Generations and the Church: Part 2
The idea of community is as society unravels, as people don’t walk to church, they don’t know their neighbors anymore in the same way, we tend to live more hyper-individualistic lives, and even in church, the Baby Boomers like the polished church. I love to say Traditionalists, the people of 70, they were influenced by “experts telling” and the Baby Boomers were influenced by “entertainers compelling”. Traditionalist endured long sermons with a lot of doctrine. Whereas the Baby Boomers are like, that preacher’s boring, and so preaching looked a lot more like television shows. They looked a lot like a variety show, entertaining, funny, captivating, compelling, and the music was much more polished. When I was growing up the song leader sat with the piano player or organist 15 minutes ahead of time and picked songs. That was rehearsal. Whereas now you pick the songs a month ahead of time, there is scheduling software so you can determine if you can be at practices as well as doing all the services in larger churches. Even in smaller churches, there’s a lot more polish than was expected then and that’s how it works. So, Boomers expected that.
Research shows that many of the X’ers want that polish of the Boomers. That’s why large churches, mega-churches are doing quite well, Millennials want the polish. Then there are the others who don’t want the polish. They want authentic. My Millennial told his minister father, “Ah Dad, I’m tired of the pageantry. I like small churches and the authenticity. I like prayers that feel like somebody is actually saying them, rather than they’ve written and memorized them.” The father replied, “Dude, you’re killin’ me, because we were dying in those services.” The Boomers said, “Hell no; we won’t go to church.” And our parents said, “Well, you are going to go to Hell.” And we said, “No, a good God wouldn’t send me to Hell, because hell is listening to that organist play week after week after week.” So, we polished the music, we got more compelling sermons, but as a result we tended to have a more entertainment focus, a more hyper-individualistic focus. I argue that Boomers are the first generation that began to church shop, not because of a fight, but because there was a radio preacher or somebody that wrote a book, that they thought was a better teacher, and so they went for the better voice. It was in essence The Voice television show. Because, you can avoid the dark night of the soul for your entire lifetime by just go to the next thing that gives you the good Jesus buzz, the next hot feeling. And we’ve seen a lot of church shopping.
So many X’ers say, “I don’t care if the preaching is at the same level as others do, because I can get all that on-line. What I care about are the relationships, and the authenticity.” That’s one of the angles with X’ers and Millennials. I’ve even heard Millennial say, “My minister is a good preacher, but that doesn’t matter to me much because I can hear that from hundreds of people.”