August 7, 2011 Matt Pennock

The 20 Year Division and the Re-visioning of Church

I have long understood that the fundamental problem of the western church primarily began, in many ways, 20 years ago when a seed of distrust was somewhere planted between the older generation and the younger generation.

At that time a tiny fissure began to develop in the body of Christ between an inexperienced, modern, tech-savvy, innovative generation and an established, deep-seated, steady-going, experienced generation that has since grown to become a major chasm between the two.

At first it wasn’t all that noticeable as churches conceded to those youthful interests by apportioning the “youth group” which was the stylized name for what was really the beginning of a youth church. But the young got older and eventually had to leave the stylized youth group. Now what? Well, churches conceded yet some more, and we saw the emergence of the contemporary service. Not quite the church of the young generation, but pretty darn close.

No one seemed to know the heart problem behind the division and figured surface level solutions like these would rectify the situation and everyone would be happy. Instead, the rottenness of the division deep down continued to fester. The split services just weren’t satisfactory. By the early 2000’s churches began to severely break down; it was like church multiplication but on negative terms. The stylized youth groups finally emerged from their cocoons and became their own independent churches fashioned after the long held values of modernism, creativity, and technology. On the other end of things, the experienced, deep-seated generation continued steadfastly in their way and ten years later the youth group rooms are empty, congregations are devoid of young people, and church buildings everywhere are over half empty.

This unfortunately has left the church body with a wide chasm of distrust running straight through it. It’s like a huge gaping gash right across the chest. It’s an issue that doesn’t seem to have ever been directly dealt with or addressed. Of all the divisions in the church, I wonder if this isn’t the worst kind? If there is an absence of creativity, innovation, and forward-thinking—biblical roles of the Holy Spirit in the church—how can the Church survive? Likewise, if there is no anchor, established experience, or steadfast wisdom—fundamental to its strength and ability to withstand the changing influences of worldliness—how can the Church survive?

I’m sure many of us are by now growing tired of having to choose between either a trendy, brand-focused, church of anchor-less, fickle youth with no direction and an empty, stunted church that does not value innovation, creativity or contextualization.

Re-visioning the church for such as time as this means healing the gash in our chest. This is no mere wound, but a gaping blow by the “father of lies” that has proven successful at keeping us down over the last 20 years. Who will have the courage to turn and be mindful of this? The call from the standpoint of the Scriptures is for the fathers of the people to take responsibility, not because everything is their fault, but because they are the fathers. The young have grown restless and distrusting, not just rebellious—although there is plenty of that in the church body. What they need is for the fathers of the church to earn it back. Listen to them. Spend time with them. Let them know you’re there for them. Communicate to them that you understand and that you take responsibility for the faults of the older generation and how it has contributed to the division in our church. The young are counting on you.