HAVEN'T YOU EVER WONDERED WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ALL THE YOUNG ADULTS IN YOUR CHURCH? WHERE HAVE THEY GONE? OR MAYBE THERE JUST AREN'T AS MANY? So how do we connect or reconnect with the post-high school and twenty-thirty-something? How do we reach out to them? YOUTH MINISTRY 2008 will explore the question of young adult ministry. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, CTCR, will explore the nuances of the so called "emerging church" and what they mean for Lutherans. Dan Kimball, author of The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for Emerging Generations, will talk about this movement from the perspective of a practitioner. And Dr. Craig Oldenburg, adjunct faculty at Concordia University Nebraska, will facilitate conversations as to what it all means in reaching new generations for Christ. …You can read a review of Dan Kimball's new book, They Like Jesus But Not the Church by clicking here
Ok, I’ve had this sitting in my inbox for almost a month while trying to decide what exactly to do with it. I’m really at a loss as to how to respond without sounding like I’ve finally blown that last remaining gasket and gone moonbat crazy. That being said, I’ll give it a shot anyways.
First, let’s take a quick look at the review referenced at the end of the emailed paragraph by Rev. Terry Dittmer; as the Director of LCMS Youth Ministry Rev. Dittmer writes:The new book from Dan Kimball, They Like Jesus But Not the Church, presents many helpful and challenging ideas related to reaching today’s young adult. Is it Lutheran? No. Is it theological? Not necessarily. Is it helpful? I believe it is.
Kimball begins by saying that church workers need to get out of our offices and into the coffee houses, brew houses and other places where young adults gather. For example, Kimball takes his laptop to Starbucks to write his sermons; as the opportunity arises, he engages in conversation with people who he encounters there – mostly young adults.
Where do I even start with that? Does being “helpful”, in spite of the fact that what Dan Kimball
confesses is vastly different than what the church catholic and Lutherans specifically, validate and automatically give Kimball a opportunity to address those who would lead our youth? If the answer is yes, then why not invite Tom Cruise to speak on the topic of getting youth to read Scripture just because Scientology has reading programs? Xenu likes it when kids read so therefore it must be helpful and by default Xenu needs to speak, through his called and operating theatons, to our youth workers.
If inviting the vicar of Xenu sounds a little crazy, why in the world do we want to invite somebody who doesn’t like church and wants to start a whole new way to experience God?
Now, surely Rev. Dittmer doesn’t think that the new mission field we need to focus on is outside of the Divine Service does he? No of course not, that’s Kimball who that doesn’t like church. But wait, this is the same Rev. Dittmer who thought it was a good idea to send out in Youth Ministry E-Bulletin Special edition #3 the following:MINISTRY SHAPES FAITH MORE THAN WORSHIP . . . If you want to influence a teenager's faith, have them serve meals to the homeless or do other hands-on service projects. "Involvement in community service is far more significant to the faith development of teens than involvement in worship," says Michael Sherr, one of the Baylor University researchers who conducted the study (Associated Baptist Press, February 8, 2007).
Wow, that sort of makes the puzzle a little bit clearer. I can certainly see why Rev. Dittmer might think Dan Kimball’s book might have something to say. With the inclusion of the study in the E-Bulletin and his review of the Kimball book I think we can honestly raise the question as to whether or not Rev. Dittmer “likes” the church or not. How the hell are we to put any good construction on the promotion of the promotion of experiential faith achieved outside of Church?
I don’t care if Dan Kimball likes the church or not, that point is irrelevant. What is relevant is that we are giving equal time to somebody who has rejected what Scripture and our Confessions have always stated Church is and where the Church can be found. Just because somebody thinks they discovered a new new way of doing things doesn’t mean they need to speak to a conference of youth workers. That would be like inviting somebody that thinks God is merely a Giant Spaghetti Monster
to the conference. Would such a person be Lutheran? No! Is such a view theological? I’m gonna say no to that one as well. Is it helpful? No! Unless of course, you don’t like church and wish to start worshiping a new god at the local Olive Garden on Sunday morning.
But I’m getting off topic and probably need to veer back into this emergent church garbage.
The main reason for my hesitation is that the theologies of these emergent “church” folks are all over the map. The one thing that does seem to unite emergents is their rejection of all things modern and a desire to retreat to a more experiential communion with God outside of Word and Sacrament. What they seem to long for is a reimagined church that redefines Scriptures as relevant narratives with some eastern mysticism thrown in for effect. Meditation and fellowship with the community are the emergent’s pendulum swinging back to hit Protestantism squarely in the head as a response to the pathetic mega-church growth movement that so spiritually starved Americanized Christianity. Seeking to feed themselves, but not looking to Christ to feed them where He said He would, they are doomed to starve as well precisely because they are looking inwardly to themselves as a community.
I certainly understand emergents rejecting most of what passes itself off as Christian these days. The whole “meeting them (the unchurched) where they are at” and “don’t talk to them about church stuff, we don’t want to scare them away” approach to evangelism makes us sound no different than the local glee club down the street. But meeting in a Starbucks or remodeled warehouses with U2 blaring over the speakers as hymnody to talk about how the Jesus narrative fits in with your narrative is just as wrong.
Recently Bill Hybol’s, (from Willow Creek, the Mecca of all things church growth) admitted that all the slick marketing and vapid, fluffy preaching, that looked more like Oprah than it did anything church, didn’t keep people in the pews for more than a couple of years.
As it turns out, Willow creek had conducted exit interviews and had known for years that people were leaving because they were spiritually starved. One would think that with that admission that we wouldn’t be jumping on yet another bandwagon. But sadly that seems not be the case. Apparently we are ready to climb into bed with another fad that rejects that we meet Jesus where He says he will meet us, in Word and in Sacrament! Trading fancy plasma TV’s for grunge meditation sessions ain’t going to work either.
When I first read the email my blood pressure spiked because of what I have to listen to in the mission meetings that I attend. All the pieces of a puzzle that I wasn’t looking for fell into place. I remembered all the talk of meeting in coffee shops and finding ways to congregate without walls. What I remember most was the utter lack of any mention of Christ and how he feeds his sheep.
I would propose that the young people that we are getting so upset over losing are leaving our churches for the exact same reason that the people leave Willow Creek, they’re hungry for spiritual food that we withhold from them. In an effort to not offend anyone, we are causing the same starvation that we now complain and gripe about. And leave it to our beloved synod seek a remedy for by looking to the emergent church types. Sorry, but trading khakis for ripped jeans, happy clappy for grunge, and feel good theology for eastern mysticism isn’t going to feed them the spiritual food they crave either. They long to hear the voice of their Shepard and what do we do? We give ‘em another fad. Oh joy.
At one time I would have thought that the emergent church was not even a blip on the radar screen. I now think otherwise. And unfortunately and sadly, our beloved synod agrees.
Labels: Emergent Church