Last week, my blogging friend Danny Conn posted a well-thought out critical review of George Barna’s book “Revolution”. Like it or not, the idea that the local church is changing along with the people it’s trying to reach is a reality. Conn does a nice job weaving his thoughts into Barna’s. Both men have good points of view and as I’ve said before, good writing causes you to interact with it and not just passively read it.
This review comes on the heels of some great discussion in the blogosphere about the recently posted article by Michael Spencer titled “The Coming Evangelical Collapse”. Both the article and the book point to a subtle yet growing change in the Western world towards church, Christianity, and all things tied to them. While the points both men make can be argued, as we’ve seen from other well known writers like Robert Morgan, a case can be made for the other side of the coin.
In the case of “Revolution”, Conn points to historical changes that we’ve seen over time in the development of churches, denominations, and church polity. Conn makes a compelling point in his argument that current technological advances now make such changes something that we witness “in progress” as opposed to years ago when the information exchange took much longer and such changes occurred differently because of that.
My take from seeing the church landscape here in the Rocky Mountain West is that the perception of church by the under-30 crowd is vastly different from mine. Those who are spiritually inclined are quite passionate about what they believe and ARE open to being taught from someone they can respect who will not speak from a “top-down” attitude. My discussions with this group in coffee shops and bookstores yields some very fruitful discussion but what I’ve witnessed is this group moving from traditional churches to a more “unplugged” setting and at odd times. One of the most popular churches in our area for this group is a renovated art studio where the church meets on Sunday evenings at 5pm to eat and then worship whenever the meal is done. They finish around 7:30 or so and then usually wind up at one of the downtown specialty shops for further discussion and fellowship. When I’ve asked about Sunday mornings and traditional church polity, I’m looked at with a mix of grins, sighs, and smiles. These folks want none of it. Leadership is more organic and polity is considered something that a “power” group wants so they can control things. This group takes their tithes with them elsewhere. A good case in point can be seen with our local Gideon’s chapter here in North Denver. These are good men with a heart for God and a passion for sharing the scriptures but their numbers are dwindling and a vast majority of them are in the over 50 crowd. My worship pastor recently attended their pastor’s appreciation dinner in my place while I was out of town recently and remarked he was the youngest in the crowd by nearly 30 years.
What does all this mean? Well in 5-10 years, this group will be approaching 40 and in the prime of their lives as I am now. Churches around me are closing. Most are “modern” style churches with a variety of musical styles so that’s not the problem as many like to make it. Is it the teaching or the style? Is it the service times? Is to something else? For me, I love church planting and I love the group I am honored to pastor. God has blessed us with a passion for the lost and a clear vision of how we want to get there. However, one thing I’ve learned is being “flexible”. That doesn’t mean compromise but it does mean thinking outside the box.
I’m with Conn on this one. I think a great revival can erupt from this. What it looks like though may be something that those who are of a standard mindset may have to re-think in order to see it. Is that the “Revolution”? I don’t know but the next few years will be interesting to see.