Have you heard any complaints about “this generation” lately? Have you heard that they have little or no respect for authority? Have you heard that they have problems with committing to church? Haven’t heard that? Well, I have. And, I hear it often.
But, there’s a problem with these complaints. They’re not true. Seriously. They’re not true.
This generation (whichever generation the author, blogger, pastor, etc. may be talking about) does respect authority, and they do not have a problem committing.
However, they have very little respect or commitment for nameless, faceless entities. Over the last 20 years or so, people have grown up watching commercials telling them that product X is the best, fastest, easiest, cheapest, etc. They knew these claims were not true. They heard politicians telling them that they had their best interests in mind. They knew these sound bites were not true. They heard CEO’s telling them that the employees were the company’s most important asset. They knew this was not true.
How did they know these things were not true? Because it didn’t prove to be true. The products failed. The politicians lied. The CEO laid off half the work force and took a huge bonus.
All of these people (product spokespeople, politicians, and CEO’s) all had something in common. The people did not really know them. They knew the names and faces, but they didn’t know the people themselves.
They did not truly know the actor pitching the product, or the congressman/senator making promises, or the CEO collecting bonuses. And, they learned that they could not trust someone just because they were in a certain position of influence. They learned that just because a person said something, it did not make it true. In fact, they learned that the more someone said something and the more force that was used to convince people that it was true, the more likely the it was not true.
So, where does that put the church in the view of “this generation”? Well, it depends.
Do the people actually know the person (people) who are speaking? I’m not asking if they know what the person (people) say about himself, herself, or themselves. I’m not asking if they know what the person says. I mean, do they actually KNOW that person. If not, then to “this generation” the person speaking is the same as the product spokesperson, the company’s CEO, the politician, the college president, etc.
If the people do not know you, they will probably not trust you. This is different than previous generations to whom people in positions of authority were automatically assumed to be trustworthy. “This generation” has learned otherwise; people are not trustworthy simply because of their position or because they say that they are trustworthy.
This does not mean that you are corrupt. It does not mean that you are lying. It does not mean that you are not authentic in what you say about yourself. It means that they do not KNOW any of this about you, because they will not believe it simply because you say it’s so.
So, do you want people in “this generation” to trust you? Do you want to be able to influence them? Do you want them to be committed to fellowship and community with you? Then, you must share your life with them… actually share your life.
The times when you stand above them and speak, teach, preach, sermonize alone will not count in their eyes.
Does your context not allow for any other kind of sharing lives together? Well, you have a problem, don’t you?