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Elderlink 2010: Five Challenges

April 2, 2010

Randy Harris opened up Elderlink Atlanta on Friday night by stating that the future of the church for people under 30 will be decided by people over 50 who are responsible today.   If we are selfish about how we do that then we will fail.  We must be willing to change and to serve the young.

Randy enumerated five challenges facing today’s leaders in preparing the church for the future:

1) Technology

Technology is a deep distraction among younger people today.  A typical twenty-something will be found today browsing the web on their phones, texting their friends, checking Facebook updates, following people on Twitter…  Whether in the classroom or in a meeting on the job, you never have their undivided attention.  They experience no quiet; seldom pray; don’t know how to pray.  They have constant input from technology.  If they’re only doing one thing at a time, they are bored.  That is a serious impediment to teaching someone to have a relationship with God.

Many of them simply will not read bible. Most men do not read a single book after they finish school.  They consume input in 140 character doses.

How to perform spiritual formation?  It takes 10 years to do anything meaningful. Spiritual formation requires intense attention over time.  It takes a level of commitment that few young people give to anything.

2) The “post-church”era

We are not in a “post christian” era, but post-church.  People are not hostile to church, but see it as irrelevant.  Megachurches are still growing, mostly from people who already share many of their values.  They are not reaching the rest.

We won’t reach the world by improving the worship experience.  They’ll never know about the change, because they don’t come!  It has nothing to do with the quality of preaching, nor instrumental music, nor any of the other things we tweak trying to attract people.

3) Age, gender, and social gap in churches.

Churches are growing older.  There are far more women than men.  Churches of Christ are predominantly southern, white, and well to do. Where are the young men?

4) We need to examine our definitions.

What is the good news? What does a disciple look like? What does a kingdom community look like?   What is important? It’s not all about sexual ethics

Community is overused word.  I can join a community of bicycle riders simply by buying a bicycle.  The community of a church has to mean far more.  Randy used the word “communitas”  meaning a group held together by shared struggles and shared lives.

We need to be committed to reconciliation as a top priority.  The world is tribal and crazy about it. Church should not be Democrat, nor Republican; predominantly rich nor predominantly poor; caucasian or African.

Randy pointed to the news story a while back about a murder in an amish community.  Their public response of forgiveness was a light in a dark world.  We need to be known as that kind of community.

5) What is success, and how do we measure it?

We need to redefine what success looks like.  It’s not “how many people come to church”.  Church attendance  should not be the goal of our love, benevolence, and community outreach.  Church is not all about “butts and bucks.”   Instead it should be about living out values of the kingdom

Success is measured by how many Jesus followers are here — people who are radically walking as Jesus walked.

The dichotomy between men and women in church is a big problem.  “He doesnt ‘get’ church.”  “She doesn’t ‘get’ that he doesn’t ‘get’ it.”  “He prefers his ‘christian’ relationships outside church. Doesn’t like the singing, the preacher… But sees himself as a follower of Jesus.

Young people haven’t given up on truth. (except for college professors and grad students).  But we are not reaching them thru sermons.  And when they attend a sermon they are texting at the same time.  We need a new approach. We won’t reach the next generation thru traditional church.

Hearing Randy’s message, I couldn’t help but think of the way the campus ministries of the 1970’s grew.  It wasn’t by putting on a dramatic, compelling worship service.  Instead it was done one-on-one, and in small groups on campus.  If the church can get back to that model, I think we’ll be ok.

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One comment

  1. […] « Safe? or Out? Elderlink: Competencies April 6, 2010 After Randy Harris’ opening talk on challenges we face in reaching the next generation, John York took the podium and began talking […]



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