This has been an interesting morning already, as I have met with a 25 year old, myself sharing the heart of a 60 year old, when an 86 year old retired pastor walked up. All of us were life long churchmen, none of us full time pastors, but all having that experience in some degree or another.
All of us had the same question emerge in our conversation: “What will become of, or what will replace the church as we know it, in the lives of the next generation?”
I had just finished reading an article this morning by Greg Straub entitled Raising Your Congregational IQ. The article indicated that “about 80 percent of US adults are unchurched, and 20 million of them are Christians!” The article went on to declare that “twice a month attendance now qualifies statistically as regular. But the most troubling clue is this: younger generations have little or no institutional memory of church to which to come back to. There is no back there, back there! Approximately two-thirds of those born from 1965 to 1983 were not raised in church and/or have very minimal exposure. Of those born 1984 to 2002, two-thirds are second generation unchurched regular attendees and that definition is twice per month.”
What is going on that would cause the Holy Spirit to set off an alarm across multiple generations; and what does it mean that churches would hear that message in all media, meanwhile continue “church as usual” given the enormous data that indicates her ineffectiveness?
Is the Church no longer represented well by its churches? In fact is the “Jesus” being marketed by the churches even the Man of Galilee? This is not unlike the people of Jerusalem worshiping the God of Israel but not recognizing the God-man among them doing the miracles that caused them to rejoice!
Equally, my concern is that the signs and wonders produced by the Christ, then in fact promised through the Church, even evidenced by the early church, and contemporary persecuted churches, are noticeable absent in America apart from often charlatan televangelists.
Is there a connection between suffering and signs, community and communion? Are churches so fragmenting the body of Christ that the individuals (the organs) of the body are now malfunctioning? If so, what is the responsibility of those individuals to speak up, to steward the body, now long since relinquished to career professionals who seem to be more interested in income and success, as they climb the corporate ladders of the church industry.
These are harsh words, yet application of lessons being learned among publically held for-profits, during this age of scare resources and extreme needs, may not be out of place for the churches of our land? Are we in mission drift?