Jesus in the Wasteland

I couldn’t end this series talking about Mark Driscoll.  If that were the only current embodiment of our generations voice in the church, things are a lot more depressing than I thought at first.  But I had to realize that our generation never really had a voice.  At least not one that is still alive.  And there are other voices out there.  They are more marginal, often criticized, but perhaps more representative of who we are.  Or at least of who I am.

If there’s one common strain throughout church leaders from our generation, it’s the fascination with the UNKNOWN GOD, or at least to that particular passage in Acts 17 which had churches calling themselves Mars Hill.  In addition to Mark Driscoll’s church, there was also a seminary in Seattle that shared that name for a while before feeling they had to change it so that they weren’t associated with hate speak.  And then there was this little church in Michigan where Rob Bell started out.

Rob Bell, if you aren’t familiar with him, is the guy who was in the news a lot a few years ago for his book: Love Wins.  He was taken to task by a bunch of mostly Boomer pastors for his refusal to put God in a box.  Apparently he still worships the UNKNOWN GOD.  Shortly after this, he walked away from the megachurch that he founded to do other things: more creative things.

One of the responses to Love Wins was Erasing Hell by Francis Chan, another Gen X megachurch pastor.  Despite this disagreement, Chan had something perhaps more important in common with Bell: the willingness to walk away from the megachurch he made to do something else.  The willingness to not let himself become an idol to his flock.

Joshua Harris, most famous for writing I Kissed Dating Goodbye, recently told his church that he was sexually abused as a child in the wake of his megechurch leaving its denomination after there was a lawsuit against the denomination involving child sex abuse.  That’s a lot to process in one sentence, and I don’t know everything about this story, so you can go here to get more of the details. But that’s one hell of a response to something like that, particularly if you think about what churches often do.

If we think about these Christian leaders and compare them to the ones we saw growing up, there is a significant difference.  Falwell, Bakker, and Swaggart all seemed so focused on creating something glorious that they were oblivious to their own flaws.  Despite all of their differences and what you might think about them, the leaders of the church from our generation stand in stark contrast to this as they continue to humble themselves in the face of fame and prosperity.  Perhaps the starkest contrast is between the tattooed punk pastor Jay Bakker and the Disneyland for Christians that his father was trying to build.

I don’t know if someone is more in tune with the will of Jesus because they are willing to acknowledge they don’t know everything about God, willing to talk about uncomfortable truths instead of glossing over them, or willing to walk away from successful ministries to take risks in middle age.  I’m sure that someone from another generation would look at these sorts of things and find something wrong with them.  But I do know that these are the qualities that I respect in Christian leadership, and they are qualities that seem to be more evident among leaders of my own generation than among leaders of previous generations.  Something about where we’ve come from seems to make us more willing to make hard choices than people from other generations.  And when it comes to hard choices, Jesus pretty much nailed it.

I’m not sure what this means for the future of the church as we begin to have more say in what it looks like, but this article presents a compelling picture. After reading it, I must admit it doesn’t sound quite as bad as it looked at this time last week, or the week before that or the week before that.  Following the boomers, if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s how to be patient.  I think if we keep on waiting, eventually things will get better.

Advent Series:

Week 1: It’s Advent and we’re still waiting on the church to figure us out.

Week 2: Twenty years of Gen X and the Church

Week 3: The Gospel According to Tyler Durden

Week 4: Jesus in the Wasteland


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