generations

Crossing the Great Generational Divide

By Rev. Mindi

Sometimes we lament the fact that our children grow up and then don’t go to church. Or sometimes we lament the fact that they do go to church, but not to our church anymore. I’ve written before about how we can sometimes treat young adults as if they are still children, but I see this happen more and more in the churches I serve: we remember people as we once knew them, not who they are now. We still remember when they were kids, and sometimes we still treat them like they are children.

More importantly, however, we do not see how we have grown and changed. And aged. In this time, when 50 is the new 40, 40 is the new 30, etc., we have forgotten that 40 year olds are not young adults, but we treat them that way. And sometimes those of us pushing upper 30’s and early 40’s forget that we are technically middle-aged, not young adults. And I’ve heard retirees feel that they are still much younger than they are. Heck, I know people in their sixties and seventies dying their hair weird colors and getting tattoos just like twenty-year-olds are doing.


What does this matter? Aren’t these all just labels anyway?

In the structure of the church, this can matter greatly. It probably shouldn’t, but it does. Teens and younger adults who were part of the church and are now in their 40’s and 50’s are still treated like children. They are still treated as if they cannot make a commitment or be dependable in the life of the church, and sometimes are not offered leadership positions or their offers to volunteer are not taken seriously.

There’s been so much written about churches and generation gaps and Millenials, Millenials, Millenials—while the next generation is getting ready to graduate high school and we aren’t ready for them—that I think we have completely missed the boat on this conversation.

We need to change the conversation from being about one generation, or about how one generation relates to another, but rather how we see ourselves. Are we truly the Church, the Body of Christ? If so, we are one of the last multi-generational organizations in existence. We are one of the last places where inter-generational community can take place.

But it doesn’t. Instead, we tend to stick with those in our stage of life as we have been seen in the church. I believe that these “stages of life” as I am calling them here come into play more often than actual generations.  These are some generalizations coming up, but see if your church doesn’t generalize based on these “stages” either: children and youth (those under the age of 25) young adults (i.e. those who are single and under 50), young couples (those couples without children that are under 50), young families (single and coupled parents with children whose children are under the age of 25 and the parents are under the age of 60), grandparents and those close to retiring (ages 50-70—can be single, coupled, can be parents or grandparents), recent retirees (70-80) and Seniors (80+).  There is some wiggle room in this, but I feel it has less to do with generations as defined in society and more to do with stages of life. And as more and more people live longer, the age range for these younger “stages” has widened. Look at that: all of the stages under 50 are mainly considered "young."

You might think this, just like generation definitions, is just a bunch of baloney. But as more and more people wait for marriage and children, as more and more people choose second careers and go back to school in their 40’s (or 50’s and 60’s), these age ranges are becoming greater. What seems to have happened is that Gen X, Millenials and the upcoming generation have been lumped into one: the “young adult generation” or “young adult stage.”

What does this mean for leadership in the church?  It means that even though you have aged, you might still see yourself in the same stage, or close enough to it. It means that your definition of young might have changed, because you are no longer in your thirties but your fifties. It means that a search committee looking for a “young” pastor 40 years ago was looking for someone in their 20’s, maybe their 30’s. Today, a “young pastor” could be anyone under 50!  It means that sometimes pastors are turned down who are under 50 because they are seen as not having enough experience.  It means that in regional and national denominational committees and boards, one persons’ definition of young may be very different than another person’s definition of young.

My spouse, who will be turning 43 soon, is still called a “young pastor” and a “young adult.”  I am very close to 40. I am still often am asked if I am serving in my first church (I’m at my third call). I'm in a very different place than I was at 24 and out of seminary, but I'm often not seen that way. And my colleagues coming out of seminary are in need of church positions to move into and that can't happen if those of us in our 40's and 50's are still considered young and still being hired for those positions that young clergy need in order to begin following their calls to ministry.

While in larger congregations some of the age ranges in these stages may be smaller (I know some churches that would not call adults in their 40’s young adults, nor would they call families with teenagers young families, but I have seen and experienced this in many churches both as a pastor, as a visitor, and as a consultant), these stages do set our points of view in a certain way. For folks who are in the “grandparent and close to retiring” stage, the “young families” and “young adults” and “young couples” really could be pushing 50 and they would still think of them that way, as “young.”

So what does this all mean? I’ve just created yet another system of categorization and labels that are not helpful, right?

Maybe. Maybe though we can use this to help deconstruct the myths around age and what is “young” and “old” in the church. Maybe we can stop referring to people in their 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s as “young adults” and think of them as adults in the life of the church, capable and gifted for leadership. And yes, maybe some of us on the “younger” side could stop looking at those over 60 as too old and too traditional and too set in their ways, and we can stop making side comments when they dye their hair or get tattoos. We need to find ways of crossing generations and life stages to be the Church, the body of Christ.

The lectionary Gospel text this Sunday is Mark 3:20-35. I wonder if maybe Jesus, who was in his 30’s, was still just seen as a “young adult” or even “Joe and Mary’s kid.” When Mary and his brothers came and called to him, maybe Jesus was tired of still being seen as a young adult or child. Jesus says, after looking around at those who have sat with him, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Maybe we truly need to start seeing each other as our mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers, kindred in Christ. If we could see the person who seems too young to be moving into that leadership position as my sibling—if we could see each other as equals in relation to each other—we could give up our need for control and power, our need to put down others as not having what it takes just yet. If we could see each other as part of the body of Christ, as equals—we could let go of these generation gaps and be truly intergenerational, interconnected, integral to the body of Christ.

Inside Out

By Rev. Mindi

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

There stood a church by a major road that said they wanted to grow. They had a beautiful old building and everyone in the community knew exactly where the church was, but few knew there was a congregation that still met there. They tried making better signs, but still, people zoomed by in their cars. Sometimes, people would stop and visit, and now and then some would stay and join the church. This congregation was not too small, but not very big. They held a Bible study and a youth group and four Sunday school classes. Still, they said they wanted to grow.

And yet… the church did not grow very much. Some were puzzled by this. Others were concerned, worried about finances. Most didn’t know what to do, except to say that they needed to advertise more. The church often said they wanted to grow, and immediately afterwards would add, “But we don’t want to be a megachurch.”

The church had traditions it practiced for years—a yearly retreat, a Christmas party—but the folks who had been there a long time never talked about what they were. The folks who had been there for a long time lamented that the new folks never came on the retreat. The newer folks said they were never invited, and they didn’t know where it was or what happened on the retreat. The Christmas party was held year after year, and everyone knew what they were supposed to bring except the new folks, who felt out of place if they came at all.

But the kicker was the time the church leadership purchased new mugs with the church logo, but gave them only to members and told the pastor and the greeters not to give them to any new people that day, because they were a gift for the church.

The church claimed to want to grow, but what it really wanted was to stay the same and not die. It wanted to keep the people they already had, and while they were friendly they were slow to welcome newer people into leadership, and sometimes those newer people faded away after a few years.

Sound familiar?

Maybe that church isn’t so far, far away after all, but way too close to home. We have become an internal institution with insider speak, hell-bent (for lack of a better term) on sticking to what we know because we don’t know what else to do. We don’t want to die, but we don’t want to do what it takes to change, because it means we have to change, and it means that the whole understanding of church we grew up with has to be turned inside out.

The first place to start is to stop. Stop using insider language. Start from within and work on moving outward. Start making sure that traditions are explained and not assumed. Start by assuming that not everyone always knows what everyone is talking about. The worst place insider language is used is in the talk of church membership. We assume everyone knows what membership means and why it is important. Even in my current church setting, though I have invited people to become a member almost every Sunday, it was only recently that someone who has been part of the church for a long time asked me about what it means to be a member and wanted to know if they could join. Even our membership language is insider language that needs to be turned inside out.

Next, look at those traditions and see if they are only practiced by a few (usually the folks who have been there a long time) and if it is time to start something new. Then look to moving outward. Moving ministries from inside the building, inside the time constraints, inside the leadership that has always done things one way at one time in one place and move back into the community.

We have to turn the church inside out in order for the church to be what it was intended to be: the body of Christ, the community of faith.


“But what about the people who have been here for so long? What about the people who have been part of this church their whole lives?”

When I’m asked that question, I often ask the person who is questioning me if they have talked to the senior generations in the church. In all of the ministries I have served, the oldest generation in the church has never been afraid of change—because everything already has changed.

We need to speak the truth. We need to stop talking about growing if we really just want things to stay the same. If we are the ones afraid of changing, then we must turn that fear inside out into hope. And if there is just one thing to change, one thing to start that you can do, its stopping our insider language.

Sacred Work

By Rev. Mindi

When I was preparing for ministry in seminary, I imagined engaging the sacred when I raised my hands in prayer during Sunday worship, or lifted up the bread and cup. I remember practicing baptisms in my Baptist polity & theology class, and while we laughed and splashed each other in the baptistery of the First Baptist Church, I remember the first time I held someone in the water, and baptized them in the name of God the Creator, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

In the years to come, I found those sacred moments were found much more often in sharing a cup of tea with someone in their nineties, sharing prayers of blessing and thankfulness for a life lived over one hundred years, and holding the hand of a woman who had been in worship on Sunday morning and had suddenly passed away by the next morning. Sacred moments were not the ones I had practiced and prepared for, but rather the unexpected.

And after even more years I have recognized the sacred in late-night laughter at youth lock-ins and campfire singing; in the curious questions of children in worship; in the tear-filled prayer requests during Joys and Concerns.

Today, however, the sacred was found in holding a pencil and trying to multiply decimals with a fourth grader.

We began an after-school program today at my church, one that we have been preparing for now for months, but it took this long to get students to come—and they came. And they had fun and want to come back. I had to erase and start again a few times—as the new math curriculum breaks things down into steps—but in those moments of brushing away the remains of the eraser, I had that feeling that this was a sacred moment. A moment in which an adult was listening to a child and learning as the child taught the adult how to do new math.

However, it wasn’t just me. As I looked around the room, longtime members of the church and new volunteers from the community were taking turns reading with these students, helping with homework and playing games, getting to know each other. We always assume mentoring is to help the younger generation, but I’m convinced that the adults were the ones who may have had a spiritual awakening today.

We prepare for sacred work in ministry; but those sacred moments most often happen unexpectedly, and in my experience, between generations. Someone once said the church is the last institution in which we naturally gather together across generations. Maybe instead of trying to figure out why certain generations don’t want to come to church or don’t want to associate with others, as the plethora of articles in church life over the last five years seem to suggest—we ought to be celebrating our inter-generational nature and finding ways of connecting and finding sacred moments there.

The Wrong Question

By Rev. Mindi

A post on CNN’s Belief Blog by Rachel Held Evans on “Why Millennials are Leaving the Church” has gone, as they say, viral. There are several posts out there responding to Evans as well, ranging the gambit from she’s absolutely right to completely disagreeing with her reasons of why they are leaving.

However, I think it’s the wrong question. Maybe it’s the right question from her point of view—growing up in the South, coming from an evangelical background—but for those of us coming from the mainline, it’s the wrong question for us to ask.  Because Millennials, like many Gen Xers before them, haven’t been in the church to begin with.

I’m one of those stuck-in-the-middle generations, on the late end of Gen X, but if you ask my husband who is five years old than me, especially when we reference music tastes of the 80’s and 90’s he sees me as more Millennial than Gen X, whereas people a few years younger than me see me as Gen X and not Millennial. Us late 70’s babies are caught in the gap, but we have experienced what has happened in both generations to some degree.

Most of us in the gap have parents who are Boomers or late-Boomers. Other Gen Xers parents were from the Silent Generation or early Boomers. While we don’t all stick with our generation typecasting, people who grew up in the Silent Generation and Early Boomers still went to church on a regular basis and raised their kids to do so.  During the Depression and WWII, church was the refuge for the poor and the place to pray during the ultimate crisis of war.  The church had a prominent role in people’s lives because there was nowhere else to go. People who grew up in those years turned around and raised their children in the church. Church was steadfast. When the world didn’t make sense, the church made sense of the world. Church was the center of hope.  The Silent Generation that suffered together during the Depression and sacrificed together during WWII was loyal to the church that had remained.

But the Boomers grew up without that connection to the suffering and sacrifice, without the recognition of the church as a beacon of hope and steadfastness in a time of utter turmoil and hopelessness of the Depression and the War. Church was something they had to do because their parents raised them in it. Church became the place of conformity, of rigidity, of unchanging in a changing world. In fact, many of the reasons shared in Evans’ piece of why Millennial are leaving remind me of what I have heard from those growing up in the 60’s in mainline, mostly white churches in the U.S., perhaps only to a slightly lesser degree. The church of my grandfather that had been a place of hope and encouragement and where people banded together to know they weren’t alone in life’s struggles, was a place of stifling conformity for my mother and her generation.

And what I know of many of my peers, us late-GenXers and into the Millennial, is that our parents decided not to raise us in church (my mother changed her mind when I was nine and brought us back to the church). Our parents decided they didn’t want to force on us what they felt was forced on them. Our parents wanted to give us the freedom to choose, and in doing so, we opted out. But we were never really given the option of staying in because, except for Christmas and Easter and maybe other special occasions, we never went. Or, if our parents had a better relationship with the church when they were growing up, we were given the option upon our baptism or confirmation. So ironically, we would make our statement of faith in the church and then never return.  The option of staying was never really taken serious enough by our parents to begin with.

I think the challenge for many of us in mainline church leadership today is not how to keep Millennials from leaving the church, nor how to get Millennials back into the church, but rather, how do we pass on our faith in ways that don’t repeat the mistakes of the past two generations? How do we pass on a faith that allows for questions and exploration while at the same time gives a grounding for hope and assurance?

Thankfully, and hopefully for our future, we won’t have another Great Depression followed by a World War that would cause our country to be in such upheaval that everyone’s daily lives are affected by it. There probably won’t be another scenario in the U.S. in which so many people felt the pressure of the depression and then the war, including the notion of self-sacrifice, in which people felt like they were connected more deeply together in the well-being and survival of the country. The church was a centerpiece of hope, a stronghold in the community for grieving, a place where one another’s burdens were shared in a real and tangible way.

But somehow, after the War, we shifted away from this. Instead of the church being the place everyone turned to for stability, the church became a place of control and conformity, at least among Euro-American white churches (note the very different role of the black church in the Civil Rights movements during the same period of time, and that assumptions made about who is leaving the church are generally speaking about Euro-American churches).  And it’s no wonder that our parents didn’t want to bring us up in a church that was conforming and boring, or at least wanted to give us a choice about it because they felt they did not have a choice.  The church had lost out being a beacon of hope and steadfastness in a world of change, and instead, to keep that image up, turned to control and conformity within its own structure.

I’m not a church historian. But it seems to me this great shift happened more than a generation ago and is not a Millennial issue.  And if we want to know how to reach out to those who have had little or no grounding in the church and do not seem to see any reason at all to attend church, perhaps we need to rethink church (again, a topic of many viral posts, including posts on this site).

When we look back at Acts 2 and 4, we see a model of a church in which people come together and share what they have with each other.  Worship was not a separate act of their daily lives, but rather a communal act in which prayers were shared, bread was broken, and possessions shared with those who had need. Perhaps we just need to dream it up again, a way of being community that is beyond what we are doing now but not so far out of reach. And, as I’ve shared in my own thoughts on this matter here before, I hope we don’t make the assumption that those outside of the church have no community, let alone a spiritual community. Let’s not go rush out and offer community without observing the community that may already exist.  Instead, perhaps we can come together, insiders and outsiders, church and unchurched, and dream something new together, and find a way to pass down our faith that includes opportunities for change and choice without having to chuck the whole thing. We need to build up that kind of community together that withstands the challenges of the world and offers hope, a sense of belonging, and is steadfast in a world of constant change, without changing steadfastness into conformity.  We need to live out our theology in a way that shows hope, faith, and love, that also does not require conformity, rigidity and condemnation of others. 

No more Either/Or; Now Both-And

By Rev. Mindi 

“The world has changed.”

I hear this all the time in the church: “The world has changed.” And of course it’s true, and of course it’s the same. Nothing new under the sun. World without end. And we don’t like change.

I think one of the most difficult changes for people, however, has been this shift from Either/Or to Both-And. This is within the church and within society in general. And perhaps the shift has come in waves across generations, through Women’s Rights, Civil Rights and in GLBTQ equality; and this wave of Both-And is just finally smacking the shore and changing the Either/Or landscape forever.

Church doesn’t look like it used to. Church was in a big building with a big committee and the most important thing were two-parent-heterosexual young married couples with children coming through the door.

Churches now have a building and don’t have a building. Churches now have heterosexual and homosexual couples and single people and no children and children and couples not married and older people bringing their grandchildren and animal blessings for pets in October and they meet in traditional buildings and coffee shops and movie theaters and homes and schools.

Even in the SBNR (Spiritual-But-Not-Religious) debate the wave has drawn over the conversation: Church now is full of religious and spiritual people, and so are coffee shops on Sunday mornings and bars on Tuesday nights. The either/or dichotomy is not working.

It’s not working among families where dads stay home and moms go to work or *gasp* both parents share parenting and work roles. Or parents partner with other adults to co-parent and form relationships beyond traditional models. Or among people who are genderqueer and do not claim a traditional male or female identity. Either/Or thinking does not work in families or churches anymore.

And while we have a long, long way to go, many of our churches are starting to look different among the younger generations as multiethnic families grow up. We all have heard the statistics: White-Euro-Americans will no longer be the majority racial/ethnic identity among those under 20 by the year 2020. Everything is changing. Our identities are going to be changing, and this will be huge for traditional White-Euro-American churches. Some of our traditions and cultural practices will change and I don’t think we’ve recognized that yet. But it’s coming.

Either/Or isn’t working anymore.

And in fact, I’m not sure it’s never worked, if we believe in the fully-human-*and*-fully-divine Jesus. Jesus was not Either/Or. Jesus was Both-And.

Jesus ate with the leaders as well as with the poor. Jesus welcomed the children and welcomed the adults. Even when Jesus said, “You cannot be my disciple if you do not hate father and mother,” we know James and John loved their mother and Peter his mother-in-law and we know they were flawed people who still were Jesus’ disciples. Even when Jesus used either/or language with the disciples, we know that Jesus still came to that group who had utterly abandoned him to the cross and said, “Peace be with you.”  Even Jesus cannot be bound to the Either/Or. It’s Both-And.

Both-And gives us room for tradition and innovation.  Both-And gives us room to teach our history and embrace the newness of change. Both-And says all people are welcome, whatever kind of family or no family.  Both-And says traditional pastoral ministry and new community ministry are needed by the church.  Both-And says yes to traditional church at 10am on Sunday and yes to new ways of being spiritual community. Both-And says that our understandings of gender and sexual orientation and race and culture are all being challenged and are more fluid than we had thought. Both-And says we have more than one option when it comes to challenging the human rights abuses in Syria and in other parts of the world. Both-And says there are many options for peace.

We’re moving to a Both-And world. That’s not to say it isn’t scary. The things we once knew we don’t anymore. The world is changing. I don’t have all the answers. And I won’t say it’s always a good thing, but it is what it is.

Everything is changing. Let’s be sure we’re alert, aware, and ready for the wave coming. World without end.

The "Family" Unit

Ever since this article by Tony Robinson came out in June, I have been reflecting on the church as family. Growing up, that is how I felt about my church—they were an extended family. In my ministry, I have often referred to the church as “The Family of God.”  There are still good uses of the metaphor of family.  However, I agree with Robinson that it’s time to rethink that metaphor, especially of how it has been mis/used in church circles. First, we have to understand that the concept of family and household has changed throughout the Bible and throughout our own human history, so to think that today’s definition is the same as it was even a few generations ago is a false assumption to start on.  Yet I hear many Christians objectify the “family”—the idea that there is a husband who is the provider, a wife who is the caregiver, and children who are cared for by the mother.  Every Sunday I hear of people who share about the morning’s worship service that praised the family and where the pastor taught that we need to protect the family.

Frankly, this is contradictory to the Gospel and to the New Testament.  Jesus certainly didn’t provide for or care for his earthly family (save in John’s Gospel where he asked the “beloved disciple” to care for his mother, who, probably widowed and without support would have needed someone in that culture to provide for her given the cultural barriers).

Jesus taught that “whoever does the will of God is my mother and my sister and my brother” (Matthew 3:35)

Jesus said, “And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:47)

And Jesus even proclaimed, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

The family unit was something never upheld by Jesus.  This doesn’t mean the family unit is contrary to Scripture or to faith—it means that it is not nearly as important as we might think it is.  This is Good News.

This is Good News to the stepfamilies, the same-sex families, the grandparents who raise children, the single moms and dads.  This is Good News to those who do not have children.  This is Good News to those who live together, friends that share homes, multiple families in one roof.  This is Good News to married heterosexual couples with children, interracial and multicultural families.  Because it’s not about how we live together, but that we are part of God’s Community together.

In the Old Testament, we do hear of God being called the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but later God is called the God of Israel.  This is not the God of one person or of one family, but this is the God of the Community.  God is not just present with one individual or one family, but when multiple families and individuals and all people come together as a community.  In the New Testament, Paul often speaks of “households” which included not only the biological family unit, but the servants and caregivers and others associated with the family.  When one person became a follower of the Way, as in Acts 16 with Lydia, the rest of the household was assumed to also be followers of the Way, as often the whole household was baptized into the faith.  The act of faith was not one of the individual or the individual’s family, but of the community the individual belonged to, greater than themselves and family.

Jesus said, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20).

Jesus said this in the context of discipline and forgiveness within the community.  When we are in community, we need to be conscious of how our lives affect the well-being of the community, how our actions and decisions affect others.

In the question of equal marriage, posed in several states this election year, including my new home state of Washington, we would do well to remember this: it is not about the family unity, but how we live in community with each other.  When we limit rights to one kind of family unit, we disallow not only homosexual families but we are making a statement that there is no other kind of family unit that is acceptable.  It is clear that Jesus would stand against this hypocrisy.

Identity Crisis

I have not been back to my alma mater’s campus in 13 years. The year I graduated college, the school was gifted more land and some buildings from a closed plant and since my graduation the campus size has grown to more than twice its original size. Buildings have changed functions and many have been remodeled and renamed. In talking with a few alumni today, including family members, the first thing everyone said was “My, how it has changed,” and expressed some disappointment. As I walked around campus and recalled some wonderful memories, I realized that most of the greatest memories were not specifically about the place but about the people I was with at the time, friends that I have kept in touch with as well as friends who have slipped away. Professors who have since retired and staff who have moved on—all the relationships I made in the four years I was there.  It is not the same, but the experiences and memories will stay with me.

I also visited the church I attended during my four years of college.  It, too, has changed—there was a building expansion and remodel after I graduated.  The sanctuary has added a stage and things have been moved around.  It is different.  Many of the people I knew have passed on, but there are still familiar names.

We all know we have mistaken the church for the building, and we continue to do so in mistaking the church for the institution.  People complain about change. Things are different. They aren’t how they used to be.  The truth is, they never will be the same, things are always changing, and most of the time, things were never exactly the way we remembered them, anyway.

In order for the church to truly be transformed—or be the church, the body of Christ that Paul experienced—we have to get away from building and institutional identity. The church is the ecclesia, the gathering of people. It is not the building. It is not the four-board structure with a moderator.  It is not the Pastor’s Bible Study on Sunday morning.  It is not the Fellowship Hall or the kitchen or the sanctuary.  Church happens in those places, but they are not the church.

In order for the church to continue to exist we must move away from this mistaken identity.  Otherwise we will always complain about things changing, especially when our roles within the institutions change and the building is changed.

Relationships, however, are things that are always changing every time we interact with someone. Friendships change and grow, sometimes they grow apart. Families change and grow. We expect this. We expect people to grow up and grow old. We expect friendships to change and strain and grow.  We take this for granted. At times we are surprised when a friendship grows cold or a relationship ceases, but I don’t know anyone who expects their relationships to always stay the same. We know that people change and grow.  However, we have put this expectation on our churches to stay the same.

Our relationship with God changes and grows.  We all experience transformation in relationship with Christ and do not expect to remain the same after we encounter God.  We hope to experience lifelong growth with God in our journey of faith.  But again, we put this expectation on our churches, to stay the same.

It is time to for us to let go of our identity as a place or a particular structure.  We are the church, ecclesia, the gathering of people.  When we remember this, we know that change will always come, and that it is welcome, it is familiar, and it is what is necessary for us to continue to grow.  Otherwise, if we remain committed to keeping our identity as a structure or building, we will continue to be disappointed, continue to sigh when something new happens, and continue to wish we could go back in time to the way things used to be.  We can be stuck, or we can grow.

Into the night of his very own room (a tribute to Maurice Sendak)

Forgive this article today. It may seem superficial or just silly. I had an idea for an article today but it wasn’t coming together.

Then Maurice Sendak died, and I knew I needed to write about him, and Where the Wild Things Are.

Where the Wild Things Are is, as everyone knows, a beloved children’s classic.  I never bothered to see the movie because I knew it would create an unintentional background and write in a new story where one never was.  The same happened with the full-length motion picture The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  Sometimes, we really should leave the classics alone, for we lose the beauty and innocence of the original tale.

Every one of us has a wild streak, a time when we don’t play by the rules and we do things because we want to.  We make mischief of one kind and another until we find ourselves alone, because we’ve pushed others away by our actions.  We enter The Wild, becoming a Wild Thing.  We join the Wild Rumpus.  We are driven by desire to satisfy ourselves.

But at some point, we realize that living by our desires doesn’t fulfill us.  We realize that the people who love us the most are the ones we may have pushed away—and we attempt to fill that emptiness but we remain hollow.  Like Max, we may hear the call of The Wild even say that we are loved, but we know the real love is the love that calls us into responsibility, into caring for others, and that real love is always waiting for us.

No matter where we wander and roam into The Wild of the world, we know that we can always turn back.  Supper will still be waiting for us, and it will still be hot.

Rest in Peace, Maurice Sendak, for teaching me about faith before I could read, and more importantly, about love like a mother has for her Wild Child.  May you make your way home from the Wild, and may you find your supper still waiting for you, hot.

THE SECOND COMING - RECLAIMED

Regarding the future of the church,we have made a mistake.

It is not about Reformation II (or III or IV or V or...) It is about the Second Coming of Jesus

It is not about the coming death of the church. It is about the coming transformation of the church.

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The Second Coming is an inside joke.... ...To those who do not "get it" - The Second Coming is an apocalyptic view that awaits the arrival of a militant Jesus who will violently eliminate evil from the world. It makes for best-selling religious literary fiction, great cinematic special effects, and lousy-abusive-useless theology. ...To those who do "get it" - the joke is that Jesus is already here, peacefully present. Jesus "returns" for each person as they discover and embark on the life-path that Jesus walked. The "Second Coming" is personal - it is neither an apocalyptic nor a global event. The epiphany by the women on Easter morning was that, even though Jesus was executed and buried, the path walked by Jesus still exists - and by walking that same path, the message and example of Jesus is resurrected. Many find this epiphany to be transformative, their old self dies and a new transformed person is resurrected from a dead and buried former life. By walking the path - living The Way of Jesus - they continue and extend the path and message and life of Jesus. In doing so, our lives proclaim:

Jesus is arisen! Jesus is here! Jesus appears to us! Jesus walks with us! Jesus breaks bread with us! Jesus lives! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

The church must go the same way as Jesus. The church must die and be buried - and be reborn through an epiphanic resurrection and transformation. The church cannot be rescued. The church cannot be reformed. The church cannot evolve. At some point, the current church structure, structures, hierarchy, and institutions must be abandoned and demolished and replaced - existing only in our memory as a history lesson of how not to be church.

Those of us who are Baby Boomers or older - and regardless of whether we participate, oppose, or sit on the sidelines - the church we know, have worked so hard to grow and maintain, has been so important to us, and indeed which we love so much - that church is about to disappear, must disappear - and there is nothing we can do about it or should be able to do about it. As a statement of objective emotionless fact - the generations that come after us will re-create church in ways that will have little to do with church as it has existed since the end of WWII and even less with church as it has existed since the early 19th-century "Great Awakening" revival that birthed the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and other denominations. Do not be surprised when the future church finds it can exist only by abandoning and demolishing the structure, structures, hierarchy, and institutions of the 200-year-old American church in all its denominational and independent expressions, colors, sounds, textures, architecture, rituals, liturgies, and self-righteous self-assuredness. Do not be surprised when this abandonment and demolition is completed with no sense of sadness and no sense of loss. The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. has been completed just in time to be abandoned.

There is no pleasure in being the last of your kind, a breed on the verge of extinction. However, the WWII "Greatest Generation" and their "Baby Boomer" kids will not leave quietly and not without generating rippling resonating repercussions as they pass into memory. We have been faithful generous tithers and - most dangerously and in a final fit of useless spite and exasperation - we will continue to support the church after we are gone. We are wealthy generations who have retained lawyers to write wills that are specific and enforceable. The problem for future lawyers, judges, CPAs, and juries will be how to allocate funds for a church that is closed, abandoned, or demolished. They will have few or no options for diverting those funds to a living congregation or a worthwhile project. Already, we can see that the generations who follow us do not tithe to churches. They support specific projects and missions. Unlike us, they do not want their giving to be for slogans and annual reports and push pins on a map. They want projects and missions that are tangible, immediate, and - most important - participatory. Where we gave strictly of our wealth, these next generations will give of themselves - of their time, talent, labor, and presence - as well as their treasure.

At the forefront of the church demolition will be recent college graduates, college students and the high school students that will follow them. They will abandon (are abandoning) Sunday morning worship, Sunday School, and congregational events as well as mainstream campus ministries, Campus Crusade, Youth for Christ, and any Christian organization that values exclusion over inclusion or has any hint of structural rigidity, hierarchical authority, membership requirements, or dogmatic rejection of or does not live the theology of universal justice and compassion infused with divine love and grace.

Expensive specific-purpose church structures will be replaced with the use of former stores, abandoned theatres, rented warehouses, and individual homes. The traditional Sunday morning worship will diminish and be replaced by conversations in food courts and bars and coffee shops, studies in quiet places inside and outdoors, meditational Taize gatherings, loud Praise concerts, other worship experiences yet to be created - all arranged through social media and sometimes occurring more as a flash mob experience than a scheduled service. Future church will occur while flowing with the stream of life, not alongside or outside of it as a stationary event.

The seminary/ordination track as well as clergy as a profession and calling will be vastly different from what it is now, if it exists at all. There is no justification for ministerial candidates having to bear the crushing burden of a 5-digit (6-digit?) school loan to earn the formal label/prefix "Rev." and to be eligible for employment in a shrinking system and a disappearing paradigm. The concept of clergy will not be reformed, it will be so revolutionized as to be re-created. Future clergy will see themselves as scholars and counselors and project/mission managers and will reject calls to be church/congregational CEOs or mega-entrepreneurs. Clergy will find that their calling includes a responsibility to freely and openly share their formal studies. Denominations that currently have multiple seminaries will collapse them into one. Some denominations will find it necessary to join together to form a cooperative organization to support a single ecumenical seminary. Many seminaries will disappear. One possibility is that ministerial candidates, from the beginning of their education, will serve a sponsoring and supportive congregation. Seminary scholars representing the various necessary ministerial disciplines will hold regional classes or, when the technology becomes inexpensively ubiquitous, hold synchronous video conferences.

A major contributing factor to the clerical revolution will be public access to church knowledge. In an age of Wiki sites, there is no justification for the Catholic church or any denomination or any church institution to have secret archives or to have historical documents or ancient biblical texts hidden from public view. Every document, every scroll, every parchment fragment must be scanned, indexed, hyperlinked, and its high-resolution digital image placed on-line within a single web site. The biblical texts, both Jewish and Christian and regardless of whether they are currently considered canonical, must be on-line and referenced to a source document or source documents as well as being referenced to differing source documents. What will be paperless is not the office, it will be knowledge.

One of the identifying marks of living The Way is fearlessness. In this context, it means not being afraid to die and not being afraid to live. This article is neither a vision nor a prediction, neither a warning nor an advocating. It is a call to the church to move confidently into the future and to fearlessly embrace and enable its coming death and resurrection and transformation and new life.

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Technology Postscript: As on-line conferencing and smart-phone/tablet technologies improve and take advantage of increasing transmission rates and bandwidth, virtual worship and gatherings will be normal, common, and expected. As the virtual world is populated and utilized, the realization will slowly sink in that while virtual connections are immediate and easy and global, virtual connections are better at enhancing human disconnectedness than creating human presence and are better at amplifying loneliness than creating community. At some point, it will be generally recognized that virtual connections are an inadequate and invalid replacement for the connections we form when we are in the presence of each other. No matter how much we tweet, text, Facebook, email, YouTube, or Skype - at some point we have to see each other in the same physical space, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball. We relate best when our mutual presence is tangible and accessible. Personally and communally as well as psychologically and technologically, at some point the virtual connection will be deemed unacceptable and generally harmful and best reserved for situations that are emergencies or physically remote or both. We will have to discover that pixels and bits are always inferior to hugs and prayer circles.

...and that will be the next transformation.

Invisible Scars

Here is the last post in our series of “best of” articles for 2011, which first appeared on September 1.  It was written by J.C. Mitchell.  Enjoy!

I was walking my 3 year old boy, Anselm John “AJ,” into Headstart the second week of his program.  Another family was just paces ahead of us and I overheard the young boy say to his mother, “that boy is in my class,” and he turned back to say “Hi AJ”  and we kept walking. I knew that the young boy knew AJ would not respond.  I then heard the mom say, “I don’t think he is in your class” and the boy said “he is” and then she said sternly, “then why did he not respond?”  I came to that little boy’s rescue, “AJ does not communicate, that is why he is in this program.”  She responded, “oh.”

AJ is well loved by children.  There are those in church who always try to engage him and my favorite are those on the playground who met him for the first time and follow him around.  Often, they ask why he doesn’t talk and I would respond “he is two” (all the way up to his last birthday) and I should add AJ is quite tall for his age.  I feel the children understand that he is a very loving and fun boy.  He is bright as well, but he does not use words to communicate.  He is not great at eye contact or pretend play.  If you want to know a letter, he’s your boy.  There are also a growing number of words he can spell and he will count up and down, and ignore everyone in the room.  Nap time is a chore for the aides for he would rather recite letters and spell words and not do so quietly.

Many tell us not to worry, and I am pretty sure we the parents are not worrying, beyond the normal worry parents do, right down to checking on them before going to sleep ourselves.  A lot of people, who don’t know him well, tell us he will grow out of it, and I am sure he will, but it may take some special help.  I had special help for my dyslexia.  This week he is being tested by numerous professionals to determine if he is autistic.  I assume he will be “on the spectrum.”  I am fine with that, and I know he is fine with it, especially if he has a book with letters in it.

Church needs to be a place where we understand differences, especially differences that make us uncomfortable.  I realize from the numerous conversations I have people either want to ignore and deny it, or they want me to be confident it is going to be fine.  Both make me feel angst.  I want to scream, but I don’t--I am the preacher.  I would scream that we the parents mourn the loss of the idealized child and every parent will eventually have that experience (or at least should) let us have that experience.  It’s normal.  Or we know there is something different--we live with him, he has had some tests, let us have our new normal--yes it is fine, and he is himself.  The children are the ones who get it; AJ is different, but he is their friend.  The children see him as part of their group, even if he doesn’t talk to them, or play with them.  They are happy even if he only engages for a moment.  I remember one older child who never heard AJ say something, come running to my wife to tell how he said something, and they know to celebrate his progress and encourage it.  They are his best teachers.

I cannot help but think about how Thomas needed to see the scars to know the resurrected Jesus.  The theologian and sociologist, Nancy Eiesland, who died at 44 on March 10, 2009 was what we often label “disabled” from a congenital bone defect.  She would state that she would hope she would still be disabled in heaven.  "The reason, which seems clear enough to many disabled people, was that her identity and character were formed by the mental, physical and societal challenges of her disability. She felt that without her disability, she would ‘be absolutely unknown to myself and perhaps to God.’”(NYT March 21, 2009)

When Jesus appears in the locked room, He displays his scarred hands and His side to identify Himself. The disciples would have known Jesus' face and voice as this was their teacher, their friend, their Lord, yet Jesus displays his wounds. It must be important. He did not erase those wounds even though He conquered death itself. He comes to the disciples to identify himself as scarred and perfect, and us today as well.  Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit upon the disciples directly.  The church was created and "called-out” with this breath.  Thus Jesus is telling us who we are with His scarred hands. We are the Body of Christ with our own scarred and perfect bodies. We participate in the resurrection with our differently able bodies, though not all of our differences are visible.

For my son is perfect even if he struggles with eye contact and communication, even if he ends up “on the spectrum.”  There may not be a physical scar, but he is differently abled.  How as a church do we recognize that our Lord not only showed His hands to show who He was to Thomas, but who we, the followers, are as well.  Like I said above, I came to the rescue of the little boy, who knew AJ was in his class, who knew that AJ would not respond, who said hello with the hope AJ may engage him, for the boy that will probably, among others, help teach AJ to communicate better.  I rescued this boy who was being questioned by his mother by being blunt: “AJ doesn’t communicate.”  I did not come to the rescue of my son.  He will be perfect, if we as a church and society can understand what children understand.

RECLAIMING FAMILY

.....Here is a simple exercise:

Start with yourself.

You have two (2) biological parents. (Hereafter, the word "biological" will be assumed.) You are directly related to each parent.

You have four (4) grandparents. You are directly related to each grandparent.

You have eight (8) great-grandparents. You are directly related to each great-grandparent.

You have sixteen (16) great-great-grandparents. You are directly related to each great-great-grandparent.

By now, you should have the idea. Every time you step back another ancestral generation, the number of generational ancestors doubles.

Let's run the numbers as a two-column list. In the first column is the sequence number of the ancestral generation. In the second column is the number of people in that generation.

GENERATION - NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THAT GENERATION 01 - 2 (parents) 02 - 4 (grandparents) 03 - 8 (great-grandparents) 04 - 16 (great-great-grandparents) 05 - 32 ( - simile - ) 06 - 64 07 - 128 08 - 256 09 - 512 10 - 1,024 11 - 2,048 12 - 4,096 13 - 8,192 14 - 16,384 15 - 32,768 16 - 65,536 17 - 131,072 18 - 262,144 19 - 524,288 20 - 1,048,576 21 - 2,097,152 22 - 4,194,304 23 - 8,388,608 24 - 16,777,216 25 - 33,554,432 26 - 67,108,864 27 - 134,217,728 28 - 268,435,456 29 - 536,870,912 30 - 1,073,741,824

Your ancestors 30 generations ago are your grandparents preceded by the word "great" 28 times and, mathematically, there was over a billion of them.

If each generation represents 30 years, then your (great x 28) grandparents lived 900 years ago or (for the year 2011, the year this article was published) the year 1111 CE.

Based on six different studies of historical populations; the number of people in our 30th ancestral generation far exceeds the largest estimate of the global population in the year 1111. According to these six studies, it was not until the time span from the late 1700s to the early 1800s that the global population exceeded one billion. Based on these studies and our ancestral calculations, each of us is directly related to every person who lived in the year 1111 or, if a person was childless, we are directly related to the siblings or parents of that childless person. Furthermore, in the same way, each of us is directly related to every person who lived prior to the year 1111. This means that each of us is directly related to each and every monarch, king, emperor, pharaoh, caesar, caliph, ruler, pope, bishop, cardinal, priest, priestess, prophet, shaman, oracle, knight, soldier, sailor, fisherman, farmer, hunter, herder, carpenter, mason, artist, seamstress, peasant, slave - without exception, every person that lived prior to 1111. Each of us is related to Mohammed, Jesus, Confucius, Buddha, Moses and Abraham.

With this understanding of our universal connectedness to the past, we discover two contemporary humorous ironies:

1) Not only was the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown a rip-roaring entertaining mystery-adventure novel, its plot dependence on the existence of a line of descendants of Jesus was a joke. If Jesus did have children, then each of us is a direct descendant of Jesus. If Jesus did not have children, then each of us is a direct descandent of the brothers and sisters of Jesus.

2) There is no such thing as a nine-century-long (or longer) line of royal ancestry. Each of us is a direct descendant of every royal family that lived prior to 1111.

The bottom line is this - we are all cousins and we are all mutts. We are one family and we are the only family. In an objective and indisputable way, we make the point of the universal family by moving backwards from today through our own genealogy, by traversing a history that is personal and direct. In doing so, we are forced to confront our universal connection to all people and all events that, previously, we thought either defined us separately and exclusively or divided us along lines of opposition. We have just proven that there are no races, no tribes, no ethnic groups, no castes, no royalty, no aristocracy, no social classes, no families and there has not been for at least 30 generations. Here is the real kicker – this same exercise, this same proof will have the same result for each generation. It was true for our parents. It was true for our grandparents. It was true 1000 years ago and it was true 4000 years ago - it has always been true.

Even though 1st Century CE did not have the same mathematics or even the same numbering system (base 10, a 10-digit numbering system that includes a zero digit and uses positional notation) there was still an understanding of the one universal family.

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, .....the son of David, .....the son of Abraham.

02) Abraham was the father of Isaac, 03) and Isaac the father of Jacob, 04) and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 05) and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, 06) and Perez the father of Hezron, 07) and Hezron the father of Aram, 08) and Aram the father of Aminadab, 09) and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, 10) and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 11) and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, 12) and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, 13) and Obed the father of Jesse, 14) and Jesse the father of King David.

01) And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 02) and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, 03) and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, 04) and Abijah the father of Asaph, 05) and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, 06) and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, 07) and Joram the father of Uzziah, 08) and Uzziah the father of Jotham, 09) and Jotham the father of Ahaz, 10) and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 11) and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, 12) and Manasseh the father of Amos, 13) and Amos the father of Josiah, 14) and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers,

01) at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: 02) Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, 03) and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 04) and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, 05) and Abiud the father of Eliakim, 06) and Eliakim the father of Azor, 07) and Azor the father of Zadok, 08) and Zadok the father of Achim, 09) and Achim the father of Eliud, 10) and Eliud the father of Eleazar, 11) and Eleazar the father of Matthan, 12) and Matthan the father of Jacob, 13) and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, 14) of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

So all the generations from Abraham to David are .....fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, .....fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, .....fourteen generations. ..........Matthew 1:1-17

This genealogy had at least two purposes: 1) To shockingly illustrate the inclusive nature of their ancestral history by including 4 women (their mention is emphasized in red), all of whom had an eye-brow-raising personal history.

2) By starting with Abraham, every Jew would realize that every Jew has the same history and that every Jew has an ancestry made possible by the inclusion and involvement and contributions of widows and gentiles and foreigners and outcasts and that their ancestors lead lives of questionable virtues and horrible mistakes and truly evil deeds as well as lives of great accomplishment, of questing for God and questioning God and wrestling with God and making peace with God and being in relationship with God.

We are one family We are only one family We are only family We are family There is no "here" and "there" There is no "us" and "them" There is only us There is only here .....and it has always been so.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The previous [D]mergent articles by Doug Sloan are listed here in order of publication: ..........RECLAIMING CHURCH ..........GOD IS... ..........RECLAIMING GOD ..........RECLAIMING MIRACLES ..........RECLAIMING NOT ..........RECLAIMING the GOOD NEWS - an epistle ..........RECLAIMING FORGIVENESS - it's personal ..........REFORMATION II ..........GOD IS - an update ..........RECLAIMING SCRIPTURE ..........RECLAIMING EXODUS ..........RECLAIMING EDEN ..........RECLAIMING THE ISSUES ..........RECLAIMING QUEERS

Kegger at Jesus'!

When I was in high school, I lived for someone's parents to leave and for the house party to go off. I was part of that group that played the music or threw the parties. I was not musically inclined outside of the random hardcore and punk groups I got to front. I was a really big fella. So, I got to bounce all the parties. When someone's parents were planning that weekend getaway, we were playing that weekend's kegger.

I get butterflies just writing about it now. So and so would inform someone that their parents were going out of town and that they would be left 'home alone!" That someone would call another person and soon the bands were organized, the kegs procured and the buzz spread. This was how our emerging suburban Los Angeles scene flowed.

That Friday after school we would show up to the "abandoned" house with sound equipment. We would set up and do a sort of silent sound check. Folks would arrive with the kegs (The funny part is that we used to buy Near Beer cause it was cheaper and we made more money from it. Nobody knew the difference.) The kegs would be iced and we would set a perimeter for security.

Then as evening approached the car loads of teenage boys and girls would park and walk up to the party. I would collect money from them and mark their hands with a marker. We could make a couple thousand of dollars from the five-buck admission we charged for Near Beer and "decent" angry youth music. Every once and a while I would let a cute girl in, hoping that would better my chance of her thinking I was cool and I could ask her out.

The backyard would fill up. Every nook and cranny would be filled and they all awaited the stage to light up and the band to play. We were kings of our little fiefdom fueled by punk and hardcore, all of us looking for something to be angry about or someone to listen to our anger.

The band would take the stage and unleash a massive wave of shock and awe upon the Near Beer soaked crowd of kissy-faced teens and macho shirtless, mohawked man-boys. We would storm our anger in to the pit and smash each others faces as we fought the changing world around us. Gone was the safety of Big Wheels and comic books. This was the post-Reagan era in an area roughed up by cuts to the Military Industrial Complex. We knew a few of us had a future; we just were not sure of who those few were. Our dream was to graduate high school and maybe get a job at SEARS fixing washer and dryers. We might be considering college as a way to escape the uncertainty but tonight we had the "pit."

Then, just as we really started getting in to it and that cute girl I let in for free was going to give me her number the COPS showed up. A neighbor had called the police and demanded they break up the party. There was a mass exodus from the backyard. Sweaty mohawked teens jumped fences carrying their teenaged angst with them. The "drunken" teen girls sat dazed and confused, only to be pulled up by their friends and make a mad dash to the other door. The police, almost lovingly, flashed their flashlights on the exiting crowds making sure they dumped out the beers and walked home.

The band tried to pack up really quickly so their gear would not get confiscated. The someone whose house it was cried inside as they saw their social life waver. I was gone when we saw the police pull up and shouted out to the others, "POLICE!" We were already a block over before the mohawked kids jumped the fence.

The parents are called and the someone is reprimanded. That someone has the potential to be legend. The parental fears are stoked and they never go on another vacation again.

I fear that the church looks at the younger generations with this kind of dread. "If we leave, they will mess it all up." True, we are excited and do not look at the world with the same kind of eyes. We are uniquely ourselves. We have different values. We have different priorities. We have different dreams and hopes for our lives. We have different pressures and woes. We are different.

Almost 20 years later, if left with an empty house I am more likely to got to bed early than throw a kegger. My youth is fleeting. I am nearer to 40 than I am to 30. In my youthful sunset I hear "We need young families/young adults/youth in the church" a lot. It seems to be all over the church profiles out there.

Every church is looking for a 30-something pastor. He is white, tall with a nice build. He has a beautiful wife that studied music in college and they have three lovely, well behaved children that angelically glide around church without a sound.

He is great with youth, can preach like Craddock, tell stories like Hemingway, is the best counselor, can fundraise blood from a turnip and will get butts in the seats to continue the ministry of the church just as it always has been.

The problem is that that guy no longer exists. No one can do everything.

There are countless folks out there searching for a place to serve. Every year we graduate another class of hopeful ministers in to a system with no room for them to serve. As the church wrestles with what to do many creative, young ministers leave ministry for "a job." They leave the church.

These are folks that our institutions have invested time, money and hope over a three to four year period. We have encouraged them to follow a discernment process towards a vocation that may or may not be able to embrace them. Our system is broken.

The brokenness of our church institutions and the slow moving process towards change has disabled our efforts to be the pioneering voice we once were. We exist primarily for ourselves. If your operating budget exceeds your mission budget you are inward focused. Jesus calls us to go out in to the world and make Disciples.

Have we abandoned this work? I hear "I love your ideas but we don't have any money." as much as I hear "We need to do something." What are we going to do? The angry, punker inside me demands more for this community I have aligned myself with.

You promised to walk with me in community and support when I took my vows of ordination. When I was baptized you as the church promised to raise me in the ways of Christ. I am weary of the inward focus. Who will stand up and be evangelized by the Millennials? Who will answer the call to receive the missionaries from Gen X?

There is a better way to be "church" in this world. The brick and mortar spaces we lovingly tend to may be hedging us in. How do we liberate ourselves from yesterday that we may die and be born again for tomorrow?

Who will join the party? Our parents are out of town and there is a raging party set to go off! Who is going to be there? All are invited. All are welcome. You just have to show up, be willing to rage and clean up afterwards.

Lion of Judah, King of Israel [Hebrews 3:7-14]

I preached this sermon on October 29, 2006, and guess what -- the vision came true! A 53-year-old church still satisfies even charter members with traditional worship, draws young families with contemporary worship and children's church, and builds a new community on a recovery ministry. With 150-200 worshipers on Sunday and 60-90 at Celebrate Recovery, Tropical Sands Christian Church thrives because the old supports the new -- and vice versa! The premise is simple: If you want to settle down in the grasslands of Judah, you have to help the other tribes take the Promised Land!

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M*A*S*H 3:16

When I was a kid I loved M*A*S*H.  I would spend the evening with Father Mulcahy as he dispensed divine wisdom to an audience surrounded by the ravages of war.  My buddies Trapper, Hot Lips, Winchester, Hawkeye, Radar, Klinger and Colonel Potter made me laugh hysterically.  My dad would begin it all with a chuckle that would cue the rest of us to join in the laughter song. As a child M*A*S*H was an escape from my mundane little world full of finger painting, addition, foursquare and cooties.  M*A*S*H was an oasis full of what I wanted to be when I grew up.  The war that raged on behind the antics of Hawkeye & Trapper was a vehicle for the laughs.  I had no real understanding of what was going on in the show.

I began watching M*A*S*H as an adult and something happened; I realized there was more there than I remembered as a kid.  The folks of the 4077 were fighting a war in Korea in a time gone by.  Those enemies were now sort of our friends and the combat was just stories.  What I understood now was that they were really engaging the issues and critique of their times.

The war in Vietnam raged around the actors and producers of M*A*S*H as they tackled the hurt, confusion, anger and fear of the times.  The beauty of M*A*S*H was that they created a space for that hurt and fear to be dealt with. They opened up a geography that was safe and conversation could emerge from behind the social rocks.

The anti-war sentiment could be replaced with a common laughter at the silly antics of Hawkeye and Trapper.  We could relax and laugh at the pranks pulled on Winchester, our favorite bourgeois maroon.  We could laugh at the gender bending antics of Klinger as he sported his Sunday best.  We could love that adorable people pleaser, Radar, as we were endeared to everyone’s loving grandfatherly figure, Colonel Potter.  M*A*S*H created a national home for us to deal with the trying times of today.  We could escape the harsh reality of “What’s Going On” around us.

Much like the Vietnam era we are experiencing some tumultuous times.  We are in the worst economic meltdown since The Great Depression.  We are in two wars.  We watch helplessly as the worst environmental disaster of our times steadily flows from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.  The divide between the have’s and have not’s is increasing.  The soul of America seems to have decentralized and gone underground to some mysterious, mystical spiritual club.

We are in a place in time where a cultural paradigm shift has become visible.  The signs many of us have been aware of over the last 15 years have clarified.  The symptoms of our emerging sickness have manifest into a case of “What do we do?!?”

The Millennials and Generation X are in a world of hurt.  We are facing a world of uncertainty and dread.  We will be the first generation to have a lower standard of living than our parents and grandparents.  The world we have been promised, dreamed of and worked toward no longer exists.

A college education no longer guarantees you a job in which you will earn a sustainable wage.  The prospect of job security, pension or upward mobility does not have the same flair of reality it once had.  The divide between “us” and “them” grows as scarce resources with which to journey toward the American dream dwindle.

What it once took to “make it” in this world is no longer sufficient.  I know of countless philosophers, theologians, engineers, writers, pastors and teachers, MBA’s, social workers and artists that fill the rank and file service industry.  Our social systems are broken.  They are taxed beyond repair for many.

We are surrounded by the answers that pop up in the meetings and conversations in our older, graying congregations.  The youth have fled a system that does not always know how to welcome them, and have therefore forged communities of faith on their own.  Those communities many not look like the churches of yesterday but they are there.  When you drive down the street and see a group of 20 something’s laughing around a table full of smoke and pub grub—this is church. These “young people” will flock to ideas and mission to love on others.  They will not come so that they may prop up a building not matter how long it has been there.  Let those who have ears, hear.

Hopelessness creeps into the hearts and minds of these emerging generations.  We fight to stay alive.  We return home to those empty nests.  We grow desperate to go in to the world and make a difference.  We scorn the institutions that now reject us and look for ways to be in community with others.  We hunger for relationships that take us beyond the surface and hope to locate a community that holds faith because we no longer have that option.  We are looking for our M*A*S*H.

I hear an awful lot of talk that we need “young people” in our churches.  That we must figure out a way to reach out to “young people.”  As a “young person” I agree with y’all saying we need “young people” in our churches.  We need them not to fill our pews and hopefully refill the coffers.  We need them cause Jesus called the church to be a place of love, joy, faith and compassion.  We need “young people” because Jesus called us to be in the margins healing folks with our faith and walking with and praying for folks that can no longer find the faith or hope to pray and walk themselves.

My generation, my tribe is looking for our M*A*S*H.  The “church” can be our M*A*S*H.  Imagine faith communities emerging from the hurt and isolation of scattered “young people” looking for families to replace the ones they have been forced to leave.  Imagine faith communities that embrace the leadership of these emerging young leaders and the creativity they can offer to a church that is still motoring along in 1960’s gear.

By Ryan Kemp-Pappan

Ryan is a minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) at Douglass Blvd. Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He has a B.A. in Religious Studies from California State University, Northridge and a M.Div. from Austin Seminary (TX). He chairs the Faith Leaders for Fairness fighting for equal rights for all in the State of Kentucky. He delivers mad Esoteric Piracy. He likes to think of himself as a Royal Pain in the south end of a north bound donkey, Master of 3 of the 5 logical oceans, Beloved creation, 1985 Beer Chug Champion, Amateur Sock Puppeteer, Buckaroo, Reclaimer of lost treasures, Seeker of truth, Tamer of lions, Pugilist of toothless circus bears, Servant, & Tinker of convoluted ideas…

He blogs at The Fettered Heart. He is a host with HCX.  He dreams of one day fighting for lost souls in the dark, smoke filled rings of Mexico City  as a luchador por Jesus Cristo or ministering to the knife fighting monkeys of San Sebastian.