Tag Archives: evangelicals

Confessions of a High Church Millennial – Is Liturgy a Fad?

A few days ago a news story came out that McDonald’s is slumping because of upstart restaurants like Chipotle or Freshii or Shake Shack are appealing to the desire of millennials to customize, rather than standardize their food.

The church can probably learn something from this, but if anything the message is millennials are not opting for the things the world expects.

So imagine my surprise this past week when I read two articles about the movement of evangelical millennials leaving their mega-church roots for boring old traditions and liturgy found in Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran varieties.

Actually, this is not new, but has been an underground trend for a while.

Popular writer and blogger, Rachel Held Evans is about to come out with a book on her journey from Evangelicalism to the Anglican/Episcopalian fold. Nadia Bolz-Weber embodies millennial culture and is succeeding at navigating the cultural commute from hipsters to the Eucharist. The Barna Group even recently released data on millennial preferences of church architecture, which suggested that churches that looked like traditional churches were preferred over auditorium style buildings.

Christian millennials seem to live in this multi-layered world of reading the bible on their iPhone and tweeting in church, while singing ancient plainsong and praying prayers spoken by saints of centuries past.

And maybe this makes sense in the context of the hipster trends that have even infected my millennial hair and eyewear. My generation is instagraming photos of our knitting projects and writing our first draft blog posts on typewriters (see blog tagline above).

Yet all of this makes we wonder. Is Liturgy just another version of a millennial hipster fad? Are looms, vinyl record players and vespers things we are going to commit to for a lifetime?

Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know if Liturgy is going to be the Christian fad of the late 2010s like Power Point was the fad of the early 2000s.

At the same time, I think there is something deeper going on when it comes to millennials and liturgy. Particularly, when it comes to evangelical millennials finding liturgy and jumping in with two feet.

Now as a High Churchly Millennial myself, I should confess that I have not actually been a pastor to more than a handful of folks my age. The vast majority of my parishioners have been boomers or older. In fact, one of the concerns of Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans is how to retain our own “young” people.

So for evangelical millennials to begin wandering into our spaces is surprising, but I have a few theories about this trend. Evangelical churches are doing something with their people that many mainliners have mostly given up on decades ago – evangelicals are creating biblically literate Christians.

I have been teaching confirmation (two years of Lutheran indoctrination for 12 and 13-year-olds) classes for a decade in some form or another. And while I love reading the bible with students and talking about issues of faith, it is clear that we are not introducing our children to the bible beyond once a week classes with the pastor. When I ask kids if they know the basic details of many of biblical stories, including the life and ministry of Jesus they rarely come up with any.

What’s worse is that this biblical illiteracy is not limited to teenagers… it is rampant among mainliners. Evangelicals, on the other hand, have much more established cultures of bible reading. Evangelicals are encouraged to read the bible daily and to engage in group bible study more rigorously than many mainliners.

And this is where the experience of Liturgy comes in.

Liturgy is scripturally rich. The prayers and music texts are full of biblical images… images that come and go fast. A Eucharistic prayer might reference creation, Abraham and Sarah, Eljiah being fed at the river, David and Goliath, Ezekiel and the dry bones and then Jesus all in a few lines. If you can’t move quickly between stories and images, it can begin to sound like jargon and non-sense. I suspect a lot of mainline folks, especially bored teenagers, feel completely lost during a lot of liturgy.

As our need to be connected to and to understand what is happening around us increases through teenage years and into adulthood, biblically rich liturgy can become an experience of alienation. People don’t know what is going on or why the presider is yammering on about all these people with old sounding names. This is when the old trope that “Liturgy is boring” starts to get thrown around. Yet, most teachers know (and pastors should too) that kids who claim school is boring, often do so because they are not comprehending basic concepts and are struggling to keep up with what is going on. Many mainliners are in this boat.

Now imagine instead, you are a biblically literate teenager or young adult. You know your bible. You have done sword drills, and trivia. You have memorized verses and verses of the bible. And yet the worship you attend is 15 praises songs, which may or may not have a few psalm verses as lyrics, 3 extemporaneous prayers, and is concluded by some dude in a graphic t-shirt lecturing for 45 minutes on the ten principles of prayer found in Malachi chapter three.

I can see why, when biblically literate evangelicals end up in a Lutheran or Anglican worship service, they find a whole new playground of biblical worship. All of a sudden the richness of the biblical narratives come alive. Biblical images are used abundantly. Bible stories are quoted frequently. Scripture is read aloud regularly. The biblical knowledge of personal devotion and youth group becomes the new language of prayer and song, of ritual and community. You are thrown into the divine drama and you are with a community who is practicing and acting it out together.

By things we have done, and things we have failed to do” weighs heavy on our hearts as we confess these words in community, and then receive the gift of absolution and forgiveness.

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” takes on new meaning when the acolyte processes the big bible down into the midst of the people in order to hear the gospel read.

Peace be with you” is embodied when we say it as we embrace fellow Christians around us.

This is my body, given for you” is felt when a hunk of bread is torn from a loaf and placed in our open hands and we feel flesh the of the one giving us this bread meeting our flesh, somehow bringing together earthly bread and divine body.

Liturgy has the ability to awaken the richness of the core narratives of faith in ways I have never experienced elsewhere. I can’t imagine another means of embodying the bible – embodying the Word of God – so deeply as we do in the liturgy.

Now, I am not saying that mainline millennials are not able to appreciate liturgy. Nor am I saying that evangelical millennials are about to become liturgy loving Catholics, Anglicans or Lutherans.

But rather I am trying to make some connections that point to bigger issues among Christians in North America and the West in general. The fact is many evangelicals seem to be good at keeping early church’s serious commitment to catechesis, yet have dropped many of liturgical commitments. While many mainliners have maintained the liturgical commitment of our forbearers, we have dropped much of the catechetical commitment to introduce our young and our new members to the bible and to the richness of the biblical narrative. The two dynamics play into each other in ways that none of us anticipated.

So back to my first question: Is liturgy just the latest hipster fad among millennial christians? I cannot really say. I wish and hope it isn’t. But I also know that vestments and their fabrics (all the funny robes that priests and pastors wear) excite me in the same way others of my generational cohort might be excited by bee-keeping or printing presses or growing organic gardens or listening to vinyl.

Yet, I would posit that there is something deep and more profound in liturgy, even with all its ancient adornments and traditions. Liturgy is rooted in the rich and beautiful biblical narratives that help us to make sense of the world – or perhaps show us how God is making sense of us.

Even if liturgy and vestments and ancient ritual appeals to my millennial and hipster sensibilities, I know it is a life long interest, a life long calling if you will, to continually encounter God in ways that Christians have been encountering God for centuries.

And that’s no fad.


If you want to read part 1 of Confessions of a High Church Millennial, you can find it here.

Is Liturgy just another hipster fad? Are millennials drawn to liturgy differently than previous generations? Share in the comments, or one the Facebook Page: The Millennial Pastor or on Twitter: @ParkerErik

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World Vision is sending us all to Hell!

World Vision is trying to send us all to hell.

If you don’t know what I am talking about, you haven’t been on the internet in the last 24 hours.

World Vision announced that they are going to start forcing African kids to marry into same-sex relationships, if not they will take away all their food. Seriously! Well… that is what these guys at the Gospel Coalition seemed to be saying…

Anyways, we all know that this is a huge problem. World Vision plans to employ only gay people so that they can transmit ‘gayness’ to as many Third World children as possible.

173720_20110408_174319_OCPNow, I have long been suspicious of World Vision. All their commercials and print ads have pictures of kids on them that I can only assume are not ‘Christian’. Most of those kids come from the Kenyan bush right? Isn’t that where Obama came from? We all know what that means! It only makes sense that he is pushing this same-sex marriage agenda to make us all gay. I didn’t vote for a gay Kenyan to be my president, and that’s not only because I am Canadian. But with World Vision now burning bibles (according to Franklin Graham) and feeding non-Christian children, they are bringing together two threats to the United States of Evangelicalism to make a mega threat –

Gay Terrorists!!!

But seriously, has anyone been checking to see what the faith statements of these sponsor kids are? I want to see signed statements on websites so I can know if we really should be “sponsoring” their eternal salvation for only $1 a day. Do they believe in Predestination or Free Will? What if they are Roman Catholic marxists like the Pope? Has anyone actually checked to see if the schools they are attending aren’t Madrassas? What if those doctors that these “sponsor kids” see practice Sharia medicine? (The NSA has probably just put me on a watch list for all the flagable words I have in this post).

Now, you might be saying, “But Erik, you live in a country that allows same-sex marriage!” To which I respond, this is okay because we had a white christian Prime Minister who introduced that law. But more importantly, do we want less gay premarital sex? Because letting gay people get married is the best way to keep them from having lots of sex!

Still, you might be saying, “But Erik, you serve in a denomination that blesses same-sex marriages!” To which I respond,  I am not turning any African kids into gay terrorists!

imagesWorld Vision just might be the last organization that ever believed in the bible, besides the Gospel Coalition. And now, because of their gay employees, they are threatening us all with the eternal fires of hell. What if the hard-earned money that I am sending to evangelize African kids is used instead to feed them, give them medical care, and clean water? They could very well grow up to marry someone of the same gender, and that is against God’s word! What if some of the money I give to World Vision goes to pay some of the salary of a World Vision employee? A Gay Employee!?!?! Will that make ME gay?!?!

So, I say stop supporting World Vision and their Gay Terrorism agenda! Because we all know what Jesus said about that:
“Feed My Sheep” John 21:17
“Let the little children come to me” Matthew 19:14
“For I was hungry and you gave me food” Matthew 25:35
“I am the bread of life” John 6:35
“Give them something to eat” Matthew 14:16

Er, um… We all know what Paul said about that:
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them” Romans 12:20
“Bear one another’s burdens” Galatians 6:2
“When you come together to eat, wait for one another” 1 Corinthians 11:33

I mean… We all know what Leviticus said about that:
“Their flesh [Pigs] you shall not eat, and of their flesh you shall not touch.” Leviticus 11:8
“nor shall you put on a garment made of two different materials” Leviticus 19:19
“But anything in the seas or the streams that does not have fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and among all the other living creatures that are in the waters—they are detestable to you” Leviticus 11:10

Oh right, this is one!
“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” Leviticus 18:22

So… We need to stop supporting World Vision because of this obscure verse of Leviticus, even though we don’t follow most of the other rules in that book!

And because… Gay Terrorists!

____________________________________________

Disclaimer: If it wasn’t clear already, the above post is satire and sarcasm. I fully support World Vision’s choice to hire employees in same-sex marriages. To read more about LGBT rights in the Church check this out: Why I should have spoken up for LGBT rights in the Church

So what do you think about the World Vision News? What do you think of the reaction? Share in the comments, on the Facebook Page: The Millennial Pastor or on Twitter: @ParkerErik

 

 

 

All You Disaffected Evangelicals should Become Lutheran

I never thought I would write a post with this title.

However, I suspect a lot of you are already thinking about it, so let me say out loud what you might be thinking.

Image source - http://cyberbrethren.com/whats-a-lutheran/
Image source – http://cyberbrethren.com/whats-a-lutheran/

“Maybe checking out a nice Lutheran church wouldn’t be so bad.”

Over the past few weeks, the Evangelical world (read: media, twitter, blogosphere) has been full of drama, so much so, that I wrote about how it reminds me of High School drama. There have been those who are just tired out. Those who have resolved to quit fighting about the drama with other disaffected folks. Those who are advocating for schism. Those who are breaking up with Evangelicalism.

Meanwhile, Lutherans in the US elected a Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, who is a woman. Nadia Bolz-Weber (our own little rock star) wrote an incredible book worth reading. Lutherans have a strong history, we have leaders like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who have found renewed followings among many Christians. Lutherans have been doing alright.

Let me be clear though. I am not saying you should become Lutherans because we are awesome (because we are not), and I am not really into sheep stealing.

In fact, Lutherans have a lot of flaws and we may not seem, at first, like what you are looking for.

Most Lutheran churches can seem kind of boring. We don’t create cults of celebu-pastors. We are pretty calm and subdued in worship, when people smile at a joke told during a sermon it is a really big deal. We generally do liturgy, but we are not as good at it as the Catholics or Episcopalians/Anglicans. Lots of us try the praise and worship thing, but we are still stuck in 1992 when it comes to music and style. We sometimes try to get involved in our communities and with helping the poor, but our churches don’t have big outreach budgets and many of our folks are burning the candle at both ends. We do have strong aid organizations like Lutheran World Relief, but we are not like the amazing Mennonites. For youth, we have 2 years of church school (confirmation) for 12-14 year olds – we do not do youth group like the Baptists or Pentecostals.

Of course, Lutherans have drama too. We fight about all kinds of things that churches fight about, from theological understandings of human sexuality to worship styles to carpet colour to budget deficits.

churchsignBut here is the thing you disaffected Evangelicals might appreciate. We Lutherans are pretty sure we are wrong and imperfect. Plus we like to name it.

Most Sunday mornings, we begin by confessing our sins. Together. We admit to God and to each other that we haven’t got things right and we won’t in the future. We remind ourselves that we are all pretty screwed up.

Then we hear God’s forgiveness. Given to us, freely, generously, graciously, without condition.

And we go from there. We begin with confession and forgiveness, and then we preach grace.

Real grace. Grace that is God’s action and not ours. Grace that is entirely God’s responsibility, not ours.

Lutherans might not be the best at liturgy, music, social justice, outreach, youth group, or promoting celebu-pastors. But we are the best at grace.

In fact, I am going to go out on a limb and say Lutherans have the best theology of justification – bar none. We get this grace stuff and we drill it into each other a lot. Lutheran theology and preaching at its best provides the clearest distinction of law and gospel, of what our problem is and what God is doing about it, in all of Christianity. Lutherans churches at their best will boldly declare that we are not the ones saving ourselves, that our theology, our pastors, our liturgy, our music, our youth programs, our celebu-pastors… our good works… don’t meant squat to God.

God has already decided how God feels about us. Any pastor, any Christian who tells you otherwise hasn’t read enough Martin Luther. Or enough of the Bible.

God loves all of us, and not because we earn it or deserve it. God loves us because God is just really cool that way.

This is why I think you disaffected Evangelicals need a little more Lutheranism in your lives. Because we know how to be broken, marginalized, tired out, sinners, and we do it honestly, without pretense. And we know that we will be okay. We know that God is really good at working with our brokeness, working with us at our worst. That is what grace is all about.

That is what I hear you needing. That is what I see coming to odds in Evangelicalism. The need to be right, the need to do it all, the need to have it all together, the need to do God’s work all on your own. The need to be prefect little bible believing Christians coming to odds with the reality of all suffering, sin and death in the world.

Now, before I tell you to become a Lutheran, let me explain one thing. Yes, Lutherans are named after Martin Luther, but Luther named himself after something else. Martin Luder changed his name to Luther, which is derived from the greek work ‘eleutherius’, meaning one who has been set free.

Lutherans are followers of Luther, but we are also ones who have been ‘set free.’

So all you disaffected Evangelicals. Become Lutherans. Become set free.

Become ones who  are set free by God’s grace.

So who wants to become a Lutheran? Is this an option for disaffected evangelicals? Share in the comments, or on Facebook or on Twitter: @ParkerErik