I am no church expert. Yes, I have grown up in the church my whole life. Yes, my dad was a minister for most of my life. And yes, I have worked at a couple of churches. But, I do not claim to have the church figured out. What I do claim to know is the church represents the body of Christ. Therefore, I see myself as an ambassador (and so are you) of Christ and the church.
Today I want to focus on two main problems that I think the church is facing. I can tend to be negative about the church more often then not. Its almost like that one thing on your body that you wish you could change. It seems that we are pretty hard on ourselves and therefore seem to always have problems. But these two problems go way deeper then the surface level and in my mind are very important to discuss and examine. But I do want to let you know that I come at this subject with grace and peace and hope for a discussion not a bashing of the church.
Here are the two main problems that I see facing the church today:
Identity seems to be something that is very important. Mainly (speaking in individualistic terms here) it helps you know who you are. You can filter things through your identity as well as be confident in what you are doing by knowing who you are. Unfortunately the church is looking more like a 14 year old teenage boy then a self-confident 33 year old man. I heard a story about a man that was at a conference at Willow Creek Community Church. This man was doing a very strange thing. It wasn’t that he was at the conference, it was what he was doing while at the conference. What was he doing you might ask? He was measuring the distance from the front entrance to the worship auditorium entrance. When asked what he was doing by an usher the man responded by saying “My church is building a new building and we need to know how far to make the distance from the front door to the auditorium.” As ridiculous as this story sounds, it is very true. More and more, authenticity in churches takes on the form of imitation.
Identity is a major issue because the goal is not to reach the willow creek community, but the community that the church lives in. It goes back to that idea that it might be good for you, but might not be good for me. I see churches all over the United States following the trends because it has worked for others. Unfortunately, others success does not always transfer to your success.
Lets take this into the blog world. We all know the big name bloggers, and more specifically we all know their style. Each has his or her own way of saying things, and that is what makes them who they are. Now knowing this kind of information also allows us to spot others who are trying to be just like them. There are tons of blogs out there that take on the same style of “big name bloggers” all in the name of success. But in all reality, like my friend brewster said, you don’t want to be the cover band. Mainly, these copy cat bloggers do not have an identity, instead they take on the identity of another “successful” blogger and try and call it their own.
Churches are facing the same problem. There is only one North Point Community Church and that church is unique to its area and unique to its staff. Andy Stanley tells a great story about identity. He said that a couple of years ago the buzz inside the Church community world was Saturday night services. It seemed that everyone was doing it and Andy felt the pressure from his staff to start the Saturday night services so they could have more people come to their church. One of the examples they used was Willow Creek and Bill Hybels success with Saturday night services. Andy thought about it for a while and then ran it through the identity and values of North Point. He saw that it went completely against the value that they place on the time of their staff with their families. Andy decided to hold to his identity and say no to having a Saturday night service. A month later, Andy and his wife were at a dinner benefit and just so happened to be sitting at the same table as Bill Hybels. Andy said he was pretty nervous about this and was wondering how he was going to explain this all to Bill Hybels. 15 minutes into the conversation Bill brought up the subject and Andy politely explained why North Point did not have a Saturday night service. Andy was sure that after this explanation Bill Hybels was going to look at him and shake his head in disappointment and tell him how he was wrong. Instead Bill responded by saying that he was proud of Andy for holding to the values and identity of the church and thought it was a great decision. This story greatly illustrates the value of knowing your identity.
Problem one with the church today: Identity. Mainly, churches know more about what other churches are doing thousands of miles away then what is happening 15 minutes away in their community.
I could go on and talk about this forever for hours, but we can discuss more in the comment stream.
Connection of Generations:
It is amazing to see all the different generations (age related) that make up the church. It seems that there are about 4-5 different generations that are represented on a Sunday morning. I have been a big advocate for the need of mentors, specifically the need for Gen X and Y to have mentors and to mentor. One of the major issues that I continue to see inside of this need is the disconnect between generations. One age groups feels left out while the other age group wonders why things cannot be about them. It seems a huge mess and really a misunderstanding. The hot button for churches over the years has been their worship services. The idea of appealing to all but not offending all is something that has been in discussion for the last 10 years. The center of this discussion is music. Mainly, older people do not like loud music and younger people love loud music (a whole lot of assumptions there, but isn’t that the exact problem, people assume things). The issue is not that black and white, but for some reason it seems to be that you have to land on one side or the other. The problem with choosing sides is someone is always left out. The rise of generational churches (my word) is troubling. A generational church is one that is made up solely of a certain age group. Most of us have heard people say that the church is the most racially segregated place, but I would go one further and say that the church is one of the most generational segregated places. I hate writing that, mainly because I wish it was not true. But the disconnect between generations is something that is prevalent but swept under the communion stained auditorium carpet.
The biggest problem inside of the lack of connected generations is communication. It’s that whole uncomfortable place of trying to talk to someone you do not know. You want to introduce yourself, but for some reason your own comfort is more important than feeling awkward (maybe I am the only one that struggles with that). The funny thing is, once you say hi and start to talk you realize that they are no different then you. Immediately the nerves and the unspoken rules of not talking to people you do not know is gone, and you develop a relationship that continues to grow over time. Breaking down the initial barrier of communication is huge. It seems that we are all at a JR high dance just waiting for someone to make the first move and bring the party to the dance floor. The problem seems to be that my generation (20 somethings) are waiting for someone to take the lead and the older generations (my parents and grandparents) are nervous about talking to us because we are different (just picture a 7th grade guy trying to ask a girl to dance). You can see the absurdity of it all, but it is a reality that happens every Sunday. We congregate with people that are alike us, and we tend to talk with the people that we know.
Problem two with the church today: lack of connection between generations and the threat of creating a church that is filled with people that are just like you. This could lead to the missing out of learning and gaining wisdom through generations that provide a unique perspective to life.
These are my two big problems that I see facing the church.
I would love to discuss this more with you, Whether you disagree, want to add to the points, or throw in your own ideas.