Tuesday, September 20, 2011
What is a “Funk and Wagnall’s”?
A couple of my friends (family) have brought up the Orthodox and Roman traditions of following the “church calendar.” This something I truly admire. Unlike many Protestants, it is something of which I am starkly aware. If you have no idea what I am talking about you can research it here. Not just everyone in a local congregation follows it. The whole church, all over the world, follows it. It’s brilliant, really.
However, as much as I like this part, it is a practice that doesn’t go far enough for me and for two reasons. From what I have learned, this is a new generation that is unlike any before it. And they are filled with contradictions. First, they are a fatherless generation, so they are very leery of patriarchal systems. But secondly, in what seems to be a contradiction, they so badly need to be heard. Perhaps it is a direct consequence of such a paternal deficiency that they need to be heard.
Let’s unpack this seeming contradiction. First of all, they are known as a “fatherless” generation. This is arguably the distinguishing characteristic of the kids who are growing up in today’s world. Now stack that on top of the fact that they have more information and input at their fingertips than any previous peoples. Social networks, search engines, and even their favorite bloggers have more impact on their lives and their beliefs than strangers who claim to be “experts” ever will.
They display their lives online—at least the part they want you to see. They count on Wikipedia but have no idea what a Funk & Wagnall’s is, or was. The vast majority of them (90%+) have uploaded data, videos, and/or photos onto the internet. This generation was “born” online. That is why those born since 1990 are referred to as the iY Generation.
Dr. Tim Elmore wrote the book Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future. In his promotional video for the book he says, “When I look at students today and schools (read churches) today, I see a gap. Students today are primarily right brain thinkers; schools (churches) are primarily left brain delivery. Students want to upload their own thoughts; schools (churches) insist on downloading information. And this chasm has led to a disconnect between adults and this emerging generation of kids.”
With so much peer influence, available data, plus paternal rejection, why would they seek out a pastor, a priest, or even a heavenly Father for exclusive input on matters of faith?
If you really want to do some research on this you could read this or this. If you don’t want to understand Generation iY, then you have the answer as to why we are having problems reaching them—indifference and a lack of understanding by the older generations. If you want to go even deeper you should read Elmore’s book.
But secondly, besides being dubious of single source authority, this generation, like no other before it, needs to be heard. Elsewhere on this blog, I have quoted author and former director of Alpha USA Todd Hunter. He says, “It used to be that people primarily listened their way into Christian faith. That made the Christian role talking: defending the faith, explaining the faith, doing apologetics, preaching, writing tracts, etc. While that reality is not entirely gone, these days outsiders are increasingly talking and observing their way into faith. They need to tell their story and see if Christianity is real. This major shift is difficult, because right when seekers are looking instead of listening, the church is at a high mark of un-Christian living. Transformation into Christlikeness has always been the goal of Christianity. Now it is utterly strategic—the future of the faith in the USA, humanly speaking, depends upon it.”
This makes our job listening and living it—two things we don’t do very well. What can the church do? Well, can we rethink our delivery? If not, we may need to prepare ourselves to lose an entire generation. How about simply changing our approach from, “Here’s the truth and you had better believe it and act this way!” to, “Here’s what Jesus said! Here’s my experience. Now, how do you think we’re supposed to live that out?” And then we shut up and listen to them. Not just one Sunday or one Wednesday, but every time we come together. Then that “format” becomes our liturgy.
That’s what happens every time we meet at Agora. Maybe you have a better suggestion. I’m wide open. Our community has evolved and hopefully is still evolving. I say all the time that we don’t think we have it nailed. In fact, I think the idea that we think we need to have “it” nailed is a major deficiency in the universal church today. (“It” meaning message and method.)
Here’s the thing. Could we possibly have enough trust in God and faith in our kids that they could hear from the Holy Spirit for themselves, beginning at a fairly young age? And that between them and us, we could work things out? That sounds like community to me. In our experience, it feels like a community too—wrestling with the questions, the words, the works, the faith, the doubts, the struggles, and the successes.
Finally, we must find a way to allow the kids to play a major role in the conversation. Not just around the Sunday lunch table, but where it matters most—around the Lord’s Table.