You knew it was coming…or maybe you didn’t. Well, it’s something I have been observing to be along the lines of a different trajectory, or even reform, of American Christianity. This is where the ‘Buster’ generation is taking the reigns of the Church into their own hands. This is where the breakout of ages of tradition is really beginning to be seen. At first many are upset about the divergence from the mainstream tradition. But that “mainstream” tradition isn’t really that old itself. Since the World Wars the church has been in an upheaval. And the church has been changing and rearranging endlessly. Divisions between the generations in the Church are at the worst that the Church has probably ever seen.
But the older generations are passing on, and the churches we are finding left behind are now controlled by the Boomers. The church of the Boomers has always seen a lot of stress. With their parents pulling at one arm, and their kids pulling at the other arm, one says, “Stay with tradition, don’t reinvent the wheel!”
The kids say, “Please, Church is so boring and the world is in a different time than yester-century!”
These divisions have made for a very complex and problematic situation for the Boomers. They decided to split the church into two. A contemporary service and a traditional service. But it didn’t work like they had hoped. Instead it seemed to make matters worse. Why? Perhaps because a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand?
It was during this time that the youth ministry movement took root and exploded. It seemed to a lot of people that the youth were ruling the church. Our elders no longer associated with the youth, and our youth no longer associated with the elders. To the youth—the Busters—the ancient hymns were regarded as “that music” and to the Elders the music of the youth was regarded as “that music”. In the middle were our parents. They didn’t know what to do. So they started hiring youth pastors fresh out of college or even high school. You know, the hip kind, who would be ‘relevant’ and ‘cool’. Universities and colleges began to jump on the band-wagon and offer youth ministry degrees. That’s right! You can be a “professional” youth dude.
Well, it didn’t quite work as they had hoped. Instead of renewed relationships between the old and the young and captured, teachable souls to feed, we found the youth hanging out in church youth group rooms or parking lots engaging in much of the same things they did in in the secret: drugs, sex, vandalism, and theft.
A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.
Slowly the Church of yester-year has been dissipating and going through withdrawal. The Boomers still run much of the Church but are still dealing with the issues of their generation and their parents’ generation. The kids? They’ve left…somewhere.
“Church 2.0” is seeing its entry riding parallel with the Myspace/Facebook social transformation and has a demographic of basically every Mosaic kid (those born after 1983) out there and increasingly much of the Buster generation (those born from 1965 to 1983). These churches, which are often easy targets for criticism, are ones that are seeking to find that “new wineskin” for the “new wine”. It seems to be working quite well, and God is definitely at work within them, make no mistake about it. I like to attach the “2.0” namely because of the new devotion to the new mediums of the internet and social media. It’s a fantastic solution for networking and bridging the gap between city dwellers who don’t live next to each other, and can’t exactly “break bread from house to house” every day like in the good ‘ol New Testament days. It seems fitting for our time, as the world’s population has just shifted into the dominant percentile of city dwellers. After all, most of the earth’s population now lives in urban centers. So how is the Church supposed to fit into this this hasty, urban, disconnected, and individualistic way of life? It’s not easy, but it seems that God has prepared a way with this thing called the internet. Currently, one might tend to wonder how far things should go. Reading in Acts chapter 4, we see that the lay people devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to prayer, to fellowship, and to breaking bread. It’s certainly great to have and provide access to teachings and messages wherever there is a computer, yet it remains for us to see a renewed devotion to prayer, fellowship, and the breaking of bread—things which you simply can’t do through the internet. Jesus Christ put a great value on the gathering of saints. He is most manifest in the corporate body just as he taught: “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name…” While the internet can make up for some things in the urban environment, the gathering is still remains an issue.
Labels have be tossed around, like “emerging church” or “postmodern church”. There are endless books and articles being written on the subject already. Meanwhile, the division in perspectives seems predictable: the Buster and Mosaic generations are pitted against the elders and many of the Boomer generation. A lot of the debate has revolved around the world coming into the church or the church becoming too much like the world. To me, it could be good, or it could be bad. Worldliness is bad. Staying in step with the world however, is necessary. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 explains that.
The Boomer generation is working hard at pushing many of their hand-me-down traditions into modern technology. Or they are pushing modern technology into the traditions. What you end up with are these half-traditional and half-postmodern churches which can be rather odd. Consider a ‘sanctuary’ with a a couple of massive big-screen televisions for example. Businesses like Kramer Electronics are loving it. “Theology is colliding with technology”, they say, and the market is good.
Stepping back and taking all this craziness of the last century into view leaves one with an impression that the Church has been going…crazy.
As I look at all the stirred up and shaken circumstances of the Church and even how much of the world is struggling to keep up and make sense of the Western Church and the changes it is going through (the Western Church has long been regarded as a leader in the body of Christ), I see just that: a shaking up. There is a huge want for stability and consistency again. If my eyes serve me right I have come to see a lot of “wine”, both old and new, splattered all over the place in just the last couple of decades. I have seen lot of “old pants” with “new patches” violently ripping off. The emerging, or hyper-contextualized church is gaining popularity and breaking the records for long-stagnant conversion statistics and eventually will not be considered “emerging” anymore. They will be regarded as “established” or something of the like. Our Mosaic children will grow up in a Christian world that the earth has not seen before. It looked as if another big shake up was on the way during the Cuban missile crisis of the 1960s. In 2001 America a real deep shaking. Either way, in some form or another, the Church will survive. Today’s new “Church 2.0” is certainly not “the answer” we all might wish for but who knows?