First, realize that the title of my post today is with my tongue in my cheek, sort of speak. I’m not employing the title to attract readers.
When I’m away for a stretch of time I like to take a moment and catch up on my regular reading circuit of newsletters I subscribe to and bloggers I regularly read. I’ve just finished getting caught up on a few of those, most were deleted or flagged to read later.
Of note, there seemed to be an uptick of posts and columns that were addressing the most effective ways of reaching youth and/or young adults. Not just the random writer or publishing house trying to get readers from desperate pastors or leaders in churches that are facing pressure to increase the bottom line of attendance (which means the bottom line for funds), but there seemed to be several from what I would call are otherwise trustworthy sources and noteworthy authors. I decided to read a few of them to see what’s being said about the attraction of youth and young adults. These articles and columns come from denominations, churches and even secular sources.
There were three things that caught my “attention.”
- The clip art or stock photos for the articles seemed more flashy than normal and an increase in photos of young people with more tattoos, body piercings, and seductive type clothing and facial expressions. I first realize that I’m now looking at everything in life from a 50 year old’s lens (which now includes bifocals). I respect that I can’t require all of the advertising world to appeal to my likes. But I do find it interesting a shift that is or has happened in what is presented as “normal” for what a young person looks like who is serious about a relationship with God. It is a significant shift mind you. To my pastor friends, look at that publishing house flyer again and notice the kind and type of clothing the publishing house is using in their stock photos. Notice the increase of youth and young adults with tattoos, body piercings and most noticeably the style of clothing across the board. Who will hold the publishing house accountable for telling (showing) the church what is normal and acceptable. What is being passed off as a flyer to promote a resource may more be a fashion magazine of trending styles. Does anyone else notice this? or have I really become the old man.
- The selling of products and services. I respect that things cost money and there must be a recovery of product costs and time that people devote to their labor. I don’t fault this on anyone. But the increase of what I would otherwise identify as para-church resources (resources for churches and pastors that are not from churches and pastors). There is a business to be had by that which was designed to assist the church that is largely now instructing the church in what and how to do her work. Agencies and “coaches” to help the church evaluate her effectiveness and determine how to more effectively reach people is no new thing, but the increase in churches and pastors turning to these seems to be trending like a bull market.
- The content of the blog posts, articles, and columns are still ignoring the sufficiency of Scripture. A recent, well respected author, who has the ear of many people across denominational lines and seen by many as a “missional” expert recently wrote about effective ways to reach youth and young adults. Because I like to read what he has to say, I read his article. I was shocked to not find one of the nine suggestions to include anything about Scripture. (before I go further: I get that it may have been an implied starting place so I’m not suggesting we gather on the streets with torches lit on our way to the publishing house, but if we are going to be responsible in our day, we can’t assume that the sufficiency of Scripture is an implied starting place of most ministers.) His nine suggestions used every buzz word you might find at any recruitment office of any business in town looking to attract a new clientele. Words like “community”, “service”, “worship experience”, “technology”, “authenticity”, “transparency”, “team”, etc. Not one word about God, Truth, Scripture, prayer, suffering, considering the cost of following, obeying, self-discipline, sound doctrine, equipping of the saints, biblical evangelism, etc.
There was a great reformation that took place nearly 500 years ago that addressed many things that the modern church would do good to be reminded of. Where many of the things in the resources and articles are true they may not at the same time be truthful. Sure there are ways to effective gather a people together; but is that people a church?
If the church is to effectively reach anyone, not just the young, she must devote herself to God, His words, and His ways.
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,
“When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.” (Amos 8:11)
Note to my preacher friends:
Don’t do what I’ve done in days of desperation because of pressure from men and employ worldly means, that may not be truthful, to attract a people. Rather, if there is any desperation, it is that if there is a famine coming from the current drought for hearing the words of the LORD that we are found successful in honoring God by feeding His people His words.