The Raw Church Movement: Modern VS Traditional

We have finally come to the final installment of "The Raw Church Movement" series. In this series I have sought to interact with the results of a recent Barna Group study which asked a group of millennials to describe their ideal church. The results communicated the kinds of values and elements that millennials value and look for in a church. Through the last five posts I have shared brief thoughts on each of the results of this survey. Today I touch on the final one, "Modern VS Traditional".



This final result is a bit surprising. After all, at this point in the survey its clear that millennials are not big fans of the "modern", "hip", or "cool" church. They prefer a classic faith to a trendy one, a sanctuary to an auditorium and a quiet worship space to a loud one. These are all elements of the traditional church. However, in this final section they vote a modern church experience over a traditional one. What gives?

While I can't offer an expert opinion I can speak, once more, as a millennial. In my experience millennials find it very irritating when older generations act as our "spokes people". What I mean by that is older generations saying things like "today's youth want A, or B, or need C" in order to "stay in church". The reason why we find it annoying is because millennials are, by and large, extremely eclectic. Older generations need to stop pretending like they know exactly what we want because they went to some conference or read some book on how to keep youth in church. Millennials are very complex, "mis-matchy", miscellaneous and have a taste for chaotic bricolage. This is why intergenerational/ multicultural worship is so meaningful to us. This is why we could care less about the worship wars. We like to sing them all. This is why dress code is so dumb to us. We welcome whatever dress code you like. This is why were so put off by modern churches who attempt to dictate, like the dogmatic churches of old, exactly what faith in practice should look like, what sermons should sound like, how language should be used, and on and on. Were into the traditional, as is clearly seen in this survey. But we also have a high regard for post-modern values like community, authenticity and narrative which influence our views on church relationships, customs, formalities and aesthetics.

In the final item on the poster, it is modern that comes above traditional. As a millennial I can attest to my personal love for traditional faith values and my disdain for the attempt to make Christianity culturally palatable (which has resulted in so much shallow, cheesy, your-best-life-now religion). But on the same token, I can attest to my personal disdain for traditional faith expressions and my love for the attempt to liberate Christianity from European cultural expectations, dead customs and practices, dogmatic and irrelevant discourses, and the general uselessness of a religion so focused on itself that it is of no good on earth. In that sense, I love the modern church. Clint Jenkin, VP of the Barna Group, summarized this tension best when he wrote:
"It's tempting to oversimplify the relationship between Millennials and sacred space," said Jenkin. 
"For instance, it might be easy to believe such a place needs to look ultra modern or chic to appeal to teens and young adults. But the reality, like so much about this generation, is more complicated—refreshingly so. 
"Most Millennials don't look for a church facility that caters to the whims of pop culture. They want a community that calls them to deeper meaning. 
"There are myriad ways to design sacred and communal spaces that call people of all ages to deeper relationships with God, self and others. 
"No two churches will (or should) incorporate them all in the same way. There is no cookie-cutter, mass-production solution for welcoming Millennials to your space."[1]
I couldn't have said it better myself! So here is my challenge to the millennial generation. We need to stop the "church doesn't get me" stuff. We need to cut the chatter (and boy we millennials love to talk) and get to work. A wise writer once said (this is a paraphrase) that those who critique others for not doing what they should are themselves more responsible for doing that same task for they have been endowed with the ability to see what must be done, an ability that the recipients of their criticism may likely not possess. If we want to see the church change, we must lead it. If we want to see it evolve, we must nurture it. If we want to see it live up to its calling, we must make the calling our own. We must sacrifice, bleed, sweat and suffer to make it happen. If we fail to do this then the day will come when the post-millennial generation will look upon us with the same dismayed and dispirited look we now cast upon our elders and wonder why in the world we failed to accomplish that which we spoke so passionately about. We need to see new churches planted, ministries being born, and lives that exist for more than just the temporal American dream. We need to see a generation that lives and breathes for the kingdom of God, that finances and economizes for the spread of the gospel and that places all - be it career, family or security - second to the task of discipling all nations.

If we are not willing to do this then maybe we should stop talking so much.

But I won't end on that note because it's really harsh. And I didn't set out to write a harsh article. So allow me to end on this note: It's all about Jesus. Our generation can do this and so much more because its not about us. Its about him. Lets focus on him. Lets follow him. And I believe, with every ounce of my being, that we will turn the world upside down.

Jesus to the culture!


Further Reading:

Millennials Should Stop Complaining About the Church and Start a Revolution

Millennials: Let's Stop Complaining and Start Changing the World

What Millennials Want When They Visit Church

5 Things Millennials Wish the Church Would Be


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[1]http://www.christiantoday.com/article/what.kind.of.church.appeals.to.millennials.its.not.as.trendy.and.modern.as.you.think/42706.htm


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