[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6vvqAxjPBE&feature=youtube_gdata_player] sometimes i feel like a sell out to my generation for being employed by an institutional church. what make it even worse, is that i a huge believer in the institutional church’s central roll in the kingdom of god. you see the proper position for someone form my socio-economic position is to be upset and bitter toward the institutional church. there are never ending articles, books, and songs all written with this underlying angst. and although it comes off as deep and even prophetic, on a deeper level it more and more sounds like the rants of an angry teenager.
part of the developmental process in adolescents is to separate themselves from their parents and develop their own identity. and when teenagers rebel and push back and think they know more than their parents, everyone smiles and remembers when they thought they knew more than their parents and trust that this is part of the normal process of individuation.
in a similar way, adolescents need to push back from the church and stir things up as they develop their own faith and own way of connecting to jesus. in a similar way, the institutional church is the parent and the “emerging” generation are the rebelious teens. the childhood faith that was passed down to them doesn’t seem to fit in the complex world we live in. and the church is actually constricting their development, not empowering it. and many are left feeling like john in the song, “jesus and john,” by lisa gungor. this faith of bible memorization and salvation from hell is a lie and hopefully jesus will have mercy on the church for missing it so hard.
the conclusion of many in the “emerging” generation is that the institutional church is the main obstacle for genuine faith in jesus. and thankfully, it is when wealthy, suburban, white kids go off to college, they come into the light and realize all of the errors of the church. it is from this position of enlightenment that many begin to separate themselves from the rules and authority of the church and settle in to a vague trust in the grace of jesus.
just like there is a need for adolescents to push back from their parents to develop their own identity, it is normal and right for older adolescents to push back form the institutional church and figure out a faith that is their own as well. but what is unique is that the rebellion and questioning is celebrated as depth and maturity. this celebration make it next to impossible to come back to the institutional church.
as someone who works with children and students in the church i recognize that simple bible stories and behavior based faith doesn’t cut it. but there has to be some recognition that every stage in our developmental process means that we can wrestle with different levels of our faith. the faith for little john who memorized scripture is an important step in the faith development of an elementary student. but i have noticed that after 5th grade parents and students are tired and busy and begin to disengage from the church.
if there isn’t intentional spiritual and intellectual development during middle and high school, students get their worlds rocked in college. all of a sudden they find out that their 5th grade faith is no match to the anti-christian and for sure anti-church world view found on a college campus. but the christian faith is not a 5th grade faith. it is this deep and amazing faith that leaves the smartest theologians and philosophers feeling like they are only scratching the surface. their are historians, archeologists, and scientists who continue to discover things that affirm the christian faith instead of discredit it. this is the faith we need to bring to the table, a faith that is deep enough to handle the complexities of the world and some of the darker chapters in church history.
of course the church has its problems and its warts. because we are humans there is going to be brokenness and hyprocricy. but those problems and warts are dramatically inflated. i have had food poising several times from chinese food. but i recognize that it is because i happen to eat at a dirty restaurant. the problem was this specific restaurant not chinese food in general. and it seems like we have all had similar experiences. we have all eaten rotten food, seen bad movies, and bought lousy cars. yet we all still eat chinese food, go to the movies, and drive cars.
the institutional church is amazing. for 2000 years it is the church that has equipped the saints, sent missionaries, wrestled with doctrine and have marked out a pretty amazing path for us today. it is prideful and ignorant to throw out the hard work of faithful saints for generations because of a few isolated examples of broken people behaving in broken ways.
the picture painted by middle class, urban, white christians in their 20‘s and 30‘s is an important picture, but it is just a small perspective on the kingdom of god. let us dive into the church and rub shoulders with christians from all generations and socio-economic levels, from other cultures and ethnicities, and learn from each other so that in this broad community we can paint a bold picture of the kingdom of god.