Here we are, here I am. Trying to find my way through the spiritual climate laid down by previous generations. Realizing that Christianity is only one generation from being forgotten I am deeply interested in finding a way to accurately hand down the faith to future generations. I am also very interested in letting those future generations in on some things “not to do.”
To be honest the generations here in the West from the Great Awakenings and on handed down a deeply personal, albeit somewhat misguided faith at best; and a heavy handed, ingrown and legal faith at worst. As part of the “Newsboys generation”, being raised in the Western church in the 80s and 90s, I to will not be able to hand down the faith totally accurately either… (Surprise!) We are shaped by our context and some of the spiritual environments we have moved in haven’t been very good. We have also made decisions of darkness which keeps us and past generations from fully handing down the faith. But I believe it helps to acknowledge this, be honest about it and do the hard work of confessing our shortcomings to future generations so that they don’t have to repeat our mistakes right away. We must remember that the Holy Spirit moves throughout and beyond time and is so much greater then our mistakes.
So what are some of the things that we as a 80s -90s generation have struggled with in the formative years of our faith? What are some of the things I need to confess to be able to gain vision of where I find myself so that I may help others see a path? What are some of the logs that have marred my and my generations vision?
Stillness – We often thought we thrived on noise. Big productions, big and spectacular bands that would stir both emotion (imagine that emotion is a kid in a car) and passion (now passion is the kid driving the car…). In deeply personal and often very loud “encounters” with God, filled with emotion turning into passion we decided then and there what we should do with our lives rather then discovering who we are. In the noise of everything we forgot to be silent before the awesome God and truly listen. We forgot our identity in the pursuit for a purpose, to matter.
Humbleness – When we had felt the “true call” on our life by God we often chose to believe that we could change the world because God was with us (who can then be against us). We went on SMTs, we started charitable organizations, we became pastors (often worship and arts pastors), we wrote books about creative worship, the emerging Church and experimented with all kinds of art forms in the sanctuary. We produced records, movies, Christian dating sites and much more. We also left our local Churches for “greater things”. Many of us left the Church altogether. As we started to have children we started to choose our Church based upon our preferences rather than asking how we could incarnate our faith and serve others. We believed that it was up to us to make the world a better place. We confused our passion with the will of the Lord.
Reverence – We also forgot how to and who to revere. When the protestant movement threw out the awareness of the presence of the saints in the Church we eventually lost our touch with how to approach them. We thought that an acknowledgment and reverence of their mystical presence in our midst meant that we worshipped them (as taught by our parents and grand parents). In this legacy we lost our ability to properly revere and take care of our parents and elders. Fed by individualism as creed we started to revere or despise our own image in the mirror in the morning.
Gathered together these struggles created an environment of confusion where the most assertive and marketable idea prevailed. Church became dangerously close to looking like a business with salvation as it’s prime product. This product could be purchased by living the “Christian life”. We didn’t like that our parents put on a happy Christian smile when that didn’t reflect reality all the time, but we ended up doing much of the same just because that is what we knew.
Many of us are still confused because this simple, marketable, slim fit, version of the Christian faith is simply just not enough. The questions we have are deeper and bigger then the current “American mainstream Christian theology” can answer. The truth is that we are tired of the product environment that we were raised in. Unlike our parents we do not want to stick to a product our whole life unless the truth about this product is revealed to us. Unless the product takes us on a journey towards truth.
If you are a Newsboys generation Christian like me then I encourage you to face these three struggles. Go through the labour of being honest about struggle and sin. If we face our sin in truth, we will encounter His face of love. And His face is what we were after all along. Begin the journey, go through Lent in stillness, humbleness and reverence and I believe you will see the path you can show future generations to go.