In my consulting I have encountered many churches that were started during the mid-60’s to mid-70’s. Back then the unwritten mission statement of many churches seemed to be “Preachin’, Prayin’, Singin’ and Eatin'”. Those four key words (sarcasm intended) were in perfect alignment with, what could be termed “Americanized Christianity”. During that time in our country’s history Christianity was a vital part of the social construct. As a result these churches flourished, but now many of them are in severe decline. Many people, especially those of my generation, think that just doing what produced results in the past will work now. Let me explain why they won’t work and why the people in your community still need your church.
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First, let’s think about the general philosophy that was prevalent in the 60’s and 70’s in our country. Then I’ll do a comparison to our present day. I hope to encourage you to continue to keep the doors of your church open and connect with your community through the gospel.
Checking Off Boxes
In order to be considered an “upstanding American” sort of a person in those “boomer” years you had to checked off some boxes.
- Box 1 – Get a job
- Box 2 – Get married
- Box 3 – Have children
- Box 4 – Go to college
- Box 5 – Join a church and/or be moral
So, the church could often become merely one of the boxes to be checked off to ensure that your reputation and career path was on the right trajectory. Of course many churches capitalized on this by embracing a philosophy that didn’t include being regenerated by the new birth. So, that worked well for everyone. People checked box 5 and churches grew in number.
The Paradigm Shift
But, that paradigm no longer accurately reflects the post-modern thinking of most Millennials, Gen X and Gen Y. They are looking for purpose, fulfillment and success – usually in that order. While they refuse to be “Another Brick In The Wall” (Pink Floyd), many fell into the trap of conforming to non-conformity. Which is essentially being a conformist. They don’t really care so much about American nationalism while living in a global community. And, relativistic morality and situational ethics produced some “soft boundaries” for them. And, while they might be condemned by many, the fact is they saw the lackluster results of the “Boomer” generation in some areas. After all, most of them grew up in the home of a “boomer”. So, they viewed many of the “boomer” generations “check boxes” as as a “bait-and-switch” sham, that didn’t produce the things that really matter to them. In a nutshell – many have no desire to go through life without experiencing joy or fulfillment or at least something that resembles it. As a result, the tendency resulted in an open-mindedness and they embraced a collective community type of social construct. This was unlike many of their “boomer” counterparts. While this may sound idealistic in may respects, its ultimate downfall is the rejection of authority, moral responsibility and absolute truth – like those we find in Scripture.
They Don’t Want Your Check Boxes
The fact is, their value system is different than the previous generation.
As a result:
- Box 1 – Erased by an unstable economy and government handouts
- Box 2 & 3 – Marriage redefined and children viewed as an impractical, uneconomical inconvenience.
- Box 4 – Devalued by an oversaturation of college grads in the workforce
- Box 5 – Deemed unnecessary by relativism, globalism and skepticism.
So basically most Americans don’t need the church for any of the above reasons. They are outdated.
Why They Still Need Your Church
So why do they still need your church? . . . Because everyone needs some type of moorings. They need a place of truth. Neither relativism and skepticism include anchors. These philosophies don’t even believe there are absolutes and skepticism paints itself into a proverbial corner where no one can be trusted. So therefore, many are confused, disappointed and afraid. It’s my opinion that is why many wait so long to launch out in life (30’s and 40’s). They don’t trust the old way of their “boomer” predecessors and for many the new path to fulfillment and success is yet to be proven. Thus, while they proudly clutch their college diploma – they lack hope it will produce any real fulfillment.
Thankfully, some will eventually seek real answers. God often uses these deep questions and sometimes adverse circumstances to prompt people and bring them to Christ. That’s why we must be ready with real answers, not pious platitudes. We must offer them hope through the Gospel. We must give them an opportunity for growth and maturity. We must provide a community of spiritually-minded people that can encourage them to find a greater purpose than checking off boxes. That’s why a church needs a solid biblical mission statement that includes reaching the community and work toward bringing their church ministries in alignment with that mission.
And that is why they still need your church.