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Young adult mission

9 March 2011

Yes, it’s Ash Wednesday and yes, I should probably write something to address that. But my thoughts about Ash Wednesday’s overlapping themes are too jumbled right now to make any sense, so I’m putting that off.

Instead, I point to something that the Episcopal Café posted this week, from the blog “the owls & the angels”. What’s remarkable about this list is that it’s spot on. Most Christian adults are completely out of touch, and their attempt to get “in touch” just further points out how out of touch they are. The author here cuts through all the BS and gets down to the issue. And it’s perfect. This is what the vast majority of thoughtful young people want in a church community.

  1. Be genuine.  Do not under any circumstances try to be trendy or hip, if you are not already intrinsically trendy or hip.  If you are a 90-year-old woman who enjoys crocheting and listens to Beethoven: by God, be proud of it.
  2. Stop pretending you have a rock band.
  3. Stop arguing about whether gay people are okay, fully human, or whatever else.  Seriously.  Stop it.
  4. Stop arguing about whether women are okay, fully human, or are capable of being in a position of leadership.
  5. Stop looking for the “objective truth” in Scripture.
  6. Start looking for the beautiful truth in Scripture.
  7. Actually read the Scriptures.  If you are Episcopalian, go buy a Bible and read it.  Start in Genesis, it’s pretty cool.  You can skip some of the other boring parts in the Bible.  Remember though that almost every book of the Bible has some really funky stuff in it.  Remember to keep #5 and #6 in mind though.  If you are evangelical, you may need to stop reading the Bible for about 10 years.  Don’t worry: during those ten years you can work on putting these other steps into practice.
  8. Start worrying about extreme poverty, violence against women, racism, consumerism, and the rate at which children are dying worldwide of preventable, treatable diseases.  Put all the energy you formerly spent worrying about the legit-ness of gay people into figuring out ways to do some good in these areas.
  9. Do not shy away from lighting candles, silence, incense, laughter, really good food, and extraordinary music.  By “extraordinary music” I mean genuine music.  Soulful music.  Well-written, well-composed music.  Original music.  Four-part harmony music.  Funky retro organ music.  Hymns.  Taizé chants.  Bluegrass.  Steel guitar.  Humming.  Gospel.  We are the church; we have uber-rich history of amazing music.  Remember this.
  10. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  11. Learn how to sit with people who are dying.
  12. Feast as much as possible.  Cardboard communion wafers are a feast in symbol only.  Humans can not live on symbols alone.  Remember this.
  13. Notice visitors, smile genuinely at them, include them in conversations, but do not overwhelm them.
  14. Be vulnerable.
  15. Stop worrying about getting young people into the church.  Stop worrying about marketing strategies.  Take a deep breath.  If there is a God, that God isn’t going to die even if there are no more Christians at all.
  16. Figure out who is suffering in your community.  Go be with them.
  17. Remind yourself that you don’t have to take God to anyone.  God is already with everyone.  So, rather than taking the approach that you need to take the truth out to people who need it, adopt the approach that you need to go find the truth that others have and you are missing.  Go be evangelized.
  18. Put some time and care and energy into creating a beautiful space for worship and being-together.  But shy away from building campaigns, parking lot expansions, and what-have-you.
  19. Make some part of the church building accessible for people to pray in 24/7.  Put some blankets there too, in case someone has nowhere else to go for the night.
  20. Listen to God (to Wisdom, to Love) more than you speak your opinions.
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One Comment leave one →
  1. Paul permalink
    6 April 2011 14:31

    Interesting post, especially for Ash Wednesday. I wonder why the list’s author seems to find it hard for someone to embrace the discipline of Scripture & the transformed lives it encourages along with living out a passionate social gospel. On a day when we especially recognize our sinfulness and the need for a redemptive Savior- Ash Wednesday- the list’s author seems to argue that acceptance of people in whatever sinful shape they present themselves is more important than redemption. Did Christ come to accept us or transform us? To free us from darkness or simply to embrace it?

    I wonder if we cannot love both the world Christ came for and the redemption he offers us in our sinfulness. The god in each person- without Christ- is a shallow, powerless substitute to the transforming Gospel. We are called to love and help and reach and serve- with full authenticity and passion as the list suggests- while we are also called to make Disciples, and to take the news of Christ to a hurting world. If #15 & # 17 are true (& probably #5 & #7b), then the cross was an unnecessary waste of Jesus. We are not called to love the world without proclaiming the freedom from sin that comes from Christ. It is a shallow, self-serving, lifeless faith that we proclaim if we trade the historic orthodox faith for claim-free, change-free “authenticity”.

    I do agree with the tone of the list that pleads for us to not try to be someone we are not in order to try to appear inviting, ending up just as shallow then as someone who is authentic without being faithful. It seems the author of the list would be better served simply reminding us of the truth of James- faith without works is dead. You’ve got to both live it and believe it- one cannot do either well without doing both.

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