1/26/17 Alex 20's
On a cold and rainy sidewalk, I think I may have found a clue to church involvement for the next generation. Alex, a 20-something, responded to my questions about his beliefs in the light of day, and our dialogue went well past dark. As we talked, it began to rain three times, but we barely noticed. It wasn’t until afterward on my way home that I realized that I was wet and shivering with cold. But toward the end of our conversation, Alex said something that warmed my soul.
Alex was a military kid, and as his family moved from one location to another, his father brought them to visit different churches and denominations within Christianity. He also made sure they experienced other religions, so Alex felt like he had a pretty good handle on religion and was now adopting his own set of beliefs that most closely resembled Buddhism. With a pretty extensive religious background, what he said that warmed my heart was “Now that’s what church should be like!”
Alex was referring to our conversation, the honest give and take of beliefs without arguments or disrespect. He understood that as a Christian I want to see him come to faith in Christ, but in the meantime that I just wanted to have a conversation, not give a presentation. No scripted liturgy, no rituals, no grand building, no fancy organ, no worship band, no fog machine. We had talked about all these things, but what he was looking for and didn’t find in his church experience was authentic conversation or mission.
Alex is part of a generation that may be the most savvy to marketing gimmicks in history. This means they are quick to detect a fraud, a sales pitch, a bait and switch, hypocrisy. They are looking for authenticity, and sometimes make the mistake of believing it to be a tattoo and a dark past, brokenness as a badge of honor, or commitment to an obscure cause. And churches also make mistakes in trying to be authentic.
But nothing is more authentic than being a people on a mission to serve Someone greater than ourselves. We are made to be on the battlefield, not on the sidelines. And in so doing, the next generation can catch a vision for the authenticity they are looking for. To be authentic means to be fully human, to be fully alive and in the moment, and no one was more authentic than Jesus, who calls us to authentic relationship. How can we begin to be authentic like Jesus? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" Luke 9:23