Young people appreciate useful technology, when it advances what they’re doing, for example, but when churches have their stage look like American Idol or have new edgy themes with some quasi-pop song on stage – sometimes young people’s response has the opposite effect, where they want God to be the God of ancient days, they don’t want him to be this trendy 4.0, 5.0, 6.0 God that has to revamp himself. They think God should be bigger and deeper than that. This all exposes a weakness: most churches haven’t had long-term relationships with people who weren’t in their congregations. They might have taken a hat from a coat drive at Christmas or served Thanksgiving turkey, but they didn’t get to know their names or where they live, and they didn’t pick their kids up for Sunday School.They didn’t invest in them. Building a mentoring culture in churches is part of it, too. It builds into the fabric of how people identify as Christian leaders if we worry less about recruiting 20 small- group leaders to teach Christian home book series, and we work more on getting 20 people to coach Little League in our community or to lead some sort of group in their neighborhood or workplace. In training
people to build long-term relationships with others who don’t attend church, we would be in relationships with those 20-somethings, whether they came on Sunday mornings or not. If every church could groom their people to be people of faith wherever they go, to go beyond training them as great Sunday School or youth leaders, they’d train them to be church wherever they went. My book Portable Faith gives churches ideas for how to get started on this. Even though I’m very pro-church and I attend a church, I am differently committed than I was, when I defined my faith via the church where I was on staff. Now I am part of the global church, a person of faith in the community of followers of Jesus. I don’t see myself as attached only to my local church. I, my church, my workplace, my neighborhood, my family, my writing... it’s all multiple expressions of faith. It’s not just about serving in the church nursery or leading a small group, although I sometimes do those things. All of life’s activities are expressions of following Jesus in this world. In looking at being the church versus attending church , it’s still important to make sure we are preserving the function of the church. Are we studying the scriptures? Is that component
expressed? Sometimes it isn’t. Is there a place for worship, is there someone performing a priestly role in your life, speaking wisdom into your life long term? I am sometimes concerned for Biblical literacy in our generation. Faith in this generation takes us to different places than it may have taken our ancestors. We are exposed to vastly diverse people online and say, “I relate to that.” I saw a clip from a TV show where a man from a different religion lived among his four wives. Even though our belief systems are vastly different, in seeing him sincerely praying with his family, I saw something common between us: we’re both looking toward and calling after the God who made the universe. My beliefs remain distinct from his, but because of that exposure, I divide myself a little bit less from groups of people seemingly unlike me. And again, like many in my generation, I am comfortable with learning from people who I don’t agree with. GenX/Millennial cusper Sarah Cunningham is the au- thor of six books including The Well Balanced World Changer , writing about community relationships and connectedness, and a blogger for The Huffington Post. www.SarahCunningham.org — @sarahcunning
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