If you were born between the years 1965-1984, you’re with me in what has been coined, “Generation X”. Growing up in a Christian home gave me a front row seat to all the many variations on the theme of “what good Christians do/don’t do/believe”. The things our subculture embraced as BIG DEALS have turned out to be tiny deals.
A handful of the very up-front spokesmen (there weren’t many women in church leadership when my generation was growing up) have crashed and burned in very public ways. The impact of these things on my current relationship with Christian culture and the local church cannot be overstated. I don’t think I’m alone in this.
It’s a fight to not let cynicism take over.
For those of us who are recovering legalists, when we hear sweeping generalizations, our initial reaction will often be skepticism. I’m not saying this is right or wrong. It’s simply the way it is when you hear messages like this for a couple of decades:
- Boys should not have hair that is long enough to touch their collar.
- Wearing black is a sign of an inner spiritual problem.
- How spiritual you are has a directly proportional relationship to the number of times you are at the church in a given week.
- Mowing your lawn on a Sunday is breaking the Sabbath.
- Psychology or Psychologists are not to be trusted.
- Mental illness is a spiritual matter.
Now, that we’re adults, we’ve seen the pendulum shift dramatically in the opposite way. Ironically, the current sub-culture of Christianity can easily lend itself to legalism in it’s “anti-legalism” stance. When I hear very specific rules about how to parent, date, or how often a good Christian should be at their place or worship, I cringe.
I’m uncomfortable with running a church like a business.
This is a tricky one. I understand the value of good business practices and learning from successful organizations. I really do understand that. However, I feel a bit uneasy with the idea that we’re doing certain ministries, sending specific letters or scheduling sermons specifically because another church found success doing it that way. There is a bit of an “ick” factor that feels like manipulation to me. This is probably a tension that I’ll just have to learn how to live with.
I’ve seen this done poorly both ways. From the highly-scripted Sunday morning routine to the “let’s just let the spirit move” approach which can sometimes be used to excuse planning. I know there is a happy medium.
(Some of you may read this and feel like you need to defend your local congregation. This is just my personal feeling on the matter. I’m not saying one way or the other is the “right” way to do church.)
I’m learning to live with tension and identify the non-negotiables.
Contrary to what you might see on social media, I believe our generation is learning to live with tension and disagreement in a way that didn’t happen 20 years ago. I’m learning to hang on tight to the things that Scripture is clear on (things you would find included in the Nicene creed) and be okay with disagreeing on the minor things(views on the end times, dating v courtship, the role of women in leadership, how one chooses to parent or school their children. . .).
I’m learning how to admire Christian leaders while recognizing that they are not going to get everything right. My theology needs to come from God’s word and not the word of the the most recent Christian celebrity. This is not a statement against anyone– it’s just a word of reminder from a person who grew up in a generation of believers who built some of their belief system on things that Bill Gothard said. That didn’t turn out so well.
I’m learning that there are no perfect church congregations. I’m learning to value a healthy church over one that agrees with me on everything.
What about you? Have you had a similar experience?