Sunday, January 07, 2007

Boomers; too fussy to please

I had a great conversation with a fellow "boomer" about the shrinking presence of our cadre in the local church. I must confess that I am part of the boomer community (though I hate the name, it unfortunately fits). We are a group that demands attention wherever we go. We speak loudly, insist strongly, and leverage our influence any way we can. We get our kids into the right schools, and argue with zoning boards why we deserve a variance but our neighbor does not. Rule definitely do not apply to us, we are exceptional. When Garrison Keilor describes Lake Wobegonians as ones where "All the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above average." We lightly laugh, but deep down believe it. We were told by our Dr. Spock-reading parents that we could do anything and be anything we wanted...and we did; we wanted everything.
When it comes to life in the church we are good at laying blame and dodging responsibility. And the lense by which we boomers judge churches is if our kids are happy. When the kids aren't happy and don't like church, heads should roll. That's possibly why there is such a short tenure for youth pastors. When the kids aren't happy, ramp up worship with some new gizmo, gadget or gimmick. We worship with the attention span of a video-game. So from youth ministry we turn out attention to worship leaders and demand music that will make you close your eyes and lift your hands, and clap to the rhythm. In fact, worship became equated with music style (traditional, blended, liturgical, contemporary, emergent, and I'm sure some new ones are on the menu by now).
The problem is that it all remains about us and our personal satisfaction level. "I got a lot out of that" signals success and "I didn't get a thing out of that" is the kiss of death! But for boomers, the thought of what I bring to worship does not enter in. We come to God to get, not to give. We are purchasing a spiritual product. We pay good money for professionals to deliver services.
What brings this all up for me is the high contrast I am experiencing now with a younger generation of believers who is hungry for God without the consumerist edge, the harshness of the demanding customer. Rather, these 20-30 year-olds are showing me new ways of humility and pilgrimage, devotion and service. They ask tough questions; about the nature of church organization, paid clergy, denominational divisions and even existence. But what sets them apart is the lack of anger that is just under the surface of so many boomers; mess with them and watch out. These younger believers really think that loving is the most important character in the church. When I engage them in dialogue and debate, and pull out my language of verbal combat, they look at me with some dismay that I'm behaving unlovingly. They are teaching me the phrase that Richard Mouw coined for me "convicted civility". They have convictions, but not at the cost of being unloving.
So, as harsh as it might sound, church is a lot more fun without barking and demanding boomers.


At 2:01 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

could this not be a manifestation of the "American paradox" ?
We've never been better paid, fed, housed,educated, healthier, had more human rights, faster communication, more convenient transportation, etc.
With all this largesse we're in pain- divorce rate doubled, teen suicide tripled, violent crime 4X, people in prison 5X, Illegitimate children 6X, Cohabitation up 7X ...



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