Thursday, November 21, 2013

Another sin of the boomers...

I have not been shy about condemning my own generation for some of the sins and excesses that have wrecked havoc upon the Church today.  Now I have one more to confess.  This mea culpa has to do with the idea of "dropping out" of the Church.

Barna suggests that prior to the boomers, dropping out of church after high school or in college was somewhat less than the normal it has become since the boomer generation.  Boomers appear to be the first American generation that dropped out of church participation in significant numbers when they became young adults. So, in one sense, the Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) were part of the evolution of the church dropout phenomenon during the rise of youth culture of the 1960s.

So it was my generation that:
  • decided that you should hear the pop music you listen to on the radio in worship
  • decided that church should be fun and that pleasure should be that which defines the success of the worship service
  • decided that morals were in the eye of the beholder and that principles and truth were secondary to what seems right at the time
  • decided that if you get bored, don't like the music, or feel rebellious, drop out of church...
"The significant spiritual and technological changes over the last 50 years make the dropout problem more urgent. Young people are dropping out earlier, staying away longer, and if they come back are less likely to see the church as a long-term part of their life. Today's young adults who drop out of faith are continuing something the Boomers began as a generation of spiritual free agents. Yet, today's dropout phenomenon is a more intractable, complex problem."

In the end, however, the problem always falls back on some failure in the Church.  And this is how the Barna stuff predictably ends.  It is the Church which has failed to treat the drop outs with respect, to acknowledge how smart and cool they are, to engage them on the plain of their own experience, and to bring them back into the Church.  Sadly, such thinking only feeds the ordinary insecurities of good church people and makes us throw out what we have in favor or risky strategies to restore a people not fully churched in the first place.  Of course, one of the great problems here certainly has to do with the family in which these children were raised -- boomer parents openly expressing their doubts to their children, their disdain for doctrine and teaching, their authority over what they will accept of Scripture's teaching and witness, etc...  Could this have something to do with the problem?  Ya think?

"Churches, organizations and families owe this generation more. They should be treated as the intelligent, capable individuals they are—a generation with a God-given destiny. Renewed commitment is required to rethink and realign disciple-making in this new context. Mosaic believers need better, deeper relationships with other adult Christians. They require a more holistic understanding of their vocation and calling in life—how their faith influences what they do with their lives, from Monday through Saturday. And they also need help discerning Jesus' leading in their life, including greater commitment to knowing and living the truth of Scripture."

I am a boomer and I readily acknowledge the sins my own generation has forced upon the Church.  We need to own our sins before anything can change.  Some folks hang on every word Barna publishes.  I find much of their research and their conclusions rather predictable and not altogether helpful.  We need to own our sins before anything can change.  Come on, boomers, let us confess our sins and try to figure out how we can begin to correct them...

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