information, that we can no longer process it at all, we don’t have great tools for discernment or a religious identity to ground us, so therefore, my generation has fallen to the hands of Relativism and Nihilism. We either believe in everything, or, we believe in nothing (which really are the same thing). My generation has been struggling to build answers about God, because God is as much true as what MTV reports on Lady Gaga. All of this information, and, all of the polarized tear that has been created in my generation has paved really two roads that are happening.

The first answer for substance can really be found in the Neo-Reformed movement in the Church. My generation has grown to deeply respect the likes of people like John Piper and Mark Driscoll, who are passionate about the Bible, maintaining their ideas of Christian Orthodoxy and making sure that those of whom are in contact with them have sharp answers and a solid foundation of Biblical Knowledge. Yesterday, we discussed the independent person. Most independent people I know fall into this camp.

The second answer can be found in the new Emerging/Emergent Church movement. My generation has also grown to deeply respect the likes of people like Rob Bell and Brian Mclaren. Both of these guys are also passionate about the Bible, but, they have learned to embrace the doubts that human beings have and also realize that faith is really a journey and answers are to be found in community and that Orthopraxi is more important than Orthodoxy (Right living vs Right Belief) although both of them are passionate seekers of the Truth. Yesterday, I discussed the interdependent person and often they most fall in this camp.

Why this polarity in the Church, we are losing a large portion of it because the Churches that offer the sharp answers can often cut the people who are truly seeking and asking questions. On the same end, for those who seeking for absolutes, those who are not offering absolutes often causes them great frustration because they feel they’re not staying true to the Bible. My generation is looking for substance because we have so much empty void created from all of the information and media, but, the way this is happening is causing the Church to lose my generation?

How can we pursue Truth to not be something that is just in our head but fills our being?

How can we pursue Answers without alienating others Questions?

How can we fill our Churches and my generation with substance? (Not that all Churches don’t have substance.)

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15 thoughts on “Why The Church Is Losing My Generation Pt.3

  1. Greg says:

    Hi Mike… having worked in Germany and England I can definitely relate to what you’re saying here. Theology and hard answers often divide. There’s another aspect of the information revolution that I also think comes into play and that’s that the availability of information on the internet has swung all our communications in a much more personal direction. I.e. – If you want information on a belief system, denomination, author, speaker, etc., that information is there in a moment. What people want to know though, is whether the faith is going to work for them, and for that they need personal examples and people who are willing to sit and work through their questions with them. The church has largely continued acting as if its teaching and information giving role is the primary one that will sustain it. And we have specialized in growing larger and larger teaching institutions. This attracts some, as you say, because people hunger for substance. But for those for whom the given answers don’t quite work… they’re usually left hanging without help. We see that as a big enough issue that we’ve started a very different kind of ministry to address it. Wondering if you see that at play as well. peace, g.b.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Absolutely I see that in play Greg. That was kind of the whole point of Emergent Village. A group of people who were struggling with the answers of their faith came together in community and wrestled with it. This was at the heart of the most important 20th century theologians (Barth, Bonhoeffer & Moltmann).

      So how do we help those who are left hanging?

  2. Matt Larson says:

    Your comments and observations are very interesting concerning the church losing this generation. I also think it is also interesting how often we analyse the church as if we aren’t a part of her. My prayer is that this generation and every generation will take their place in the church and work on winning their generation for the Lord. My prayer is that people will rise up in this generation to serve the purpose of God for their generation. The best change happens from within.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      I agree Matt. If the Church is going to change, it needs to happen with an implosion. Its the only we can let the person outside the box in who can really help us get to that place.

  3. Jennifer Jacobson says:

    As a voice teacher I work with students of all ages and skill levels with varying degrees of natural talent and ambition. Some profess desire to be singers when what they want is to be famous. Some balk at art songs, desiring only to sing pop or country. Others request “English only” or roll their eyes and laze through warm-ups and exercises.

    I tell them we all must start from technique. The movement is from technique to style not the other way around.

    Learn how to use the human instrument, what it can and cannot do and why and how. Learn the language and syntax of music that is the foundation of all musical expression.

    Then though this knowledge and experience you will be able to make artistic choices about how you use music/song and more clearly reflect your vision, communicate your own musical message to the audience.

    You find your voice. Not a pale imitation of someone else’s.

    In theology, in the church, in the personal relationship of soul and spirit, it is well to learn the language of faith, learn the stories of who we are are as human beings and our experiences of who God is. Learn the “technique”

    And then also to seek the stillness and reflection and personal experience of the presence. “Learn the style”

    It is a both/and.

    in music:
    Technique without style is bland and boring
    Style without substance is sloppy and forgetable.

    Dogma and doctrine without heart leaves the ship always at anchor.
    Faith and heart without foundation renders the ship rudderless.

    Human beings need both community and solitude to experience God, to experience fully being human.

    We start from the sunday school faith of black and white answers and move outward to more encompassing areas of even greater love and shades of gray. Or we don’t.

    Its messy. And comes in as many styles and shades as there are people on the planet.

    The independent vs interdependent polemic is like discussing quantum physics vs relativity …

    We have not yet discovered a proper “theory of everything” in physics or in faith.

    “Like those in the valley behind us, most people stand in sight of the spiritual mountains all their lives and never enter them, being content to listen to others who have been there and thus avoid the hardships.”

    Answers, I have none. Questions, I have many.

    My congregation is 99% white, aging, and comfortably wealthy in a neighborhood that is predominately young Hispanic and Asian families and poor.
    I have a problem with that.

    I see congregations of various denominations and non-denominations professing to be Christian who would not welcome Christ if he walked in the door.
    I have a problem with that.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Jennifer,
      This line nearly brought me to tears because it has been the most shaping Truth in my life:
      Human beings need both community and solitude to experience God, to experience fully being human.

      Thank you so much for that gift.

      As a person working with mostly white people but trying to change the stystem, what information or advice do you have to give us on the process and what to expect?

  4. jeffreywroop says:

    Great insights, Mike. The issue of orthopraxis vs orthodoxy should not be one against the other. Not so much either/or as both/and. Both aspects are necessary for a faith and a church that is vital and fleshed out before a watching world. As I recall in James, “Faith without works is dead.” Many in my generation (gen x) cried about dead churches. I’m not sure how many actually put foot to pavement to see this trend change. I spent nearly a decade away from the church and I still struggle to find a place in a church that takes this seriously. Then again, the problem could be me…

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Jeffery,
      just loved this response. Thank you. You’re right. If right belief doesn’t produce right living, then how right can it be?

      What advice do you have for us about being a Christian outside the Church?

  5. I think with all of the information available these days and all of the blending of culture happening our generation is less inclined to be encompassed in a label or a box – there is just a bit too much going on for that. And so I think the polarization in our politics (that filters into other things) is a huge turn off – and I think if they lose faith in the system they just move on entirely.

  6. I_am_Johhny@ says:

    Church can always be used as the reason for a generation migration but God is where God is and church is not his home it is where like minded people meet to encourage each other and join together in the sharred praise of God. If church does not meet that need for a generation then perhaps that generation should meet that need for a church!

    • Mike Friesen says:

      I agree with you Johnny, but, until we learn to unite and feel welcomed by the Church, we will just create another sect and denomination, or group, and, that will divide the Church even more. So, how would you want to integrate my generation, its values and thoughts into the Church?

      • I_am_Johhny@ says:

        Mike Hi
        You do not need to be apart to be a part! Remember with God all things are possible. Perhaps a bit of reverse mentoring where you shadow an Elder or Pastor and adise them on the needs of your generation.
        John

  7. Rach says:

    Wow, jennifer. Absolutely loved that comment. Sounds like it should be a post by its own. completely agree with you 🙂

  8. I think turning to Rob Bell and Mclaren is the same as losing a generation. One thing is to embrace doubt, but another thing is to lead people away from biblical truth, which is what the latest books by Bell and Mclaren have done.

    I’m guessing you and I are pretty much in the same age range, so I share your concern with our generation and the following ones. What we need is spiritual fathers who are sound in doctrine, but also practice those truths together in community. Is not either or or, both are equally important. And like I said on a recent blog I wrote, sometimes, we are the ones who need to step up and be an example for the next generation.

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