Reaching a new generation is probably one of the biggest issues churches call me about right now. I get questions all the time asking me how church can draw in those 40 and younger. It’s a complicated problem with a very intricate solution; although, I believe a broad solution could be the answer, no one wants to hear it.
This book goes there. The authors, F. Douglas Powe Jr. and Jasmine Rose Smothers, dig in and reveal the issues that build walls in our churches today that prevent the younger generations from engaging in our faith communities. I am excited to share in the next 10 weeks my thoughts on this book and to hear your reactions to it as well.
I was thrilled to see that the “New Generation” Powe and Smothers refer to include those born after 1961. I am not a millennial, and don’t think like one. I am in Generation X; however, my opinions and thoughts toward institutions and society tend to lean more towards the millennial generation. I appreciate the division for this book as being those post-civil rights movement because we are more willing to take risks and be more open to new ideas that change things up. I like the Biblical comparison they use of Joshua and Caleb, because they were not just willing to look at the possibilities, but willing to actually act on them.
The first commandment is, “Thou Shall Chill: What’s at Stake.” (First of all, the chapter titles are way cool and very fitting!) So, what is at stake? The loss of the Church as we know it today. The authors point out, though, that those inside the church are fighting with those outside of the church to keep it going, but those outside the church are not even in the fight because they don’t care. The biblical reference to this is from Mark 10:17-27, the story about the rich man who asks Jesus how to get eternal life…Jesus’ answer: sell everything you own, and give to the poor, then you will have treasure in heaven and come follow me. The man is shocked and leaves in despair. Not the answer he was looking for!
So, taking this illustration, many of our congregations today are also busy trying to save themselves by staying in their comfort zone and never moving out. Like the rich man, churches need to let go of their prized possessions, everything they have known to follow Jesus. But it is too high a price. What is at stake is saving the congregation, but it is just too high a price and unfair. The consequences for not paying are probably the eventual death of the congregation which is the very thing they are trying to avoid.
The rich man went away grieving because he wanted eternal life, but it had to be on his terms. The same is true for congregations. They want to save their faith communities, but on their terms. We need to take risks and let go of our way and allow the saving to happen on God’s terms.
How do we let go? First, congregations need to better understand those of us born post-civil rights movement. We love the church and are committed; however, our love is NOT to the building. We are committed to seeing where God leads and do not allow the building to define that. “Discipleship is about having the kind of spirit where we will follow Christ into the world and, most importantly, into our community. Discipleship is not about creating a comfort zone where we maintain the status quo.” (pg. 7) It is not about protecting a building. Discipleship is about “believing in a new future with God that requires us to chill and to let go of some things.” (pg. 11)
I would love to hear your response. Here are a couple of the questions at the end of Chapter 1:
- What are some ways your congregations is entrenched and not willing to let go?
- How is your congregation collaborative and not so collaborative with the post-civil rights generations?
- What would be easy to let go of? What would be hard? What would be impossible?