BEING a CHRISTIAN in a NEW ERA— it’s a generational thing. Part 1

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“We must become what we seek to create.”— Mohandas Karamchang Ghandi

(Oct 2, 1869 – Jan. 30, 1948  —assassinated on his way to evening prayers.)

     The fact of the matter is that people are different now. Young people find it difficult to relate to the church’s way of doing things. When family structures and society were more stable people did come to church to find answers, to find community, to worship God in a traditional manner. But the breakdown of our society, the dissolution of so many marriages, the Iraq wars, renewed racial conflicts, 9/11, the 2008 financial collapse, and our present political conundrum, have all contributed to the fragmentation of society and isolation of the generations. We have ceased to learn from the older and wiser; this alone constitutes a major fracture in our family cohesion. And thanks to the Baby-Boom of 1946-1964, YOUTH CULTURE (their children) does, in fact, dominate our world.

So when young people ages 14-25 come to church what do they find, generally?[i] They find a shape of Christianity virtually irrelevant to their virtual realities. They find a pyramid power structure contrary to their relationally oriented networked reality. They find generational separation. They find “lecture style” instruction. This is NOT true of every church; but it is true of far too many.

But fear not! Facebook has now has 2.3 billion subscribers, bringing us all back together…, maybe, sorta.  In recent years, more of the Silent Generation is flocking to Facebook to see their grandchildren. So their kids are fleeing for their lives to Instagram and Snapchat. If the Church could do anything to correct this generational drift, it should re-kindle intergenerational relationships; not online, but face to face.

Two American sociologists, Neil Howe and William Strauss, have categorized our generational differences in ways that might also be helpful in our understanding of those differences and in the efforts to bridge the gaps between us… and them. Check out MILLENNIALS RISING: the next great generation, (Randon House; New York, 2000). In essence, generational characteristics must be taken into account when any presentation of the Christian faith is expressed. If they are not considered, both our communication of the faith and its comprehension levels drop into the abyss of vacuity.

The Question for us becomes— How will I express my Christian faith in a way that is appropriate to my culture, to my generation, yet sensitive to other forms of expression, as well as to the world at-large?  In the church context—  how should my worship honor God in the Body of Christ?

Between early 2005 and 2015 NEEDinc conducted a series of interviews with genuine Christians across North America [“Genuine” being defined as a faith whose principles influenced at least 75% of their daily activities]. Each interviewee was drawn from a different generational grouping; each expressed answers to the interview questions in a manner with which they were comfortable.

What we learned from the interviews surprised us a little.

  1. Some saw church as central to their Christian worship while others did not. A common frustration and disappointment in the state of the church crossed all generational lines.
  2. Though all were genuine believers and held a rich faith in Christ, they expressed that faith through worship, music, and societal involvement in different ways and to different extents. This observation followed generational lines and complied with their peer group expressions.
  3. Though younger generations held a respect for their elder’s expressions of faith, it was not reciprocated. Older believers knew little about the formats and subtleties of twenty-somethingexpressions of faith. They judged the younger generation’s faith too emotion-based, too relational, and not grounded enough in a Biblical, comprehensive worldview.
  4. Everyone was willing to consider the other person’s faith expression…, in theory. In practice, well, that didn’t work out so well. “Getting together” at all was the first hurdle to overcome.
  5. ALL considered themselves in process; that is, they understood they were each at different places in their spiritual journey and had much growing yet to come.

Reflection

How would you respond to these five observations? How would you imagine older/younger Christians responding? What commonalities have you observed between different generations of Christians? What issues do you believe still exist between diverse generations? What passions might they share in common? How might different generations of genuine Christians teach each other about their own individual expressions of faith?

NEXT— Being a Christian in a New Era—  Part 2

Gary

[i] I am well aware that to employ the phrase “churches generally,” is impossible. What is at stake here is the general reaction of unchurched youth to traditional Christian worship, whether or not they employ more contemporary worship music.

[Note— If you can find a copy of James O. Gollub’s THE DECADE MATRIX: why the decade you were born into made you what you are today (Addison Wesley Publishing, Reading, MA, 1991), currently out of print, you will learn that the title just about says it all.]

 

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Beyond Words: Take 4 – A Personality Specific Faith

Larson personalityIn this edition of Beyond Words let’s look at how your personality filters your faith.

My wife is sitting across from me just opening a medium-size bag of M&Ms. Different colors on the outside and consistently the same within. Very much like our world’s Christ-followers. Sometimes, even with a few nuts thrown in for variety.

Not all Christians are alike. Not all expressions of our faith are alike. Not all people are alike. Kind of like stating the obvious, isn’t it.

Yet within the decreasing influence of Western Christendom we try to maintain a boring sameness in our faith as is impossible. The reality of divergent races, cultures, and personalities should be obvious. We are all not one. We are a complex multiplicity of beings with a common commitment to Jesus Christ.

Thankfully, we live in an era where some really smart people have done some deep research on the different kinds of people we are. Isabel Briggs Myers and Katherine Cook Myers began their research in 1917, which culminated in the Myers-Briggs (Personality) Type Indicator Test in 1956 (MBTI). You can take a simplified FREE version of the Test here—

https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test

The observable reality that we each have a distinct personality is a great gift from God. For Christians, it means that the gospel can take on different shapes and nuances across a broad spectrum of races, cultures, and divergent personalities. We don’t all have to be the same. Even better, none of you have to be likeme. [Phew!]

You see, when God created us He intentionally built into us divergent dispositions to reflect the majesty of His glory. Thus, we are NOT all the same; nor should we be. If we were, it would be an admission that people are unilaterally boring and that the Lord God Creator of the universe is, in fact, not all that creative.

The myriad of different cultures and human personality traits is proof of exactly the opposite. Therefore we should also expect a plethora of different kinds of Christians— quiet, contemplative, sensitive, exuberant, and nuts. This must be so because the majesty and diversity of the Trinity imprints upon us, not in a manner to rob us of who God has made us, but to empower us within our specific personality design. What a gift!

So, get used to being you, trying to offend as few as possible. You have been designed the way you are for a reason; find out what it is.

For what it’s worth,

Gary

Beyond Words-Take 2- Faith Factors

 

One critical question needs to be asked when desiring to connect the Christian Message with people living outside the confines of the Christian bubble. Namely— What are the key elements that determine the expression and communication of our faith in a postChristian society? As a reminder, we can no longer “just give them the gospel.”The gospel” simply has no cultural pinning in a world so long removed from its Christian roots. Maybe a picture is worth a thousand words—

communication circles

In the next few EMPulses we will explore these 6 elements in more depth. For now, let us open a cursory unpacking of these ingredients.

First, to express and/or communicate our faith in this postChristian society we must establish a Biblical Mindset within our own practice of faith. Just going to church, saying the right words, and memorizing a few Bible verses conveys only s surface-faith to others.

Next, we need to understand that our faith is Personality Specific. Our personality filters our faith to fit who we are and who we must become. We must not squeeze ourselves into a faith-box. You cannot be like me or any other Christian. You must be you.

Thirdly, our Christian faith is Culturally Sensitive. We dare not continue to import a western faith into a postChristian Europe, emerging Africa, or a diverse Asia. One of the distinctives of our faith is that it fits into the heartbeats and lifestyles of the host-culture. Yet, in our Western, North American patchwork of cultural blends we must here, too, learn to be culturally sensitive.One size, or shape, does not fit all.

Fourth, as we offer people a relationship with Jesus Christ, we must remember that they must hear His offer of life in their context. “The Gospel” must be heard in their life context. Therefore, in many ways, the Gospel is Receiver Determined. How do they see the Christian faith? It is our task to express our faith in ways that they can respond to and receive Christ’s life into their own.

Fifth, the expression and communication of our Christian faith should be Community Networked. First, we should be networked within a healthy group of fellow believers who have a similar passion for the normal people around us. Second, our faith communication should be networked among those God has placed in our path. No need for commando raids or “debriefings” afterwards. We need to immerse ourselves into the lives of those around us who have no concept of the Christian message. [Warning: you may just come to love them.]

Finally, we, as genuine Christians, need to become more aware of the Holy Spirit of God within. We need to become Spirit Attuned. For we do not offer a person merely the Truths about Jesus, we are offering them Jesus Christ himself. We need to attune our spirits to be in line with God’s Spirit and also in tune with the lives of the people we have come to love. We cannot sense the work of Christ in the lives of others until we clean up our own inner-selves. No wonder God works in spite of us so much of the time.

For what it’s worth,

Gary

 

 

Already there..

“Derwin Gray doesn’t get it. In this article titled “This Can Happen in America, Part 1” America has been a “postChristian” nation for at least 25 years (if not much longer), following its “postChristian” period. We have truly moved into a generation who have no memory of the memory of a Christian mindset or presuppositions about reality. And it’s not just on the Coasts and metropolitan areas. Kids who go to church in Oklahoma know the Bible verses and attend Church, but there is no evidence that their hearts of brains grasp the basic tenants of our Christian faith. Many have a codependent faith-of-their-grandfathers. Yet the ancient idioms (1949) and expressions of our faith are still predicated on our ancient evangelical and/or fundamentalist anti-intellectualism. Add to that the observable reality that most Bible-believing Christians simply do not want to think about their faith…, or much else, for that matter.

Further evidence that this departure from even the memory of genuine Christian faith has already occurred in America might be found in these challenges–

1. Why are we still relying on a theological base constructed for the rationalistic/scientific era of modernism?

2. Who will construct a new theological basis to address the issues of a postChristian era?

3. Why do we insist that the Gospel can be summed up in four logical sequential statements that have long since ceased to have much effect on peoples’ hearts? One individual challenged me by responding, “It seems to me that if you can sum up the most important thing in your life in four sentences that it can’t be that deep.” He had me.

4. The Gospel is determined by many factors– 1) The Holy Scriptures, 2) The surrounding cultural influences,    3) The relationship between people, 4)  Past experiences of the receiver, 5) Presuppositional knowledge of Christian faith by the receiver, 6) The work of the Holy Spirit of God in all individuals, etc, etc, etc. The Gospel, in our era, is no longer simple. Why? Because western culture is no longer simple.

5. The marginalization of the Church by our society. Of course, the Church first withdrew from the evil world God intended us to have sway over. Brilliant!

Nonetheless, we can reengage our society with the claims of Christ if we, who truly claim to be genuine followers of Jesus, make conscious decisions to reenter our society as vessels of Light, Truth, Heart, & Compassion. Leave the Judgment to our Father. And I don’t mean the Pope.”

Sorry for the rant,

Gary

Christians in North America

  • Clueless, Christianity, Christian, Book, Dr, Gary, DavisHow should Christians view their fellow North Americans? Taking all this into consideration, how should Christians in North America look at their society? To start, we need to remember that a great deal of our world has changed. Christians are no longer the dominant influence forming either political platforms or societal mores, however much they would like to be. To live as if this is not so would be to deny a new reality that has overtaken the Western World. There is little understanding of genuine Christian faith. Once this hits home it must affect how we view our friends, neighbors, and work associates.

At the very least, to relate to them in any way at all, we need first to BE in their world. That may sound like stating the obvious; most of us work in the marketplaces of life 5-6 days a week. But do we work there as Christians? In general, we do not, except maybe privately, secretly hiding our faith (out of fear?) because we might not know the answers to some of their questions. If we were more transparent about our faith, I dare say Christian influence would jump exponentially. Instead, we’ve become closet Christians in the living rooms of the world.  Many of us isolate ourselves within an evangelical or main line church world, venturing into “the world” as Christians, as infrequently as possible. We may work in this world, earn a living, raise our kids, shop for food and clothes, pump gas, go on vacations and vote for the candidate of our choice; we just don’t interface with the people we meet as transparent Christians—more as non-descript Christians, with little or no Christian definition or expression to our lives. This is not good. It is almost as if we are afraid of being identified as Christians; it is almost as if being “Christian” brands us with a kind of societal stigmata. And, to a great extent, given the revelations of recent “Christian” evangelists, preachers, and other leaders, there is some truth in this.

But what if we were REAL in our Christian faith; what if we talked casually about our faith, answers to prayer, and about the difficulties we have sometimes with our faith, our lives, or our church? What if we talked about being upset over something our kids did that infuriated us, or the inner embarrassment and frustration we feel over our divorce as a bad expression of our faith? What if we were REAL in our relationships with people? What do you think; is that okay? Is it okay to, dare I use the word, fail, in our life of faith sometimes? Dare we tell people who are not Christians about our failures? I tend to think that people who are not believers in Christ will find our transparency surprisingly refreshing. Why? Because they are looking for faith to be real, to reflect the way we all deal with the issues of everyday life. They are looking for a faith that reflects a real relationship with a real God who does something for people in the real world. They are looking for TRUTH to be reflected in the joys, struggles, failures and triumphs of everyday life. If it doesn’t do that, on what level are we living our Christian faith out anyway? Does your faith hang in a sort of limbo above the struggles and successes of everyday life, only to drop down to earth when you feel that the definition of something works? Come on, now… is that really your faith? To me, that’s excluding God from life so that we can feel good about what we’ve accomplished. Then, when things don’t work out, we turn on God as if he has failed us. Not goodagain.

Frankly, I find no replacement for genuine Christians, living transparently before their friends, neighbors, work associates, and relatives. I do not mean before their Christian friends, Christian neighbors, Christian work associates, and Christian relatives:  I mean the people who never darken the door of a church, who have never had a Christian thought. Don’t believe they’re not out there; don’t kid yourself. You just can’t see them; but they are there. We need to open our eyes to see the world around us in a new light—the light of the glory of Christ, clarifying our lives and opening a window to God in the lives of those who cannot see him. Oh, bye the bye, that window is YOU. So, if you’re NOT there, in their world, what do you think they see of God the Father? Get the point? For us to have any Christian effect on any of our friends the first thing we need to do is actually have friends who are not Christians. We need to cultivate friendships with the “normal” people around us. But we need to do so not as a set up for the presentation of some gospel outline, but so they will be able to see the God we love present in us in the daily issues of life. And, frankly, with all the advances in transportation, communication, medicine, technology, and the realigning of the residential/marketplace, it still comes down to people.  It comes down to Christians, walking along side of people, normal people, so they can see with their own eyes what real Christianity is all about.

perspicuous


perspicuous 
per-SPIK-yoo-uhs, adjective:

  1. Clearly expressed or presented; lucid.
  2. Perspicacious.

Perspicuous stems from the Latin perspicere meaning “to look or see through.”

[http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perspicuous]

One of the primary barriers to clear communication is our own inability to be clear, to express our thoughts and ideas clearly, to be precise & lucid, when describing or defining something. Our culture has grown lazy with words; thus the constant query, you know what I mean? Or, the abbreviated— um. The average high school vocabulary level is between 6,000 – 45,000 words. College graduates up that to 50,000 – 75,000 words. Post-grads use between 75,000 – 120,000 words.

[http://atkinsbookshelf.wordpress.com/tag/how-many-words-in-the-average-persons-vocabulary/] [http://www.adlit.org/adlit_101/improving_literacy_instruction_in_your_school/vocabulary/]

[note:  William Shakespeare (1564-1616) used approximately 30,000 words; he invented 600 words in Hamlet alone, and introduced over 20,000 words into the English common vocabulary.]

Our inability to explain or describe things accurately has numerous effects on our society. For one, we are unable to convey the most important experiences in our lives due to our limited vocabulary. Another effect is our decreasing ability to simply say what we mean, or to write what we mean. Don’t believe it? Check t he norml email and tri to fil in th blanks. And do not try to blame it on spel checkr. We are in the era of LOL, TMI and acronyms for everything. C?

But a more serious problem arises out of our seeming lack of skill with clear communication; that being—  our inability to 1) clearly define what we see in another person’s life, and 2) to accurately see into our own lives. A paucity of precise words naturally leads to difficulty in defining our perceptions.  We must resign ourselves to a mere sense about another, rather than a rich comprehension of who they truly are. Inversely, a lack of words to define what we want to say limits us from knowing and describing our deeper selves. In critical moments, this produces an aggravating frustration within us. We simply cannot put our finger on who we are, or where we are in life, or what describes us in our deeper, core level.

Let’s go back to the Latin roots of our word— perspicere; “to look or see through.” If we remain lazy about delving deeply into ourselves, how will we ever see through the walls of protection erected by those around us? Maybe if we started being deeply honest with ourselves, possibly bouncing our insights off of a trusted friend, we would be granted the gift of being able to see more clearly into the lives of others.

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

culturally incurious

A great friend of mine, and mastermind in all aspects of world-cultural history, once described a group of Christians as culturally incurious. An odd but insightful comment to be sure, but one that he would not make lightly; though much of his brilliance rolled off his tongue the way most of us would drool for pizza.

How many of us are culturally incurious? What we don’t know we don’t want to know: our world is fine the way it is. “Don’t bother me with more information I don’t want to think about. I don’t want my perception of the world challenged or changed. Leave me alone!”

For some people the deepest thinking they ever do is the decision to buy a truck or a cross-over, to watch NCIS or CSI: Miami. They are culturally incurious. If anyone challenges them that they might need a world view or a life philosophy they simply dismiss it as either not necessary to their nice little packaged life or too much work.

Why have so many of us, especially genuine Christians, lost most interest in the world around us? Why has our curiosity dissolved to little more than sound-bite news clips on TV?

Maybe we’re too pressured with our own problems. Maybe we believe that government should sort through this massive mess—it’s just too big for us to make a difference. Maybe we’re on information overload and refuse to handle even one more thought!

Whatever the reason, too many of us (genuine Christians) seem too content to attend church, tithe 2% off our net income, provide for our families, and strive to be as stress-free and as comfortable as possible the rest of the time.

What has happened to us?!? How about it, folks, can we make a difference in people’s lives around us? Can we support movements, organizations, political lobbies, and missions that are active change agents in our world? Sometimes I wonder if we have more of an interest in getting our bodies in shape that in getting our world in shape.

Life is messy: get used to it. Life is dirty: learn to build castles out of dirt. Life is painful: learn to celebrate in the midst of the pain. Life is hard: toughen up!

But, you say, I’m pretty beaten down, broken, and have little hope for the future. Don’t you know that our God wants to lift you out of the pain and mire and hold you in His arms? Why don’t you let Him do His job? And then go out and make a difference in our world!