Every nation and generation invariably overlays its cultural distinctives upon Scripture, and in particular, upon how that culture interprets Scripture to construct its church worship services. The present and emerging generations are no different. However, in our present era, generational distinctives present themselves every five years rather than in the past when it took 30 years. This culture of change, presents an incredible challenge to the present-day church which most often resists change fiercely.
When I speak of "change", I do not infer that our doctrine or systematic theology should in any way change, for the Gospel of Jesus Christ is The Good News to any generation, and should not be altered. Yet, how the local church attempts to communicate that Gospel, and moreso the entirety of the teachings embodied throughout God's Word must change.
For the past 40+ years, the American church has overlaid a television-culture as a filter which determined how church should be conducted. Quite likely, many pastors will protest this allegation, because they have become so culturally emersed, they can no longer seperate their cultual influences from their identity as "Christ's Church". In fact, some television-culture pastors will even assert their success at attracting large numbers of people to their worship centers as proof that they are on the right track. Yet, in most cases, if these pastors would truly track their demographics, they would likely discover that most of their growth is with people 40 years old and older. Those who are younger, may attend for a while, but have a tendency to leave out the back-door of the church. There is a definite disconnect between the younger adult generation and the typical American church. In one leadership conference, I met a young woman who refused to call herself a Christian. She beleived in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, however she told me: "I refuse to call myself a 'Christian' because of what local churches portray as the image of what a 'Christian' is supposed to be...it does not take a real Christian to put on a Christian show, i want something that is real".
Why does this disconnect exist? It exists because the cultural values of the television-influenced church and the values of the internet-influenced church are diametrically opposed to one another. In a CBS test-group of 100 internet-influenced young adults, they were asked, "how many of you would prefer to watch TV or surf the internet?" 100% of the respondants stated they would prefer to surf the internet. We must come to understand that the era of passive presentational church is coming to an end, while the era of interactive-church is on the rise. Our present challenge goes much deeper than the "worship wars" of recent years, it goes deeper than our pastors discarding their robes for sweaters. Our present challenge involves a transformation of cultural core values which at present most churches refuse to acknowledge.
Come, journey with me, as together, we learn to honor and respect the cultural values of our present and emerging generations. On this journey we will need to carry certain provisions with us, such as new wine stored in new wine-skins. The old wine-skins are worn-out. It is time to value our past, yet have sufficient courage of faith so as to not get stuck in our past. The journey moves us forward into a new land, a new way of doing church...to a place that when we arrive, we will find more pleasant the land from which we once came.
David A Posthuma
Author: The Internet Influenced Church