Strolling Through Gordon MacDonald’s “Who Stole My Church?”, Part 8: Chapter 5

Reminder: I’ve been working through this book with my old college roommate, Hollywood. His church is going through it, and I thought it’d be fun to go through this book about a fictitious New England church realizing that they’re “aging” and struggling through the aspects of what that is and what it looks like so it doesn’t die. Anyway, these are the thoughts this book provokes as I go through it…and it won’t hurt for you to read the earlier entries on this.

Long story short: There was a television show a few years back called Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. The bit was exactly what the title implies in that a team of homosexual guys with a keen sense of style and fashion would help a straight guy get his appearance improved while getting ready for some event. Laughs ensued.

Well, my sister thought it’d be a howl for me to get on the show and I forget all the details but I actually got called by the producers to be on the show when the group came to Dallas. I mean, everybody knows I’m a fashion/style disaster, but there was this wedding I was performing that summer and I got through the screening because, well, I’m a fashion/style disaster who now has a reason to get his fashion/style act together.

During the interview the lady asking the questions was trying to figure out if I’d be a good fit for the show and she asked me something about whether or not I’d take the cast playfully mocking me and my view of style (or lack thereof) and if I’d be okay with them throwing away stuff and giving me new stuff. My response actually made her laugh when I said, “No problems with that, but can they take it if they come the realization that they can change my wardrobe, but they can’t make me CARE?”

And that’s true, too. I’d have been a good sport and maybe even worn the clothes they gave me on a consistent basis…but I’m not too sure that I’d ever actually CARE about it.

While the chapter highlights the shifts in church life & ministry that’s currently taking place…and gives it a historical context–everything from John Wesley’s street preaching and Billy Graham’s stadium crusades. Basically, the cultural shifts around the church have affected changes in how churches do and view ministry. My thoughts went a slightly different direction, much like my screening interview the television producer.

The chapter itself is pretty insightful and I don’t disagree with many of the current trends. We’d all add a few or take away a few given our particular church. But…

It talks about a crisis in men’s ministry as the time demands in their work/family create a void in their ability to lead.
It talks about a reality that women, particularly young women, have questions about their roles within a church’s ministry, both in paid/professional and “lay” leadership.
It talks about how singles stay single longer than in previous generations and how ministries need to be aware of this reality in ministering to college & younger adults.

Another long story short: I’ve spent a lot of time talking with the older generations of folks in my Tribe about how this generation has a decidedly different view of almost everything in society than they do. Most of the time I’m met with polite questions and asked my observations on what that “looks like.” If the conversation goes far enough, they’ll ask what are some of the things that we could do to be sensitive to the next generation of the church.

We even had a church meeting a couple of years ago where we broke into smaller groups and the groups were each given a pastor and an elder. Well, I was the pastor at one of the groups that asked the elder a question regarding that very thing. They’d noticed a lack of younger couples/families/collegians in our midst and asked the elder what we planned to do about that.

The answer was given with generalities and then he yielded the floor to me. I kind of laughed and asked them if they really CARED…because, well, as I told them, “You have NO IDEA what you’re asking.” Because the bottom line is that if an older generation is serious about reaching the next one, well, it’s gonna be the older generation’s oxen that get gored. They’re going to have to sacrifice things they like.

Later that very night, I was pulled aside by somebody that said they didn’t see themselves staying at our church if we implemented some of the things I mentioned because they liked things the way they are, and it really didn’t matter to them if the church died in 15 years because they wouldn’t be here, anyway.

In short, she really didn’t care.

She wanted the younger folks there, but not at the expense of things she held dear.

Then the chapter talks about our reaction to the realities I mentioned earlier, from both a staff perspective as well as volunteers. But what struck me is the potential for the older generation to…

…well…

…simply not care.

You know, that we’ve got “ours,” and after we’re gone, they can have theirs. I’ve heard people in leadership positions say things like “I’m not ready to be put out to pasture. They can wait their turn.” I have people in leadership positions say things like “when they start giving more, they can have more say in what goes on here.” I’ve heard people in leadership positions say “we built this building and put in these programs because they work and if they don’t like it, there’s plenty of other churches doing that stuff.”

Of course, I’ve heard people say the opposite, too. I mean, they’ve asked sincere questions as to how we can get the younger generation in the meetings. They’ve let me know that they remember what it was like to struggle through the child-rearing stages and wondered how they could give more support during that time. They’ve mentioned that they’d gut the building and completely redecorate if it meant that the younger generation would show up.

But I get the idea this chapter was a call to examine your own comfort. Your own heart and attitudes toward the things you hold dear, whether that’s a leadership position or a style of worship or a building design…

…and that can be difficult because if you…

…well…

don’t really care…

…then something’s gotta change.

And…

…if you do really care…

…then action has to ensue.

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