Sunday, July 09, 2006

Why Your Generation is Made For Church Planting, Part 2

Geoff is back on vacation this week at the beach, presumably catching more sharks (hum the Jaws theme music here), so I thought I would give you part 2 of my article on how God has prepared the Y Generation for church planting. For part 1 of this article, check out the blog archives. Enjoy!

Why Your Generation is Made for Church Planting
(A Letter to the Y (or Y-not) Generation from an Xer)

Your generation embraces technology.
The first church I served in was a traditional, Southern Baptist church where I was their first, full-time youth pastor. It was part of my job to be young, progressive and creative. It was expected of me. What I did not expect was to find that the church was a technological dinosaur. Our financial secretary kept all the records in paper ledgers. Our receptionist typed the church newsletter on a green-screened, text-only computer and used a clip art book to place, resize, and place again all the column headings and cute graphics. It took 3 days to finish the newsletter. Meanwhile, I was churning out the youth newsletter on my Macintosh laptop in an hour.

Many church staffs today still struggle with desktop publishing. There are still pastors who do not “do” email. And there are plenty of deacons who could no more keep members in a database than they could keep them in a coffee mug. The language of technology has permeated the business world, where you have to keep up. But in many local churches, where we should not only keep up but lead the pack, technology itself is a bad word.

This, of course, is incomprehensible for gen-Y. You check your email several times a day, and many of you have never sent a letter “snail-mail” at all. You don’t go to the post office, but to the Internet cafe or the closest Wi-Fi hookup. And you expect an instant response to your questions. Technology is a good tool for church planting. We can communicate and get information faster and cheaper. And that means more time and resources for sharing the gospel with people who need to hear it.

Your generation embraces global thinking.
My wife’s parents live in the same small town where they grew up, no more than several miles from the houses where they grew up. My father-in-law has never been out of the country and has only flown on an airplane once, just a few years ago. For the builder generation, moving away from family was a slap in the face of your heritage. Today, it is common to disperse throughout the country, or even throughout the world. We all know that email, air travel, and the euro make a global lifestyle easy. And your contemporaries in other countries watch the same movies your do, eat at McDonalds, and shop at Home Depot. There are 125 Starbucks stores in China, with more to come. Its one big homogenous world, so learning the culture is not the challenge it once was, which means being a missionary might just mean being yourself.

Your generation embraces relationships over rightness.
Now I am not talking here about righteousness. I’m talking about having to be right all the time. Why does it seem like that aisle down the middle of last-generation churches is so the “yes’s” can sit on one side and the “no’s” on the other? I grew up in a builder-generation church and remember heated business meetings with much yelling and arguing about issues. Our pastor of fifteen years was “voted out” and about a third of the members subsequently left the church. There was great concern about being right and defending your position, even to the death of relationships.

Your generation is different. Most y-gens would rather preserve the relationship than win the point. Because many of you grew up in broken homes and have experienced divorce of your parents firsthand, you realize the value of compromise, of working together on a solution for all parties, and on taking satisfaction not in winning at all cost, but in counting the cost of these conflicts and keeping the relationship intact.

It probably bears mentioning that over half of our “church plants” in the last fifty years have not been true church starts sponsored by another existing local body of believers. A full 50% of “new” churches are not church plants but church splits. This part of our history of church planting is not so much missional as miserable! As church people disagreed with one another, a group would get mad enough to quit and leave, often starting a new church right around the corner. Thus we end up with “First Baptist” and “Second Baptist” or “Truth Missionary Church of God” and Truth Missionary Church of God #2!”

There’s a great old joke about a navy vessel that cruised by an uncharted desert island. The seaman in the bow spotted someone on the beach. When the boat reached the island, they found not only the required hermit, but a whole town full of buildings. “What is all this?” asked the captain of the vessel. “Well, I’ve been here a long time and I got bored, so I started building a town. This here’s my bank, my general store, my hardware store, and my church!”
“What’s that building over there with the steeple?”
“Oh, that’s the church I used to go to before the split!”

Okay, so it’s not that great a joke. But it does teach a sad truth. The world is full of churches we used to go to before we got offended, bored, upset, too old, or too young; before the church changed pastors, music styles, or locations. As Caedmon’s Call sings, most of us come from a “long line of leavers.” And there are some good reasons to leave churches now and then. But the good news is that most people in your generation value their relationships with their friends more than winning an argument, so that means fewer church splits, fewer disagreements, and more unity in the body of Christ. Congratulations again!

Though I do have some concerns about your generation’s way of thinking, namely your general lack of concern about absolute truth, more interest in questions than answers, and a tendency to think rather than act, overall I am much encouraged by what I see. You are not just the church of the future, you are the church of the present. I want you to know that we X-er church planters (at least all the ones I know) are praying for you, and will do anything we can to help you grow into the leaders of today and tomorrow. Keep reading scripture, hold fast to the truth, and pray with all your might. What you do with your lives matters, and we are watching you. More importantly, your peers and those who come behind you are watching you, too. So step up to the plate. You can do this! God has called and equipped you for church planting, and church being. Let us know how we can help.

With zeal for His glory,
Roger Ferrell


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