On Francis Schaeffer And Baby Boomers

*what follows is a continuation of the discussion here at the Diner on my reading “The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church,” by Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch. Feel free to check out the past two entries before you dive in to this one. It’ll give you some context.

In college, I strangely identified with Francis Schaeffer. If you don’t know him, he wrote books and was dubbed “the missionary to the intellectuals.” Not that I was intellectual, mind you, but the guy discipling me recommended him for a course I was taking where I had to read all the works by a particular author in “religion.” Most everyone else picked C.S. Lewis.

Anyway, one of the reasons I identified with him (it certainly wasn’t regarding intellect) was from an introduction he wrote to one of his works and why he wrote it. See, he’d been a pastor for like a decade and become disillusioned. He said the book he wrote was the product of him going back and “rethinking his entire position” on what it means to be a Christian.

The reason he did that?

He said he wasn’t seeing, in himself or in the congregation members he served, the things that Scripture says should be so clearly the result of someone who walks with Christ.

So, he walked back in forth in a barn in Switzerland or outside if the weather was nicer. He re-thought his whole position. The books he left us made me glad he bothered and wrestled with it all.

I also read a newspaper article written by Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe, and she was talking about the nature of parenting by the Baby Boomers. Basically, she said that their generation “did a lot, regretted little, but wanted their children to have none of it.” In other words, the revolution of the 1960’s they so desperately wanted to occur was fine for them, but their kids better not kick against their institutions. And, that free love/drug/rock ‘n roll thing didn’t fit their view of appropriate behavior for their kids.

Interesting, right?

And, let’s be honest, patrons. Hypocrisy in any form, whether we do it or whether we see someone else being hypocritical, drives us crazy.

But in both cases, Francis Schaeffer and the general Baby Boomer population, we have elements of what we believe to be right that don’t translate into real life-living. And, we get it. We all have our anecdotes, right?

We tell our kids how important their going on the mission trip is but we haven’t been on a mission trip in ages. We rail against texting while driving and then we do it. We whine about the guy taking the parking spot we waited for and then do that very thing the next day. We tell our kids that their spiritual growth is our highest priority but everything we do/say lets them know clearly that it’s their educational achievement. I could go on.

It doesn’t matter if it’s about the spiritual life or traffic patterns…inconsistency of message and action makes us all go nuts.

Which is, if we’re honest, one of the main things that drives people from the church. The authors put it this way…

“Built into the very fabric of New Testament teaching on the extension of the kingdom is the assumption that when the Christian community embraces a godly, holy lifestyle, it will so tantalize the wider community that they will seek after God. And yet so much of what typifies the so-called holiness movement is the fundamentalist-evangelical churches has had the opposite effect. When the wonders of the life in Christ are boiled down to teetotalling, it’s hardly likely to arouse great interest in the community about us. If by holiness we simply mean no drinking, no smoking and no dancing, we have a very limited view of the concept.”

Please tell me you read that sentence about the “wonders of Christ” slowly and with much interest.

Then, in a later chapter, as they develop this line of thought, they describe Christ:

“We have already mentioned the kind of holiness He exuded was the kind that didn’t repulse normal ‘sinners.’ Rather, his was a very attractive spirituality. And yet he was not your ordinary evangelical guy. He was notorious (yes, that’s the right word) for hanging out with the wrong types. In contrast with today, when so much of our Christianity is being with the right people in the right places at the right times, Jesus was always in the wrong places, with the wrong people, at the wrong times, according to the religious establishment. We want to say that this is the Jesus we must rediscover to balance our excessively sober images of our Lord. We need the model of his holy laughter, of his sheer love of life, of his infectious holiness, of his common people’s religion, for our day. We want to say that being Christlike is not only hard work, but it’s also a load of fun–you get to do what Jesus did and hang out with the interesting people. This is our eternal destiny, to be conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29) and this must now become a vital dimension of our messianic mission in the world. Being Christlike gives us a positive model of engagement, and this is why we need to imitate Jesus as our primary model for mission and evangelism.”

Now, we’ll all read the 2nd quote and go, “Yep. Darn right that’s how it should be done.” In fact, yesterday, that’s where most of you guys went in your discussion.

But we all have a little bit of Francis Schaeffer in us, don’t we? We’re not seeing much of that in our own life or in the lives of those around us, are we?

But we all have a little bit of Baby Booomer parent in us, don’t we? We have our areas of belief that we shed at the first hint of practicality, don’t we?

And the questions are a little deeper in my mind as I type this…

…do most evangelicals even associate with the “right” people/places/times so much that they don’t know the “wrong” people/places/times anymore?

…how do we “fix” this on a congregational scale? (Assuming, of course, you agree that we aren’t doing this, but I’m open to that discussion, too.)

…what would this “look like” in our lives if we decided to “fix” it? Or, what practical steps would we take?

Sorry if the last few days have been a little deep at The Diner lately, patrons. I guess I get this way during sermon prep week!