The Barna Group has just published a study that we all need to pay attention to. I first heard about this research from Brian McLaren a year and a half ago and it helped me focus the shaping of Jacob’s Well. This study of 16-29 year olds shows how this generation, more than any preceeding generation is not only uninvolved and uninterested in Christianity, but actually views Christianity and the church as a negative. The subtleties are important, but the overall trend cannot be ignored.
A good question (and I’d like to see some conversation around this) is whether it is even worth trying to convince the “given up” (a Jacob’s Well term) generations that our language, structures and traditions need to be picked up, or is it time to invent new modes of being church and move on? It is a little hard to ignore the comparison to the controversy among the Apostles (Acts 15) over whether Gentiles should have to be circumcised or not… whether nonChristians should have to learn to like organ music (an ironic comparison, sorry), whether new believers with new questions of God should have to confess faith in ancient creeds that were answers to ancient questions…
You can read a great summary of this in the Sept 24 The Barna Report. If you are a church learner, subscribe to this!
Kinnaman’s book UnChristian is the full report of the study. I’ll blog a review when I finish it.
I think that we need to be culturally relevant. The bible is full of things that were culturally bound as we have to be. Jesus operated inside the culture that he was part of. He did not follow the evil in it but lived by many of the cultural norms. I really think the question is how do we integrate the culture of today with the faith that is preached in the Bible? But I suppose that is the heart of the matter you are getting at as well.
Curtis, you are right on. We need to distinguish between the vehicle and the cargo. The core of the message and the application of it. This is not an exact science, but something for us to struggle with for our life times. People of good faith, intellect and intention will continue to often disagree.
I love the name of your blog, Struggles with Faith, I’ll be there later today and check it out. That is half of the idea behind our name, Jacob’s Well. Jacob became “Israel” (Genesis 32) when he wrestled with God all night long. Israel means “he who wrestles with God.” That is who we are called to be.
I’d rather give people a better question to chew on than a convenient answer to swallow. I truly believe our best questions and deepest, scariest doubts build the greatest faith, not our certainties.
Thanks for your thoughts… more?
Yes, church needs to be culturally relevant. I think it’s awesome that so many churches today are realizing that. I love that Jacob’s Well and other churches are using contemporary music, technology, and other aspects of today’s culture to get God’s message through. It certainly made it easier for me to come back to church, and to really connect with God personally.
Still, I’m struggling because I think the church could be so much MORE relevant. Some churches use the Bible to help their congregations out with culturally-relevant problems like work-related stress, divorce, and financial crises. That is wonderful, and very much needed, but what about bigger problems like racism, poverty, and lack of access to education? Many churches focus on these issues at the global level, but problems like these are very present in Minneapolis. I would really like to see the church start talking about these issues and take action on problems that are going on, not only across the world, but also just next door.