My friend, Dwight, got me thinking today with a couple of articles and some fascinating questions. Here's our email exchange...
I find myself thinking about you for two reasons this afternoon.
In conjunction with my latest post on http://centerforrenewal.wordpress.com, I find myself wondering how you speak to youth about vocation/ministry in daily life? What do they know of it? How can we connect youth with MIDL?
Second, I'm haunted by the Christianity Today article, "The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church." Especially by the line that indicates that we've "inoculated" young adults with a weak (the author says 'superficial') form of Christianity that prevents the real thing from coming to life. Just wondering if you saw it...
Thanks for your note. I appreciated your comments on the Center for Renewal blog. Regarding the use of vocational language among young people, this is something I try to tend to on a consistent basis. I spent most of my teen years believing that the only way to serve God was through ordained ministry. Clearly, that is not the case. The best way to address this with young people is through guest speakers. Find adults that believe that they are doing God's work as they live out their vocations in the public/private sector. When young people hear their stories, they begin to see that "ministry" most often happens outside the friendly confines of church.
The Christianity Today article seems to piggyback on the research surrounding "moralistic therapeutic deism" and its implications for the future of the church. GenX, Baby Boomer, and Greatest Generations have grown many American churches on a wimpy foundation of teaching people how to be "moral, successful, and nice". This version of Christianity is a major turn-off to Millennials who see religion and spirituality with more nuance and complexity.
My dad pointed me to David Kinnaman's book "Unchristian" earlier this week (which was referenced in the Christianity Today article). I haven't had a chance to read all of it yet, but Kinnaman points to six broad themes about the church perceived by those outside the church:
2. Too Focused on Getting Converts
4. Sheltered (old -fashioned, boring, out of touch with reality)
5. Too Political (conservative politics)
Here's the rub...
Lutherans actually are in a great position to do something about this (if we can just get out of our own way).
I fervently believe that we, as Lutherans, are uniquely poised to be church in an urban and postmodern context. Our rich liturgical heritage brings with it the gifts of ancient ritual and mystery. This speaks to those who seek that which cannot be explained, who wish to touch the sacred in a-rational and embodied ways. Our theology is full of ambiguity—which is actually comforting to many post-moderns. We do not spoon-feed theological certainty but live most comfortably in the discomforting tension of being both sinner and saint, living in the now and the not-yet of God’s Kingdom here on earth. Our theology of the cross—the proclamation of a self-emptying God who would rather die than be in the sin-accounting business—is rich and dark and nourishing to those who suspect, based on their own lived experience, that it’s not all about happy-clappy victory parties. Then the proclamation of the lush grace of God, which simply is, washes over us in the proclamation that we are the Beloved of God.