March 26, 2006

The New Revolution

I recently read a few chapters out of Barna's new book, Revolution. My initial reaction to reading that most individuals will just leave the church was, "Eh, I'm not so sure I see it that way." Since then, I've learned much more about myself and my church and I've moved more too, "Dude, Barna may be all over this."

I didn't really agree that Revolutionaries would find spiritual fulfillment outside the church institution. While my wife and I left our church, we didn't find any suitable replacement and we stopped going for a short while. We felt something missing, and we went back, so worshiping in a church is important to us right?

My wife, which I've mentioned I consider a poster-child for the post-modern view, gave a response to my question, "Can you be spiritually fulfilled outside the church?" "Um, yeah!," in a tone such as, "Well Yeah, duh!" As though that was a stupid question, and why didn't I realize that? She is not required be in a sanctuary to worship the Lord, or even step inside a church building to feel spiritually fulfilled. Well, Barna 1, Slezak 0. Hmm.

Next I began relating Barna's statements with my recent struggle with being a part of our church. Unfortunately, I found my view of our church was shared by many other young adults. Most of the young adults of our church have left to find other places to worship. I haven't talked to any of those that have left, but I wonder where they're going, or if they're going at all.

As for me, I feel like I've come full circle. The more I give it thought and prayer, the closer I come to giving up on our church and finding a church that reaches those in their early 40s and younger. The average mainline church is too inflexible, too set in its way to go through the trouble of trying to reach us. We have a couple of churches with emergent or ancient / future services which I would like to try out, but we don't have a good selection in this area of the Midwest I'm in. If I can't find one, Barna 2 Slezak 0?

Now I think Barna's got it right. The postmodern world view, along with the current state of the church is a great formula for my age of people leaving the church completely. The church is not fulfilling our needs, and in a world of rapid change and numerous choices, we'll keep looking until we find it. And if we find that outside the church, why do we need church?


Anonymous said...

Man, your thoughts are not getting any easier, but I know it's real.

I have considered what you have said for a few hours now but there is obviously no cut and dried answer. In my heart, I feel that church is necessary and I wish I knew the Bible better to quote scripture, there's the whole iron sharpens iron verse, but your question still stands. Do you need the church for iron to sharpen iron? Maybe not, but I think you do.

God has designed us for fellowship with other believers and that grows us and equips us to reach out to non-believers.

So, with nothing to really base it on, I would say yes, you need the church and I would also say that the church needs you. The trick is to know which church God is leading you to.

We've talked about this, our shared church frustrations/search and I'm sure we will talk again soon. Keep praying and seek God, I'm praying for you all too.

Brian Slezak said...

Thanks Jim. Right now I feel like we will end up in another church, as opposed to without one. (Actually I am already _in_ other churches in ways other than worship.)

What surprises me is that people 25-27 and younger, when asked, will say they don't need a church institution as we know it today, and I can now better understand why.

I think you're right, God did design us for fellowship, and to spread the Good News. The question that Barna answers is, what does that gathering of fellowship look like 20 years from now? He paints an interesting picture, but I have to agree with him given the experience I've had thus far. The formula is very right for the future he proposes.

Thanks a bunch. Keeping you in prayer too. :)

Chuck Russell said...

First I think its important to realize that it is completely, entirely, totally, utterly impossible to be a christian and not be a part of the church. I could write a dissertation on all of the scripture that makes this abundantly clear. However, what we see as the church and what the ancients talk about really are two different things. Without gathered believers you cannot be christian it just doesnt work ive tried. One of my professors used to always say if you get singled out you get picked off by satan every time, and its true.

Second, any time I see someone say that a church "isnt meeting my needs" I instantly recoil. I am a fellow postmodern but one who recognized that the Kingdom of God is fundamentally not about me or my needs. Its about glorifying God, and ushering in his Kingdom. Im afraid that Oprah has taken over the church when it focuses primarily on meeting needs. Instead our clear calling in scripture is to Obey God, Worship God, and Follow God. Truth is I can do that with a group of people in a huge church, or a tinly little country church. As postmoderns we must repent of the sin of self indulgence.

Brian Slezak said...


Right. And what the younger generation says is "I can obey God, worship God, and follow truth, and I don't have to show up to a church building to do that. I can do that in a small group at home, or in a coffee shop, or anywhere else I'm comfortable." I love the saying, "What do you have left when the church building burns down and the pastor leaves town? The church."

Perhaps a better way to say "the church isn't meeting my needs" is when I go to our church I'm not able to worship God from a pew singing hymnals. Little to nothing reaches me, or people my age. The clear distinction is that something developed for people in their upper 40s and higher does not reach people my age.

Is the church required to fufill the 'needs' of what postmoderns want - no way. You're right on, that's not the purpose of the church. Should the church create an environment where any age, 5-90, can worship, obey, and follow - you bet they should. That's where they're failing. Not because they're not meeting needs, but because they don't create a flexible environment where everyone, including young adults, can fufill the call they've been given. The misconception is that "what we have should work for you." You can keep going with that reasoning, and keep wondering why young people are leaving the church building and not coming back.

Along with that I'm sure some churches are quite the opposite as well. Those that create an environment that only suits people in their teens and twenties are not places people in their 40's and higher are comfortable in. Ironically that seems like a no-brainer to people with sons and daughters that age, but when a young adult says "your environment doesn't work for me", they just need to grow up. :)

Clif Guy said...

Woo hoo! A raging public debate within my own team. Brian definitely knows how to generate controversy.

Brian, Chuck is right. The Bible is clear that Christians need each other to stay connected to Jesus. We need church.

And Chuck, Brian is right. Whenever Christians come together to practice the spiritual disciplines (worship, study, service, and so on), what do we call that? I would say by definition that's a Christian community which is just another term for "church".

And Brian, Chuck is right that Christian discipleship isn't about us, it's about God.

And Chuck, Brian is right that not all Christian communities are equal in their ability to spritually nurture a particular believer - different strokes for different folks isn't anti-Biblical.

Yesterday I discussed Barna's Revolution with my mom. I'm going to post separately on that conversation because I think it has a direct bearing on this. I sure wish my dad was still alive so he could weigh in on this too ... but that will need to wait until heaven.

Anonymous said...

Here is my take on this issue:
One of the things that is missing in most churches is lay leadership. Brian you are correct in going to the pastor and trying to get things changed but if the pastor is unwilling to do what you want then do it yourself. The church you are going to needs someone to step up and create a ministry for the 20 to 40 year old group. You may have to do it as a home group or coffee house group first, but when the pastor sees your success he will be glad to institute all your hard work in the church. Then there will be funding for it as it grows because there will be more money put into the church. Also it doesn't have to be you leading it you can get with the other younger folks in your church and be co-leaders or appoint the leaders of the group.

Blosser said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Blosser said...

We left our church four months ago and have started our own journey of searching our convictions and what God has for us.

I'm finding that I fit in the postmodern mindset, but almost by definition, don't want to categorize my faith. Church, the way it's always been (the past few centuries) just isn't cuttin' it, right? That's what we're sort of talking about here. I've come to realize this "new way" of doing church is most commonly titled postmodern, so I've embraced it. My wife on the other hand can't stand having a label for it. She's afraid of making a box for a way of thinking that is outside the box. Much like your wife, she is probably a poster child of this mindset.

There is a definitive hole in our lives where our church used to be. Though it wasn't meeting any of our needs, the feeling of family is undeniably missing. This seems to ring true for a lot of postmoderns I have talked to. So, that leaves us looking for a church, that doesn’t act like church, but connects in a way that feels like family. What does that look like? The title of Donald Miller’s book “Searching for God Knows What” about sums it up for me (though the content wasn’t the greatest).
Thanks for blogging your thoughts and giving a forum for all those who fall in the same place as you.

James said...

Great post! Great comments!

I'm in a season of asking many of the same questions being raised here. Thank you everyone for not going to "default" mode (i.e. the traditional church IS "the church") I'm 38 and have spent most of my life serving in one form of institutional church or another, most recently in my home church for the last 17 years.

In my opinion you're all asking excellent questions. May God lead us all to answers which bring Him pleasure. May we never forget that we're all wanderers on a pilgrimage. God never promised easy answers. If this were the case the journey wouldn't necessitate faith.