Friday, May 8, 2015

Rachel Evans. . . again

"I caution against the idea that the way to get young people into church is to be hip and cool and have a pastor who wears skinny jeans." Rachel Held Evans could have been talking about any number of much-hyped contemporary evangelical congregations: the Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, for example, whose pastor started a website called PastorFashion.com, or Mars Hill, the Seattle megachurch that dissolved amid controversy in 2014, but left behind a large network of congregations. Many of the fastest growing churches in America are exactly what Evans describes: Places with Sunday morning rock bands and chic websites and pastors who occasionally, yes, wear skinny jeans.  Read more here. . .

So begins another article on Rachel Evans and her perspective on the Millenials. She is smart and she is sassy.  You can love her or hate her -- she gets under the skin of both liberal and conservative Christians.  But on the whole I am tiring a bit of her.  Her new book will not be one I pick up.  But there is one thing she says that I do take issue with -- "The reasons Millennials are leaving are more complex than a lack of cool," she said in an interview. "We’ve been advertised to our entire lives. We can smell B.S. from a mile away. So if you’re just trying to sell us a product, we can tell.”

No, Rachel, neither you nor your cohorts among the Millenials can smell B. S. a mile away.  It has become the familiar smell that so permeates your culture and mine that we cannot smell it until we are chin deep in it.  Millenials are not automatically savy because they have grown up with constant advertising.  They still presume that technology is king, that the self-absorption of the advertising perspective is still the right one, and that they, they consumer, are the judges of what is right and wrong (even with doctrine and truth).

I am not picking on Millenials.  We are all pretty darn stupid in the face of the lies we love to be told and we only smell the B. S. we have been conditioned to smell (like her own comments that anything less than full acceptance of the GLBT community negates the Gospel).  A few years ago somebody gave me as a joke a bottle of B. S. repellant.  I wish it worked.  But if it did, I would repel myself.  Jesus insists that the B. S. is not the stuff outside of you but the stuff from within your own heart.  Sin is what pervades our culture and our natures since the fall.  We are not savy except in our own minds.  There we are perfectly objective and able to root out the fake and the charlatan.  If that is the case, why are Millenials still drawn (like others) to the Osteens and Mars Hills and Rob Bells of this world?  Why do we settle for Christianity lite without a hint of Biblical truth over the faithful Christian communities rooted in creed and liturgy and preaching and teaching the whole counsel of God's Word, yesterday, today, and forever the same?

If we could smell the B. S., then we would not need much help from God's Spirit.  That is the whole problem.  Millenials are not better or worse at the odor since the scent of sin has pretty much corrupted our sense of smell entirely.  Millenials are not harder nuts to crack or too savvy to be converted by the Gospel.  They are like us all -- some more so but none immune.  So the work of the Spirit remains our urgent and essential hope.  We are still our own worst enemies -- no one can say Jesus Christ is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. Pastors in skinny jeans who mouth the vocabulary of the moment and those in cassocks who speak in King James tongue are neither automatically villains nor good guys.  It is the Gospel in all its fullness that we need.  I am convinced that it is much more likely to come from the mouths of those in historic vestments than it is those who like skinny jeans as their cultic uniform but at this point I will leave that for another blog post. . .

3 comments:

John J. Flanagan said...

I agree with your comments. I think much of the contemporary culture, having permeated the church, is tied to the "me" generation, the idolatry of self. In order to appeal to millenials, many churches have indeed embraced slick marketing strategies and rock style music, and your point about the growth of such bodies into mega-churches is astounding. While visiting relatives, I was asked to attend a church in their area, which turned out exactly as you have described. It was huge, well financed, filled with families and singles, as well as old folks. We sat in a "worship center" which resembled a large theater. It was rock style Christian music with huge lights, a genuine light show with beams of light flickering over the "audience" ( I intentionally did not use the term "congregation"). The youthful pastor was as casual as we mostly see today. I wonder how things have come to where they are. I no longer feel connected to my own society. My local LCMS is still a good church....but I wonder how our synod will look in a few more years?

Anonymous said...

Just a word of caution. Writing in generalizations hinders the analysis of a topic. Humans are individuals and God,(Jesus, the Holy Spirit via the Gospel and the Means of Grace)asks each one of us as individuals if I or you accept Jesus the Christ as our Lord and Savior. I do not believe that God saves groups. Thank You for Your article.

Janis Williams said...

Gee, I was always told my heart was black - but I guess it's brown...🚽