some random thoughts on church youth culture
October 25, 2007
OK, so this is an attempt to sketch a profile of our generation of Christians that is in our churches!. Let’s just say those my age (23), roundabout, and younger. No, this is not backed up by intensive research, although everything I’ve ever read, and 5 years of theological studies do come into play, and some of this I’ve obviously stolen from others (but don’t ask me who). I focus only on Protestants, since South Africa know basicly only Protestants (that is if you see Charismatics and Pentecostals as part of the wider Protestant tradition).
This is the WWJD generation. What Would Jesus Do, or many times rather What Wouldn’t Jesus Do. Although part of the Protestant tradition, and in our case, many of them specifically part of the Reformed Evangelical tradition, the 4 soli’s never really sank in (Only Grace, Only Faith, Only Scripture, Only Jesus). Of these Scripture is the one that is really dominant with them. They know that it is only Scripture that counts. For many dedicated young Christians, as well as most nominal Christians.
OK, so the whole evangelical idea that all who have faith in Jesus go to heaven because of the grace of God (I really hope I got that right), don’t really feature. Even in a controlled environment (like when having discussions with kids who want to do a public affirmation of their faith), this kind of thinking don’t come out. On a day to day basis even less, and in what they really believe… I don’t know.
OK, so Scripture is very important, but their knowledge of the Bible is very limited. They grew up in a time when family Bible reading wasn’t that common any more, and they grew up in a time when their was a huge rise in the availability of little Bible study books which gave short answers to what they should or shouldn’t do, but didn’t really give any knowledge of the Bible. They assume that the Bible says a lot of things very directly, and usually have quite a disappointment when they find this not to be true (for example, struggling to find direct references saying that there should be no sex before signing a marriage contract).
They grew up under the shadow of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements (obviously the many who attended these churches, but also those in mainline traditional churches). Toronto blessing and Benny Hinn etc. has always been in the back of their heads, and although most are uncomfortable with taking part in these kind of “supernatural” events, they always toy with the idea that it must be true. People get healed in miraculous ways, and the Holy Spirit do interesting things to other people.
Many live compartmentalized lives. They have a lot of directives about what Christians should and shouldn’t do, but the reality of their lives, and the culture in which they are growing up, force them to adopt a different way of doing. This however, is seldomly integrated with their beliefs, and faith become a marginalized aspect of life, or a zealous anti-culture fight, based upon certain supposedly Scriptural directives they heard somewhere.
These people know instinctively that truth is relative, but they are not necessarily comfortable with this, and thus like those who can give clear and final answers, especially if these answers fit their ideas.
Oh, and praise and worship… that is something that happens when a guy with a guitar is on a stage and people are moving.
And somehow, I don’t understand how or why yet, they do understand that things should change in this life. Maybe it’s because the prophets predicting the end of the world in our lifetime isn’t that popular anymore, and therefore the evangelistic zeal, which would leave people to die of hunger as long as they get saved, never really took of with them. Whether it’s really a deeply theological thing, or whether it’s just the political right thing to do, or a combination of causes, the reality is that they think helping people is a good thing, although definitely not a prerequisite for being a Christian.
OK, so that was some random thoughts. Yes, I am aware of the exceptions! There is a lot of exceptions. But this is generally what I see. I kind of neo-Charismatic & light-fundamentalist form of Christianity which is becoming the norm for Christians our age and younger. But, remember that more and more are leaving church and Christianity as well!
For my emerging friends, what I think I’m trying to say is this:
– I don’t think the young people in our churches is longing to join our hours of deep philosophical conversations
– I don’t think the young people in our churches is longing to join our ideas of deep sacramental church services, of meditations and learning from all those different traditions
– I don’t think the young people in our churches is longing to give up their lives for the poor, but they would like others to do this
It would have been great it the above three things were the opposite, and sometimes I think we wish it was, but fact is, this is something we would have to learn them over time. I do however, experience this generation as one very much willing to change the way they perceive following Jesus, if something else become available, they might give it a go.