Friday, January 29, 2010

Gen Y and the Failures of the Church

"Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’" 1 Corinthians 1.26-31
At work this week, we spent some time thinking about how to reach how to reach Gen Y with the gospel (for the purposes of this post Gen Y is anyone born between 1980-1995). We want to reach this generation in an appropriate way. As I've mentioned elsewhere, there are three main issues that concern this postmodern (in practice if not in thought) generation: authenticity, community, justice.

These are three itches which I think the church can scratch. But before we get there, we need to remind ourselves that 'the Church' has a significant image problem with Gen Y. The image of the church that Gen Y knows is either something resembling Philip Pullman's Magisterium, or the daggy American evangelical straw man who sings kumbaya and has eight children. In the short lifetime of Gen Y, several major denominations have been caught up in significant scandals that became front page news in Australia and overseas. Beginning in the 1980's with the revelation that child abuse had been happening the church, Gen Y has been exposed to stories of Christian leaders marriage infidelities (or in the Roman church, headlines of Catholic priests and bishops fathering children), which was soon followed by stories of financial indiscretions. A new genre emerged that argues that the truth about Jesus and early Christianity had been covered up by the church. And faith increasingly mixed with politics, especially (but not exclusively) in America with the alliance between conservative Christians and the GOP.

In the 25 years of my life, the church has been presented as irrelevant, anti-intellectual, medieval, chauvinistic and homophobic. According to the new atheists, it is dangerous for you. It is increasingly portrayed in newspapers such as the SMH as being run by reactionary, self-interested grey-haired men. This is the image that the average non-Christian first year starting university this year will have in their mind.

How do you evangelize someone who thinks of Christianity like this? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

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