As the readers of these blogs know, I’m somewhat fascinated by the emerging Millennial Generation, and the fascination grows the more I study the phenomenon.

One of them, a gifted young writer and filmmaker by the name of David Burstein, has recently written a book: Fast Forward: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the World. Stir into the mix another creative young guy, Jeff Hammerbacher, who has put together a data-cruncher called Cloudera and it gets more interesting. Then throw in this guy, Nick D’Aloiso, who at fifteen years of age put together another news scanning program, which he sold to Yahoo for millions of British pounds, … and it rather takes away one’s cynicism about the future. The sheer creative talent, and the civic spirit, of those 18-30 year old folk portend some kind of interesting future. And they are optimistic about all the potential of the future into which they are moving.

My question, then, would be: What will the millennial generation do with the church? If they see no problem with changing the world, then what about changing the church.

One dimension of the answer to that question is that the church is enigmatic to many of them. News articles of late speak of the rapidly growing number of “nones,” i.e., those who are not at all atheists, but don’t identify themselves with any Christian tradition. How will the Christian community relate to such a generation of pragmatists, and creative change practitioners? Is the church community ready for a change that will create forms previously unknown? Can church communities recognize their transience—that they may be fruitful for only a short period, and are not to create permanent institutions? Would this emerging generation within the church be ready to divest the church of its vast holding, and get on with its mission of reaching men and women with the awesome message of God’s love in Christ?

Or what of citizen/member participation that eschews hierarchical (clergy) control, and chooses rather to be a significant part of the ministry and mission? You’ve got to remember that this is a generation that stays connected, but often without community—yet at the same time longing for authentic relationships.

I could foresee that this might be the generation that actually goes back to basics, and asks the questions (so often buried in the vast ecclesiastical paraphernalia) of what the church is intended to be in the mind of Christ, and why?

And do you know what? There are communities of Christian folk that actually have already moved into this new culture and are permeating their neighborhoods, and cultures, and proving to be salt and light in ways that my (octogenarian) generation never imagined.

Who was it said: “Behold, I make all things new?” Does that only happen sometime in the future? Or is that future possibly looking us in the eye at this moment?

Stand by …

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About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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