<%image(20051216-roundtable.jpg|150|75|axis roundtable)%> Silence. More silence. Evasion. These were my replies to a pastor and friend who asked, “What should we do about the people who aren’t connecting with our church?” My mind was blank. I saw the problems well enough, but the solutions seemed to be out of my grasp. Emerging jargon such as relational, missional, contemplative, and experiential generously poured from my lips, but they were only concepts leaked onto the floor. They ran amuck, never coalescing into a comprehensible form and leaving my pastor-friend high and dry.
A few years and experiences later and I may be on to something. The problem with many of us who want to connect with emerging generations is our preference for the quick programmatic fix. I have no issue with programs in their proper place and in the correct order. And that is the matter we must discuss.
Before you can make any decision concerning your programs, you have to understand your context. The seeker-sensitive or pragmatic church understood its context and adapted. While critics can find flaws and mistakes in the pragmatic approach, it essentially caught on to the spirit of the times. In a culture with Christian roots and a desire for a laid back way to approach God, tweaking the service, attracting seekers, and building relationships (once they were in the fold) worked. And yes it still works in some contexts, but let’s not get too settled.
The emerging generations who have grown up in a very different, often God-less, world from their parents will need a new approach to church. The temptation of any church that is not connecting with this generation is to tweak programs. That was the problem before. If people wouldn’t come to one kind program, then surely they will come if the music is better, the sermon addresses their choice of issues, and you serve them coffee afterwards. And for those who really want to reach this generation, emergency elder meetings be damned, they may even have contemplative prayer, lectio divina readings, and go to a bar for Guinness. The equation is as follows in either case: new generation = new program.
To Be Continued.