Monday, August 18, 2008

George Grant - Why We're Losing the Julies of this World

PCA pastor Dr. George Grant has a fantastic post concerning NextGen Worship. His post was sparked by a recent cover story in WORLD Magazine featuring worship for the next generation.

He cites an article by blogger Julie Neidlinger entitled "Why I Walked Out of Church" as indicative of a growing trend among folks who are just tired of the games and phoniness they find at church. Here is a sampling...

Julie R. Neidlinger, editor of the Lone Prairie online magazine has nailed it. In her article, Why I Walked Out of Church she describes the disaffection so many young Americans have with the modern Evangelical church, "the coffee bars in the foyer, the casual attire, the buzz words, all the programs and activities imaginable, the big-screen video monitors, the contemporary music," all of it.

She confides that a recent World Magazine cover story about "NextGen Worship" actually "inspired a strong desire to smack the pastors depicted in the article and in the photos. The cover photo alone enraged me, with the pastor wearing baggy jeans and untucked button-up shirt with flip flops and an ear microphone. Later, the same guy is shown out front of a church holding a paper Starbucks-like cup of coffee. Could he try any harder to be lame? I'd have liked to have taken that cup of coffee and dumped it on his head. But it's nothing personal against that guy or his beliefs or sincerity. It's an anger at something else."

I have to admit that I had a similar response to that magazine cover. As Solomon said, 'there is nothing new under the sun.' While it looks cutting edge, relevant, and sincere, make no mistake -- it is contrived and carefully crafted. NextGen worship is just the latest fad in the worship wars -- it is GenX rebelling against the 'plastic' mega-church stuff of the baby-boomers who themselves rebelled against the fundamentalism of their upbringing.

You can read the rest at Parish Life (scroll down to August 6th). You will also find a link to Neidlinger's blog.

NOTE: I gather from Neidlinger's blog that she lives in North Dakota. You might think that church growth would not have impacted a place as remote as that but think again. Denominations of all stripes have moved in this direction so much so that you'd be hard-pressed to find a difference between an Assemblies of God church, a Bible Church, an Evangelical Free Church, a Berean Church, or just about any other evangelical church. Last week while traveling in northern Michigan I drove past a rural church that was trying to be relevant with a Veggie Tales VBS program. I grieve for our older folks who've been shoved out of the way as the boomers and now GenX do their thing.


Geoff Surratt said...

Hey Dave,

I'm the guy in the picture on the cover of the magazine that prompted Ms. Neidlinger's post. In reference to the photo you say,
"While it looks cutting edge, relevant, and sincere, make no mistake -- it is contrived and carefully crafted."

I am curious why the cover elicited that response? You and aI have never met. You have most likely never visited the church where I work. You can't possibly know my heart.

I can assure you that I am flawed and battle with selfishness and insincerity. I have to die daily to the flesh that wars against the Spirit. I can also assure you that my desire is to become all things to all me so that by all means I can win some.

Before we draw conclusions about who is and who is not contrived and carefully crafted. As for the clothes I had on in the picture, that's how middle aged men in Mt Pleasant SC dress. I think we would all do well to get acquainted and then judge the heart rather than the outside of the cup.

Dave Sarafolean said...


Thanks for your comment. I realize that my post was not as precise as it should've been. I was not trying to single you out. My apologies. I was trying to say that the entire methodology is flawed because it is contrived and carefully crafted. You're right, I cannot know your heart from this distance. I assume that most pastors like you are sincere but have adopted a methodology that was carefully crafted by successful churches and, in the end, is contrived (you might read my other posts on church growth specifically the franchise models).

Why do I respond like this? Why do I find myself in general agreement with Neidlinger? First, the emphasis is in the wrong place. Following Aristotle's rhetorical distinctions (logos, pathos and ethos) Dr. Bryan Chapell in his book Christ-Centered Preaching argues that the most important part of preaching is not the man's words, or his emotions but his character (specifically his concern for the listener's welfare). Clothing pretty much fits under the category of 'pathos.'

Second, Paul's comments in I Cor. 9:19-22 about being 'all things to all men' has nothing to do with the worship service and how one should dress when proclaiming God's word. His comments had to do with his travels in the ancient world and the people he met. When he was in Jewish territory he 'became like a Jew.' When among Gentiles he became like one of them. When in mixed company he challenged his Jewish brethen not to impose ceremonial laws (circumcision, diet, etc.) upon their Gentile brethren. That's what Acts 15 and Galatians 1 & 2 is all about.

Third, the drive among pastors to be 'relevant' and 'authentic' is misguided. To adopt the dress and mannerisms of one demographic group in order to reach them (even if it represents a sizable part of the overall population) limits one's outreach to that demographic group. What about others who don't fit the mold? Are they welcome or should they move on to find a church that is tailored to their particular likes and dislikes? That's the problem with Rick Warren's "Saddleback Sam" as portrayed in the Purpose-Driven Church -- it is inherently racist and discriminatory.

I share your passion for the lost but believe that the worship service is primarily for believers. That's the conclusion that Sally Morgenthaler arrived at recently when she admitted that outreach driven worship services have failed miserably (just Google her name and you will find the article).