+ First, more and more and more, "our secular viewpoints outside the church seem more gracious, loving and responsible - more consistent with Christ-like behavior - than those inside the church." Ouch... but so true. This is the cutting edge for transforming church culture - radical hospitality - authentic welcome with no strings or pressure. A whole different approach for a church in transition and I am grateful we are making progress simply embracing folks wherever they are on life's journey. But it takes LOTS of practice and intentionality without getting caught up in trying too hard. It also demands that we refuse to give in to gimmicks while teaching over and over and over that church is NOT about us. In a culture that is so addicted to consumption, to say THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU ONLY is a challenge!
+ Second, more and more 20-30 year olds are choosing to leave the evangelical world because it is often so narrow and harsh, but they don't yet trust the once main-stream congregations - and with good reason. Mother Theresa noted 30 years ago that the leading disease in America is loneliness - not HIV/AIDS or cancer - loneliness. What's more, given the intense political polarization, more and more of us are aching for community. But traditional churches have been more like clubs than communities over the past 100 years, so we have to relearn - and earn -credibility. And not just the pastor, but the body has to practice what we preach. And in a spectator society, this too is counter-cultural.
"... in our culture, our lives and more and more divided based on age... Older folk may watch the nightly news, while younger generations get their information from the Internet. Television producers gear programs toward target audiences, so much that we not only find a simple distinction between adult and children's programming... we find discrete shows for infants, toddlers, children, tweens and teenagers. My 60+ friend can't comprehend that my favorite shows are usually adult cartoons and fake documentaries, and I can't understand how a person can come home after a hard day's work and watch an exhausting hour-long drama." (p. 20)
Merritt suggests - and my experience supports this - that there is much to be learned and affirmed by bringing the generations together. Not easy, but essential - as part of the healing of our land. Oh this is going to be a fascinating summer...