March 16, 2006

The Great Cop-Out

One of my new goals is to keep up a trend of posting here on the end of the week. Last Friday I really wanted to write, but couldn't pull it off. Last time I said I'd talk about Revolution, Barna's recent book, but instead I'm going to stick with writing about my trials in church life.

After my Church is Failing, Part II post, Clif read it, and was quickly compelled to strike up the conversation with me. (We talk of philosophical subjects and church life a lot.) The short version was he felt a significant portion of my perspective was due to stage in life and generation gap. I'm sure those things are a factor, how can they not be, but I was not willing to give up as much as he was driving at. This writing itself could be dismissed as such, as that's the age old cycle of growth - but doing so is a cop-out, and here is why.

I will not dismiss this as life stage so easily because I've heard that excuse used for the past fifteen years, and I'm sure I'll hear it for the next fifteen. If everything is attributed to just being a stage in my life that I need to somehow grow past and get over, I can be getting away with a lot more than I have been thus far. :) I believe this more to be a difference between post-modern and modern world views. Here's is a quick example of the difficulty between post-modern to modern communication:

What a post-modern says: "I like this church. The people here are nice, and I like coming here. I don't feel very connected with God when I worship here though. When I feel filled with worship, it is through high energy music that I connect with."

What a modern seems to hear: "I like this church. The people here are nice, and I like coming here. You don't do a good job reaching me during worship. You really need to change the service to have music that I like."

This seems to me an intrinsic communication gap. So do you read the above and dismiss it as differences between how generations worship, or do you read it and see an opportunity to reach those with a post-modern world view? Dismissing it as generation gap is a cop-out because that answer is essentially, "This is the way we do church, or you could go somewhere else." That's … not the church I've read about. What young people from the post-modern world view are saying is "What you do works for you, but it just doesn't work for me." All the while most churches are struggling to reach post-modern people.

So my question still waits for an answer. Your worship doesn't work for me, should I just go find someplace that does? In many places in life it's easy to dismiss differences of opinion citing generation gap, but I do not feel you can do that in the church. One of the things the church should be is a place where people can go to have a closer relationship with God and worship Him. Many would agree that the church should be that place for young and old. Very few would agree to change the church to be able to do just that.

So how do you include both the young and the old and not change the church? What if we didn't want to change the way your church is done, we just wanted church to include our needs too? How would you do that?


Clif Guy said...

Wow. Brian isn't shy to challenge his boss in public. Go Brian! ;-)

It seems I haven't been especially articulate about this. I wasn't trying to make excuses for failing churches. Nor was I trying to say that when you're in your 40s like me, you'll see the world like us moderns. Nor was I trying to say that the Church shouldn’t care passionately about you post-moderns and particularly about people in their 20s who have the lowest average church attendance of any age group. (You know I care about his group – it’s continually on my mind and I’ve blogged about it many times.)

Rather, I was trying to say that you're at a stage of life where your dissatisfaction with the way things are is becoming more pressing. You’re feeling the urge to take action rather than merely complain. So you have essentially four options: 1) go find a church that is already spiritually nourshing to people like you; 2) try to change your current church now; 3) wait until you’re in your 40s when you and your peers will be running your current church so getting it to change will be much easier; 4) go out and start a new church.

Personally, I’ve done options 2, 3, and 4, so I thought I might have something to contribute to your thinking. Option 2 was painful, difficult, time-consuming, and ultimately unsuccessful in getting the church to change. Option 3 was also difficult and time-consuming, but ultimately successful. Option 4 … well option 4 is exhausting and the outcome is still in doubt. Have I cheered you up yet?

But back to your main point … for those of us in church leadership as lay people or on staff, what should we do to reach young post-moderns and help them grow closer to Christ? Since I haven’t heard your ideas yet, I’m not sure what we’ll be able to do. But we’re listening.

Brian Slezak said...


Let me clarify too that my position is not based solely on our conversation, but on conversations with people in my church, including my senior pastor. I'm passionate about this, no doubt. :) What I've found is a lot of the same feedback from everyone, which was not on the same wavelength I was coming from - disappointing.

The place I am right now is wondering about this word *change*. I'm not so sure you can make a blended worship service that targets both modern and post-modern people. For one, that is *changing* the service, bad, and two I think it would end up pleasing half of the people half of the time, rather than pleasing everyone, not good.

So if we don't change the service that fits for moderns, does that mean you have to create something separate for post-moderns? Creating a new worship service is as radical as changing an existing one. :( So what's a rational answer?

As for what my ideas are, I have suggested a little here already, but not in depth. What I've found is that starting there is not a good use of my time unless there is a commitment from the other party to *move* on - anything. I think that is the direction this conversation usually goes when post-moderns bring it up, and that's what frustrates them.

Post-modern: "It doesn't work for me."
Modern: "Ok, what ideas do you have to make it work for you?"

Before I can attempt to answer that question any more, I need to know what length is the other party willing to go to find the answer to that question, because we have to get past a lot of bureaucracy before any of my suggestions are worth a tenth of a cent. We can talk all day about what would work for me, but if they are unwilling, or church governance makes it incapable of doing anything with those suggestions, what are we talking about? That answer is effectively, "We can't meet your needs." The problem is, no one is telling me that. I'm still involved in the song and dance. :)

BTW Clif, thanks so much for engaging me in these conversations, regardless of how much we challenge each other. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hey Brian, good post, great questions. As you and I have discussed, I understand your frustrations that you and your wife feel and I have explored similar issues recently. It's exciting that you are seeking answers in what's right for you in church.

It's hard to change a church, hard to change the worship style. There are many churches out there that are solid, Bible teaching churches that have a worship style (music) that is different than what I would prefer, you as well.

I know from talking with you that we have similar desires for a style of worship. We are also at similar places in church, feeling discontent, like we are not able to worship like we would like. (I hope I'm not putting words in your mouth, I probably over simplified things)

Change is hard and it's easy to maintain status quo. People are not going to understand if you decide to step out, to look for something new, some will, some will not. It's an individual decision that you need to make.

Honestly, over the past 3 months or so, I have visited several churches and it is refreshing, in a way. Every church is different, but you can find God in all of them.

Seek God and understand this restlessness, He will make it clear, although it may not be easy. I would be more inclined to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and see what else is out there. You may discover that you need to stay where you are, but then again, you may find that God needs your gifts, skills, abilities and heart in a new place and you will ultimately be fed in a deeper way.

Oh yeah, to address your comment on blended worship, that's difficult. It's hard for a church to transition from traditional to contemporary (modern to post modern or fill in any labels there) and it's hard to find a balance between the 2.

Regardless of what you do, you will grow through the process. I know I have.

Good stuff, man!

Anonymous said...

Hrm...I kind of feel like I've stepped into a private conversation, but hey, it's the internet, so I feel like it is okay to intrude.

My intrusion is nothing more than asking you guys to continue this conversation here! This is a struggle that many churches (my own included) struggle with. I fall into the post-modern category with Brian, but I love to hear dialogue about this. Please...gents...continue!

Oh, and my two cents: my church (I am on staff) is choosing option #2. Although everybody has agreed to try (from the senior pastor down), it is a road with many challenges. We all pray that the love of Christ will prevail above personal agendas...but still it is difficult.