Classic VS Trendy
A recent study by Barna Group collectively asked the question "What is your ideal church?" to a group of millennials. Here are the results:
In the last Raw Church Movement post I shared some thoughts and ideas related to Community VS Privacy. In today's post, I would like to share some thoughts related to Classic VS Trendy. According to the above survey Millennials overwhelmingly prefer classic churches to trendy ones. But what exactly is meant by classic and trendy? Does this mean that Millennials are more into the traditional church than the modern church? Not exactly. All you have to do is look at the final item to see that 60% prefer a modern church to only 40% rooting for the traditional. So once again, what exactly is classic and trendy? And why do Millennials prefer the classic?
While I cannot know for sure how Barna defined those terms I can provide some thoughts from my own culture and experience. If you asked me to choose between a classic Christianity and a trendy one certain concepts would immediately pop into my head.
Bible-focused, Historical, Profound, Experiential, Time-tested, and Authentic.
Fun-focused, Lively, Poppy, Exciting, Cheesy, Phony, Marketed, and Shallow.
Forgive me if my reactions to these two concepts comes across as offensive or insulting of trendy churches. This is certainly not my intention. All I am doing is identifying my own reaction to these two terms. Numerous conversations with millennials, articles, books, and experiences have shown me that I am not alone in these reactions.
When I think of a trendy church experience I can't help but think of a shallow church experience that leans more toward a cosmetic adaptation of church than an ontological one. I picture myself sitting in a comfy church with a super cool pastor who preaches highly forgettable sermons and smiles all the time. I picture a youth group that has tons of fun, great t-shirts, fantastic slogans, logos, and high quality bands yet lacks in spiritual depth. As a millennial I am not looking for a fun church. I am looking for a church that is willing to get messy with life. A church that is not afraid to explore anxiety, depression and addiction. A church that is authentic and honest about pain and suffering. A church where people don't feel the need to pretend they are OK. A church that encourages activism and justice in the world. A church that gets involved with disenfranchised communities. A church that explores the life of Jesus with astounding depth. A church that goes beyond a "God loves you" talk and steps into a "God loves you" walk. A church that explores the entire God-story of scripture, including its gritty parts. For some reason, none of this pops into mind when I think of a trendy church.
I could be wrong of course. Me and a large percentage of my peers. But most of us feel as though the trendy church is mostly a reaction to the horrors of the traditional church as opposed to a proactive attempt to reach the lost. So if it were me answering the survey I too would have chosen "classic".
However, as mentioned before, this does not automatically mean that the traditional church is the place to be. As bad as a trendy church is in my mind, a traditional church is way worse (more on this in the future). But the concept of a classic church is something I find quite appealing. When I think of a classic church I think more in terms of ontology than I do of cosmetics. And there I see a church that embraces the gospel in all its fullness. It may not be flashy and cool, but it changes lives. It's a church where people find their greatest joy in sharing life together and opening up an ancient book written by God himself. It is a church that is intentional about reaching the lost and helping the suffering. A church that speaks the language of its culture, meets people where they are, and leads them gently toward God's call over their lives. That's exactly what I long for. This is not to say that there is nothing to learn from a trendy church. Nice logos, fun events, and down to earth environments are certainly important. But nothing can or should replace the old rugged cross.