I was invited to present to a select group of administrators (I just wrote that so it sounds important) on the topic of reaching and engaging young adults. As I pondered my assignment, I came to the realization that most attempts to engage that generation, are trying to address symptoms and not causes.
At the root of the problem, are different perspectives on three basic questions:
2. Who is the church for?
3. Who does the church belong to?
If those core, foundational questions are not answered correctly, our progress can be delayed and our efforts severely hampered. Let’s take one by one:
1. What is the church?There are two approaches to doing church. One is “come and see”. The other is “go and tell”. These two need not be in opposition to each other. Clarifying what the church is, and more importantly, what it is not, is step one.
In Hispanic churches for example, the main fight in many boards has been the preservation of the Spanish language in the Sabbath school classes. People get animated when the topic comes up, but the truth is that sometimes we have decided to put culture over kids, and preservation of a language over salvation of the lost.
When thinking church, think body, not building. Think innovation, not stagnation. Think growth, not status quo. I believe we should let the bible determine what church is, not personal preference or tradition.
2. Who is the church for?If the church is primarily for believers, church people and long-time members, then non-christians risk the chance of becoming an afterthought.
Believers put up with a lot of stuff. They sit through boring sermons, adapt their noses to intense smells, step over clutter and avoid sitting by the drafty window. They know (wink wink) that 7pm is really “whenever people get there” and they have learned to speak adventese (although sometimes with an accent).
If, and that’s a big IF with capital letters, church is primarily for people that are far from God, then that is a game changer. What we do in church, when we do church, matters. It matters that the sermons are true and relevant. It matters that whatever style of music you chose, is done with excellence. It matters that we start and end on time. It matters that the church smells, looks, and feels good.
One quick example. I visited a church not too long ago in the town of ______________. The carpet was orange. The fabric in the back of the pews was orange. Orange everywhere. When the church was constructed, that carpet said: yea, we’re cool! That carpet now says: so this is how the 70’s looked! People attend there. They love their church. They put up with the ugly colors. They shouldn’t have to, and neither should the non-christians. Extreme example? Maybe. But it happens so much…
This is my defining principle: any and every barrier that precludes a person from becoming a Christian, without going outside clear biblical boundaries, should be eliminated. Immediately.
3. Who does the church belong to? There are two ways of looking at church governance and participation. In many churches, the older crowd is responsible for leadership, without any desire to pass the baton or share the ball. That results in younger Christians sitting on the sidelines, unasked and uninvolved. There are two options:
*Option #1-The church is about the older generation teaching the younger generation and making sure they continue the status quo.
*Option #2- The church is a partnership of generations that are fulfilling God’s plans and purposes in this time.
God didn’t create you to live on the cutting edge of the status quo. Take time to go through the three questions. Wrestle with them. Look for answers in God’s Word. Before you reach them…