We need to focus more tightly on an important question—
How will we have to change to fit the changes that are taking place all around us? What will we need to look like so we will still be identifiable as genuine followers of Jesus Christ as our culture understands less and less about true, Biblical Christian faith?
My thoughts… .
- A Rich Faith in Christ– No matter what our generation or culture, our emphasis on having a quality faith must remain constant— a deep trust in Jesus Christ that works its way through our everyday decisions and practices. There is no room for a superficial faith that puts on a pious façade and a smiley face.
- A Generationally Specific Character– Parents are always trying to force their teenagers to express their faith in the same way that they do (or did). How much better would it be if parents helped their teenagers develop a faith that reflected their own generational formats of expression? Many 50 year-old+ Christians hold propositional truth and understanding the Bible to be the underpinning of their faith. People 30 and under, generally, think in music. They image their faith in God as a set of experiences, and find in the Bible a context to explain their realities.
- A Generationally Sensitive Interface– There are a lot of TV shows that picture a generation of mostly young people living in a place seemingly devoid of anyone older or younger; no older adults, no grandparents, no children or babies. We live in a world of juxtapositions where different philosophies, penchants and personalities coexist side by side, spanning the generations. We need to learn to live with each other; but the ability to love someone different from yourself is no small task. We need to make a commitment of time to be with people different from ourselves. In my life both older and younger people have brought the voice of God to me in a ways I was not used to.
- Ageless– If any inter-generational connection is to be forged, it is necessary for Christians of every age to adapt to the relational and communication patterns of those outside their own group. This new kind of Christian will have to be intergenerational, adaptable, able to express their faith in more forms than just their own. Two personal inspirations to me are two, older, life-long friends who live in Jackson Hole, WY. They are wild about God, people, and life! If the older generations can turn up the volume (or turn it down,) and listen to younger generations, if millennials can turn down their ear-buds and listen to the older generations, what might the shapes of our faith look like?
- A Culturally Adaptable Faith Expression– Pluralism has attuned us to be sensitive to dissimilar cultural value-expressions other than those of our personal heritage. Style of dress, dance, music, food, and the language mix have turned North America into a multi-culture with life expressions galore. People are used to dining out in whatever culinary culture they fancy— Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Thai, etc. Just scroll through any radio display and you will hear as many music styles as there are languages. So also should the new kind of Christian be able to adjust the expression of his/her faith to fit the surrounding culture, inside and outside of the church. When I worked with the Episcopal Church I had to learn new ways of expressing my faith, ways that were unfamiliar to me. At one point a priest approached me and commented, “I just don’t know how you can pray so earnestly without reading it!” [~from the Prayer Book]. New ground.
It is paramount for new kinds of Christians to adapt their faith both to the new expressions within the church as well as to express it to a new generation (versus explain it) outside the church.
- A Musically Acclimated Faith– Music is such a powerful expression of every culture of the West that it deserves special attention. One key expression is that younger generations think in music. They do not bifurcate or separate words from music, even though in making music the two are kept separate at first, then blended.
New kinds of Christians will have to learn to express their faith and their beliefs musically. And in different genres of music— from rap to country, hip-hop to soft jazz, classical to well, something that’s probably just going pop up while you’re reading this sentence. But it’s not just music expressing faith and belief that must come of age. The structuring and shape of theology itself needs to go through an overhaul and be upgraded. And whatever it is will be something worth dancing to! Maybe it is time we stopped analyzing so much and started dancing. Turn up the volume!
- A Community Entrenched Faith- So many of us live our lives of faith within the church walls that we have forgotten how to be part of the world outside. We have taught for too long that we must break all ties with our former life, friends, and activities. Even Jesus didn’t spend as much time inchurch as we do. He mixed it up with people who thought they were religious, knew they weren’t, and some who didn’t care that much. ALL generations of new Christians must make an effort to include people outside the church in their daily walks of faith…, on their turf.
But the story hasn’t come to its end yet. We still don’t know how this new mix will come out. Still, we have the privilege of writing a new design for the new church, of expressing our Christian faith in a way that is founded on its past, and in our Lord Jesus Christ; but we also have the privilege of writing the script for the new Broadway play of faith for this new generation, and all the world to see.
NEXT— UpGrading Your Faith