Am I serious? Is my church missing? No, I’m talking about a GREAT book that I just finished reading. It struck a chord with me because it deals with an issue that has crept into many of our beloved congregations today. It could be a growing sentiment in your church.
Is there a chance you are hearing similar comments from your congregation, from those who are older, 50’s and up, whose life is closely tied into church? Are they struggling with relinquishing control and influence to: “change” and the “younger generation”?
Who Stole My Church is authored by a talented writer and pastor of 47+ yrs, Gordon MacDonald. It’s a captivating narrative that places the reader right in the middle of these church people’s lives. Even though they are fictional characters, you could very well find each one of them sitting in your church, only their name would be different. I thought this comment from MacDonald was very revealing about what he was about to share: “The specific reason for this meeting came out of an organizational meltdown that our membership had experienced in a congregational business meeting the week before…”
Did he say “organizational meltdown”? He was describing what one would call a “tipping point” for this fictional church. They were on the brink of change or no change. (If you are from the two older generations you have probably heard similar comments, or maybe uttered them yourself, under your breath of course.) What are some of the comments this pastor was hearing? “The music is too loud and I miss singing the old hymns.” “Can’t we sing those songs without having to stand all the time?” “Why don’t more young people join the choir?” And for some churches, “I miss the choir, now all we have is a ‘praise band’ with 5 people standing up front. We can’t sing harmony to these new songs, and I wish we would go back to using the organ.”
We’ve all witnessed these changes to some degree over the past 10-20 years and made adjustments (we thought). Some we’ve liked, others were more difficult. Changes like; not wearing a suit and tie, replacement of pews with individual chairs, abandoning the midweek prayer service, placing coffee kiosks in the church lobby, or bulletins replaced with overhead power-points. Here’s a big one, changing the name of the church. But honestly, are these the things that make a church, …a church?
The book is not just for the builders and boomers. All generations can grasp a better understanding of each other as we; ‘find a way to move gracefully into the 21st century.’ If not, as MacDonald says: “Any church that has not turned its face toward the younger generation will simply cease to exist. We’re not talking decades—we’re talking just a few years.”
Anyway, I couldn’t put the book down. And last Sunday, we gave a copy of the book to our pastor and are recommending it to other pastors. We’ve seen give and take among the generations within our church, and that is very encouraging. Not that we’ve got it all figured out, but walking in love and submission is a major part of seeing God’s hand at work in His body.
If you’re wondering, here are the categories for the 4 generations: Builders (born before 1946), Boomers (1946-1964), Busters (1965-1983), & Bridgers (1984-2002) sometimes called Mosaics. Give the book a try, and happy reading. (Oh yeah, next time you see one of those bridgers at church with a tattoo and a couple of piercings in their eyebrow…give ’em a hug! They could be your somebody’s grandchild, yours maybe?)
A great follow up to this book is “One Church Four Generations” Understanding and reaching all ages in your church, by Gary L. McIntosh.