I’d like you to meet Reverend Barry Winders. He is a United Methodist pastor in Jackson, Missouri. Barry is the author of Finding the Missional Path (2007). This autumn, he sent me an email after reading my book, posing some very deep questions about the nature of faith in the RenGen. Thus, began an unusual collegial relationship that exists solely online. A few months ago, Rev. Winders published an article that addresses, as he describes it: “The spiritual questing of RenGenners who, even though they are disinterested in traditional church are nevertheless receptive to those congregations who are willing to re-invent and re-imagine.”
I include the complete article here:
“Does your faith engage your heart? I hope so. People need to see us live out our faith with a passionate kingdom vision. A blogger friend named James gave me a great quote by Howard Snyder, author of Liberating the Church (1983).“Church people think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; Kingdom people work to see the church change the world.”
During my own upbringing in rural western Kentucky, my protestant beliefs largely shaped my values and viewpoints of a linear world. In my youth, I adopted a core set of beliefs: the worth of every person, the importance of a good education, and equal opportunities for all. Dotting the cultural landscape was a stable infrastructure of churches, schools, and social agencies that helped people live better lives.
Since those “Leave it to Beaver” days, times have changed drastically. People seem to need something else. Patricia Martin, author of RenGen (2007) says, “The faith many of us were raised in lacks meaning.” Martin contends that shortly before a new renaissance of thinking and believing emerges a culture that looks like ours. During the decline of established religions, she believes new spiritual practices will crop up. Amid the “Me Generation”, the MySpace, iPods, and internet sites that instantly recognize your login and preferences, much of today’s interest among the younger generation is on spirituality.
To be painfully, gut-wrenchingly honest, my faith has not prepared me very well for this post-Christian era. My faith in God’s ability has remained strong. Like many other boomer-age Christians, I want to prove the existence of God in a culture that does not need the proof. We have fallen prey to our own appetite. Unfortunately, those of us who grew up in church have become infamous and irrelevant for asking the wrong questions.
If our western culture is on the verge of a rebirth or renaissance as some suggest, then we must open up and lean forward anticipating something new. This younger generation of adults has an insatiable appetite for the experience of the Holy. They do not want to have their journey mapped out for them by those of us who already have laid claim on our faith. Instead, they crave the unexplainable yet recognizable–prophetic lessons one can receive for their lives. They are mystics who welcome others to join their spiritual conversations as they “till” their faith.
Now, I have a new set of questions.
In the face of this incredible hunger for spirituality, will the church continue to be ambivalent toward younger adults?
Will the church continue to overload this generation with the same “details and trappings of religion”?
Many believers are committed to some form of spiritual practice, just not in traditional ways. Putting an end to amputated feelings toward organized religion is not the goal. Rather, the goal is the acceptance by the church of individuals who carve out their faith differently.”
Thanks for letting me share this with my readers, Barry.