Friday, June 22, 2007

Weekend with Episcopacy

"There is a lot of money for the postmodern game. Anything can be sponsored and fed money to. The modern church will pump money into church planting, books, and movies. But the sun burns brightest before it sets. They are trying to reach young people. However, they will realize that they are wasting their money and walk away. After this, there will be people who apply the gospel in postmodern cultures."
- Spencer Burke, from the book EMERGING CHURCHES by Gibbs and Bolger
I was afforded an opportunity to spend the weekend with some of the episcopacy of the denomination of which I belong to catch a glimpse of what they would be focusing on over the next year. Ministry with Young Adults was the focus so, as you can tell from my profile and interests, I was eager to hear their ideas and, most importantly, hear their vision and plan for reaching younger generations for God through Jesus Christ, emboldened and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Not surprisingly, there was no such plan.
Educated presenters outside of the age range laid out in the Discipline for "young adults" (18-35 years of age) set out to pass on their wisdom re: ministry with young adults. A very respected speaker, writer, and Bishop stated during one of his lectures the urgency with which we must act to reach young adults b/c, "They will renew our church." Hearing this I thought to myself, well there is the fundamental problem: the episcopacy sees the church as "ours" and identifies the younger adult population as "they", speaking of them as some sort of magical two-headed unicorn with special powers to bring forth renewal simply by their presence within the four walls of our church buildings.
Throughout the weekend, small group sessions with actual young adults seeing success in ministry took place while the majority of the episcopacy sat around outside drinking coffee and catching up. An outstanding worship service took place that threaded the idea of legacy throughout the music and message. Problem is only two Bishops, a handful of Superintendents, and a group of older pastors were there to experience it.
I use "not surprising" throughout this post b/c if the church were actually reaching young adults there would be no need for a week with the special emphasis on young adults. Among the questions I was left with after the weekend was over were:
-Whose church is it? Is it the Superintendents and the Bishops church? Is it ours? Is it Christ's?
-Who are "they"? Does the episcopacy honestly believe that
young adults are waiting around outside of the church for a compelling reason to
join up? What about those young adults who are already in the church being told
that they must wait 5-10 years for ordination and prominent appointments?
-What about those young adults who have been told by Pastors, Superintendents, and Bishops that they don't understand young adults/postmoderns/emerging church and therefore care little about these issues, fully ready to rely on older adult membership until they pass away?
-If, as so many of the speakers over the course of the weekend
stated, young adults hate to be generalized, why did we spend a weekend
communicating and relying upon generalizations? -Where was the panel of young
adults who could speak about what it is that the church is missing?
-Why was the Hispanic voice absent amongst the dialogue?
-What is the church waiting for?
My assumptions, based on my observations of the reaction and involvement of the episcopacy of this area, tell me that the immediacy is absent, that they are content to rely on the membership of those in the older adult population. They will continue to throw money at programs, software, and flim-flam artists that falsely promise an increase in young adult involvement rather than pour themselves into the younger generations. And when the sun truly sets on this "greatest generation" and the numbers and the money dry up without a new generation prepared to step up and take their place, perhaps the leadership of the church will be ready to truly sit down at the table to listen and respond to the needs of all of its people. Or, as Spencer Burke's quote relays, at the very least they will realize their shortsightedness and get out of the way to allow the gospel to reach postmodern generations.

2 comments:

Steve Heyduck said...

Great post! I particularly like this: "Does the episcopacy honestly believe that
young adults are waiting around outside of the church for a compelling reason to
join up?"

I've heard many different subsets of United Methodists who, in meetings, sound very much like the unchurched are, in fact, "waiting aroudn outside" churches waiting for a good reason to come in. Sadly, it seems that the assumption very often is that the masses out there really want the same thing or things from the church that we get, so all we have to do is let them in.

Isn't it enough to have open doors?

DogBlogger said...

I remember meeting you up there; why can't I put a face with your name?

Good observations. I share some similar ones in an upcoming commentary in the UM Reporter.

Blessings,
Amy