Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Generational What?

Two comments, both from local teenagers, in the past couple of weeks:
1. (from a teenager in a charismatic church) "I was at a youth conference recently, and guess what? (insert sarcastic voice and posture here) We're THE Generation!"

2. (from a teenager in an evangelical church) "Can I ask you a question, Mr. Mac?" (Yes, he actually called me "Mr. Mac"...)

"Is your generation really disappointed with mine?"

This image shows my gut reaction to hearing #1. Yet this "we're the chosen generation" idea is still around, and I wonder what kind of bug repellent would be best for those who keep throwing gasoline on that particular fire.

The second question, honestly, took me completely by surprise. My immediate respone, at the time, was "No, not at all. Why do you ask?" His response indicated that this was the general feeling he gets from leaders in his evangelical world.

As someone who has always been passionate about youth and young adults (the emerging generations), the mental grid that I was using as I read Permission Granted (by Cooke & Goodale) was "how does this impact the emerging generations"? To be honest, this grid is probably the first thing that pops to my mind in just about any ministry setting you can imagine.

Cooke & Goodale differentiate between relational leaders -- who are "permission-giving" and seek to see people around them discover God's vision for their own lives -- as opposed to what they call "functional paradigm" leaders. The patron saint of functional-paradigm leaders is probably Mordac the Preventer.
Ultimately, I suspect both teenagers have leaders who are more akin to Mordac the Preventer.
One dismisses the emerging generations right off the bat, while the other promises (prophesies) great responsibility but ultimately will only "load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and... not lift one finger to help." (Luke 11:46)

Which is more sadistic? Outright dismissal, or dangling a carrot that you are never intended to reach?

If Cooke & Goodale are right, then what is needed is permission-giving relational leaders. Not leaders who berate or denigrate the emerging generations before they even get a chance to do anything. Nor leaders who hype them up with grandiose pronouncements, yet continue in a ministry paradigm which does nothing to equip or mentor the emerging generations.

An Aside to those in the Emerging Generations who have been Burnt and are currently Detoxing From Church

Nobody gets to a certain age  and suddenly wakes up one morning and decides, "As of this moment, I am going to be a crotchety, cantakerous, bitter old man/woman. You thought Mordac was bad? Well, my patron saint is going to be the Wicked Witch of the West!"

Embittered old people are just embittered younger people with more experience. The "detox" process (more poetically called "liminality" by some) takes time, yes, but don't set down roots in Camp Bitterness. Be careful that "no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (Hebrews 12:14).

Mordac the Preventer was probably a young idealist once upon a time, before the Great Church Split of '99. It's much easier to become Mordac-ified that we think. We don't want to wake up some morning and realize that we let some good years slip away due to bitterness and cynicism.

And we certainly don't need more Mordacs.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Holy Mañana

When I was but a wee lad, a common joke that my parents and their friends would use was the term "mañana", which I seem to recall was from a popular song in the days before Elvis. Basically, it's Spanish for "tomorrow", but the term as popularized by the song was really a comment on procrastination.
Never do today what you could put off until tomorrow.
Procrastination is a way of avoiding difficulty; a methodology that works hard at not working hard (on something important). For example, I don't like that I weigh more than I used to. I could do something about that. And I plan to. Really, I do. Trouble is, I've been "intending" to get around to more exercise for awhile now, and my weight isn't waiting for me.

Mañana. I'll get to it. Eventually. And suddenly my pants don't fit like they used to. So, instead of taking that as a signal to do something about my weight, I just quietly buy the next bigger size of Levi's, and keep "intending" to get on it later. Mañana.

A lot of ink and blogging has swirled around the high-profile crash-and-burn of certain Christian leaders south of the 49th recently. I wonder if part of the problem was possibly a "Holy Mañana" approach. "Yes, I've got a problem. And I really DO want to change and be more Christlike. Holiness is important; I fully intend to deal with this. Mañana."

And almost unnoticed, the years go by, the good intentions still there but unacted on, and then suddenly el baño ka-BOOM (the bathroom explodes). No more mañana.

Some people blame it on the cult of Christian celebrity. Others blame the mega-church model. Some blame charismatic theology; others, a perceived connected to the emerging church.

A certain Seattle-based pastoral-type has gotten himself into a big cauldron of boiling yak paste by somehow connecting the situation to Fat, Lazy Pastor's Wives. Basically, everyone co-opted a tragic situation to flog their own pet whipping post.

Personal holiness isn't something we can play mañana with. If there's anything to be redeemed from the sordid mess of just a week or two ago, it's a recognition that personal holiness is a "now" issue.
  • Unforgiveness towards CLB (Church Left Behind).
  • Bitterness towards leaders/people who have hurt us.
  • Pride that keeps us justifying ourselves at the expense of reconciliation and relationship.
  • Anger that expresses itself in unGodly ways.
  • Selfish ambition that is the worldly opposite of everything that should characterize the Body of Christ.
  • (Fill in the blank here....)
Joshua told the people, "Consecrate (purify) yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you." (Joshua 3:5) Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears,we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3, emphasis added)
Holy Mañana -- it just doesn't work that way.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Let me tell you a story...

Let me tell you about Wendy.

We met at Providence College; she was a freshman, and I was a sophomore. I came from the Big Smoke (or close enough not to matter for Westerners), and Wendy was from a cattle ranch on the outskirts of Pinaymootang First Nation, far enough north in Manitoba that Winnipeg seemed to be the "balmy south".

My family hails from Scotland; Wendy's is Russian Mennonite. And as this photo clearly documents, it was unquestionably the 80's.
Beauty & the Beast?

It wasn't exactly love-at-first-sight. Granted, many of the guys at our school noticed Wendy right away, because she is beautiful. And her personality was warm, outgoing, and she didn't have the "church lady" attitude that some of her contemporaries at Bible College tended towards. I found her to be a breath of fresh air.

But we weren't attracted to each other, at least not in a "prospective boyfriend/girlfriend" kind of way. We hung out with the same friends, went to a few concerts as a group, and sometimes the two of us went for coffee at Le Routier in nearby St. Pierre-Jolys. We discovered that we could talk for hours -- and often did at Le Routier -- and became great friends.

Ironically, I was out for coffee with a different Wendy one night, and she was asking the timeless questions about how to decide if a certain guy was "the right one" for her or not. She asked me at one point what I looked for in a girl, and when I told her a few things, she asked me if I'd ever met anyone like what I was looking for.

Apparently, that sent me off on a long, long tale of this amazing young woman at college named Wendy, and when I finally paused for breath, she simply stated, "Wow, she sounds incredible. Why don't you ask her out?"

It was one of those revelatory moments where your only reaction is to quote St. Homer of Simpson: "DOH!"

It still took me four days to get up enough nerve to actually ask her out (I really valued our friendship and didn't want to screw it up), and she said "yes", twenty-three years ago today. It's been an incredible journey ever since.

And twenty-three years later, Wendy and I still go out for coffee and talk for hours.