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.

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