As i prepare to leave the USA and move home for a while i cannot help but reflect on living with Americans for slightly over a decade. I’m sure that people back home will ask me that in conversation. Reality is, that’s a very difficult question to answer.
That said the other day in church i was tapping away on my phone lots of ideas i hope to put here someday. It’s not that the sermon was boring either.
Where we lived in Georgia there was a major road about 4 miles from camp. Commonly known as 1941. When it really is HWY 19/41, or should i say HWY 19 & 41, or should i say HWY 19 & 41 & 3, or should i say HWY 19 & 41 & 3 & Tara Blvd. But wait go a few minutes down this road and it becomes HWY 19 & 41 & 3 & Bear Creek Blvd. It changed names, i don’t remember making a turn onto another road. This is the same piece of road i was on about 30 seconds ago. Did i miss something? We are on the same piece of road aren’t we?
Why is it that the same piece of road has at least 4 names, only to have one of them change to something else, then if you wait 5 minutes it will change again. I get that the numbering has something to do with county, state & federal roads and the different numbering systems they use. Which in turn at times relates to who pays for the up-keep and reconstruction. But come on, 4 names. Trying to explain all these road names and titles to someone can be exhausting. Probably why HWY 19 & 41 & 3 & Tara Blvd is commonly referred to as ‘1941’. Good job Hwy 3 doesn’t have feelings because it always seems to be left out. I bet if people started saying “it’s over on HWY 3” or “its over on 3” you would be met with blank stares and looks of, where on earth is that?
Recently i worshipped at a church and viewed that they had a 9.30 contemporary worship service called ‘Epic’. I immediately thought of what epic means to me. And i understand that we all have a different comprehension of words. For example a long easy enjoyable run for me, might seem like complete misery to someone else.
That said my mind quickly moved onto this. What is the focus of this worship service. But more importantly what is the reason behind the name. I suspect its to attract a younger population. Why do we in the church have to slap names on things , or attach a title to a new program or event, or label a new initiative. What do we hope to achieve with that? Will it make it more attractive to a Young Adult (YA)? more enticing to go because of a hip, hardcore name. i wonder. Does using the title Epic mean a bunch of dirt-bag snow boarders going to start showing up. Or more importantly what would happen if they did.
IMO as humans we are all looking for a few things in life (& i know I’m getting way deep here). However besides Maslow’s accurate little triangle, we are looking for someone to listen to us, and for our voice to be heard. Not to provide answers, solutions, but listen. For many of us its difficult to do that… Listen, because we want to fix, repair, make right, and move on to the next problem. Someone once said we have 2 ears & 1 mouth so we should listen twice as much as we speak. or put another way “The person who listens two times more than they speak should be listened to twice as much.”
It appears to me that just listening is difficult for all of us, because it doesn’t fulfill our desire to fix, repair etc. We want it to be black or white, not grey. Or as i read recently in my good friends’ Stephen Ingram’s book “Hollow Faith: How Andy Griffith, Facebook & the American Dream Neutered the Gospel”. “So often we avoid the complexity of the grey for the safe refuge of black and white.”
By slapping a name on it allows us to dictate terms, the rules. Why on earth would the church want to do that when it already has an image problem with YA’s. “The church is the only organization that shoots its wounded.” Furthermore substitute the word organization for institution and now you are really talking about YA’s and they almost allergic reaction to something. Without putting them in a pigeonhole YA’s are notoriously known for their mistrust of institutions, & who can blame them. Church, government, marriage, banks… all have failed them or people close to them. Unfortunately we have repackaged these institutions with fancy new names like Epic & … when really its result has been similar to the expression “… rearranging chairs on the Titanic!”
What should we be focussing on then? a fancy name? What should we be creating instead? Opportunities for them to be heard. However therein lies an opportunity for us to live in the grey and be comfortable with it. We want to reach out, and do ministry and evangelism (& I somewhat type that word cautiously) but its on our terms, When often we need re-educating too.
And guess what. Going to a workshop on how to reach YA wont help either. Training is not required. The only training required is to become a good listener. The almost forgotten art form, in a world of written/text/posting comment communication & talking over and interrupting one another listening has been relegated to the backseat of communication sitting right next to hand written letters. Of course i’m speaking to myself here, as i too daily strive to be a better listener. Being labelled a great listener is IMO the highest compliment one could be paid.
As for responding & reaching out to YA’s, no answer required or requested just listen to them. However a word to you YA’s too. This doesn’t mean you get to rant on about the rampant narcissism that is associated with your generation either. As we listen first we get to push back too.
Often we hear that our faith is a journey and we are called to live comfortably within the mystery of that. Or “make friends with mystery” as Robin has said over and over. If the journey metaphor is true then why of earth hasn’t this same concept reach YA ministry yet. Seemingly all we can do is respond with starting something that we control and dictate terms on, oh & slap a cool, hip name to it. Fix it and move on to the next challenge.
When really no fancy names are required. Otherwise its the same old institution doing the same old stuff. What’s that definition of insanity. “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different or better results.” Or… “Hey, lets start this ministry for YA’s, we will use the same old model that worked for Christian Education, worship, etc 20 -30-40 years ago & we will add a cool name, but essentially its the same.”
Forget the fancy name or multiple names like appear on roads, hwy’s, blvds etc. No training required. Just listen.
Why is it…