Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cultural Shifts within the American Church

The Church in America is experiencing significant cultural shifts. The things people are looking for today are not the same that people (the same age) were looking for twenty years ago. Is that good, bad, or just a historical reality?

Darrly Dash recently highlighted the following quote by Michael Horton. It serves as a great commentary on the Church in America, the cycles it has experienced over the past several decades and the shift(s) that are currently taking place. Horton says,

According to one Wall Street Journal study, in fact, the number one element that young urban professionals in New York said they would look for if they decided to go back to church: theological discussion groups! I guess I’m getting older. To me, the megachurch movement was contemporary, but now it’s old news and the generation that was raised in it is now looking for something more serious, meaningful, beautiful, and truthful."


angie Lee said...

I think that's very interesting, but true about my generation of students. We want to understand the theology of Christianity but then again, because of this we over complicate the simplicity of Jesus and faith in Him. :)

Jerrell Jobe said...


Great perspective... With that "want to understand" there seems to be a significant desire to "understand" for the purposes of experiencing, living, incarnating and ultimately expressing these elements of "theology" and spiritual realities in the world in which we live... If it can't be lived-than it's not worth talking about... Therefore, it's generation of individuals not wanting to merely appease some "guilt" factor, but engage, encounter and experience the God factor.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jerrell, it's Anonymous, from the Rice with Chicken blog. I really like this entry on church cultural shift. Church cultural shift alone really interest me. I would come to church just to talk about that.

Over the course of 30 years of life, all of which I have spent in church, I think serving in church causes me to not want to go anymore. I've experienced a lot of unnessarry stuff, I think, complications to what God's good plan for His people is.

Church time should be the simplist time during my week. That's what I want now. Church time should be enjoyable and restful, whether I serve, lead or not.

I don't find that I am looking for theological discussion groups. I find that I am looking for rest, friends, and connections that enable freedom and growth. Theological discussions, good ones, happen in the midst of that anyway. They are unplanned, we search with people we are comfortable searching with I think.

Those urban professionals in New York sound like people who may be afraid to get close to other people. Discussions number one? I don't know, I have a friend there who is one of urban professionals, single no kids, no family there. She has started going to a church there and made friends but she is wondering now if she's suppossed to give the cash she earns to the church for a mission someone is serving or if God wants her to learn to get involved in some kind of mission herself. I told to remember that God may want to do something for her, maybe like give her a family.

I guess I've said all this to say that for my generation I think, the need, maybe not the felt want, but need is to connect and then freely, really, seek God and come to know Him.

Jerrell Jobe said...

Great thoughts...thanks for weighing-in.

I agree... for most, theological "discussions" for the sake of discussion alone doesn't sound very invigorating...Probably boring for most.

Connecting, Relating, Resting, and Community are significant factors... Often even more than we realize during hard, busy,and stressful moments of life... Not to mention doubts, questions, and personal needs.

I agree with you... when those components are there - often "seeking, discovering, conversing" about life, issues, God, even theology become natural and exciting... Especially when things begin to come together and make sense... Which often leaves one (at least me) with a sense of "energy" flowing from the seemingly authentic and organic interactions of people seeking, discovering, experiencing God in on-going transforming ways...

The Church has at times "added" a lot of "stuff" that seems to perhaps hinder more than aid.

Again.. Thanks for jumping in the conversation...

Jerrell Jobe said...


I'd love to hear more about the "serving in church not wanting me to go anymore..."

I'm not sure where that experience took place... But I'd like think we (as a church) could learn from it...

Jerrell Jobe said...


Your sincere hunger to grow and experience God is evident. Based on some of your comments here as well as on "chicken and rice" blog, could I make a few potential book recommendations that I think you'll find helpful?

Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith by Rob Bell

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spiritality by Donald Miller

Abba's Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging by Brennan Manning

(You can view them at http://astore.amazon.com/calvtemp-20 under tabs "Spiritual Formation" and "Misc & Recommends")

Let me know what you think...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, serving in church makes me not want to go anymore. It's a lot the same as what I said before about needing to rest with friends, discuss with friends. When service becomes "we need something done" and it stops being friendly and restful family-like, it not church to me.

You've identified that busyness kills the heart. I've experienced the detriment of busyness with myself and others serving in church. Church people are often asked to serve in some capacity, and we are expected to not be too busy. However, when we volunteer to serve we are not suppossed to become more busy serving than those who asked us to serve. Even still, when we try to seek help/resources for our service to relieve some busyness those who we seek help from are often too busy to help us. How many times have I said or heard, "yeah we should talk about that sometime" and the discussion doesn't ever happen. If the person who asked me to serve is too busy to talk I'm suppossed to respect the fact that they were too busy and not feel bad about it. What? Why did I even volunteer again?

Busyness makes it easy for one servant to become inconsiderate another. Busyness makes it easy for one servant to miss an appointment with another servant. Busyness makes it easy to miss felt needs, yet I thought I signed up to serve to help meet some needs. Oh no.

Friends don't treat eachother that way, and if they do it's not ok. Right? My experience is that church servants often treat eachother this way and it's ok, it's the culture of church service. That's why some people volunteer to serve when they have a friend that wants to volunteer too. That way they have someone to discuss the experience with. If you volunteer alone you're on your own to make new friends, but can friends be made through this kind of busy serving?

I appreciate getting a job done, but I think that another poor aspect of church service culture is over using particular people for areas of service because they can "get a job done". Those particular people can end up having a lot to do, but not doing any of those things as well as they could. Why did I come to church and volunteer to serve when asked if the church will just end up working with the same person they always work with from their circle of trust? Does the church want workers or friends? Is the church serving me by asking me to serve? So much for making friends, resting and enjoying church.

By the way I don't expect you to answer all these questions. I just put them out there for you to think about.

Anonymous said...

Jerrell, I took this quote from the Insanely Grate... Jerrell, I took this quote from the Insanely Grateful entry on Arroz con Pollo to help explain what I am looking for. "...church can be a trip sometimes, but it can be so awesome when real people really love God and really love one another. That's what we have at Calvary, and for that I am insanely grateful. If loving these people is wrong, then I don't want to be right!"

This, Pastor Jerrell, is the church experience that I am currently looking for. This (whatever you would call it) that oozed out of Pastor Edgar after his leadership dialogue is what I want for myself "in church" with whomever God places me with. Does that make sense?

For me church has been a lot of a trip, instead. I don't think it's been normal, I don't think it's been healthy, I think it's been complications to what God's good plan for me is.

You said it best, "Unnecessary Stuff that "we" hold on to, adhere to, and even prescribe to others that "hinders" more than "helps." There is so much there.

I feel like I've had some self-proclaimed doctors prescribe me medicine that caused side effects and complications. I think that I have experienced a developmental nightmare, somewhere in the nightmare the simplicity of living a happy Christian life eluded me. More later....

Anonymous said...

i have some thoughts...

Anonymous said...

yo p. jerrell - its jenna... and i have some thoughts. ok. i was thinking about how we have "sermon series" in church. and also how we have "pre-packaged sermons that we can buy from other pastors"- honestly, i kinda have a problem with that. i mean , i know it is great, and it has worked, and we have done it, and i believe God uses it, but i feel like deep in my spirit, i want more, like more as in the body of christ being unified- for real (NOT THAT WE ARENT )- but like couldnt we be more? definatly.

ok- what im saying is- what if God wants to radically change the "format of church"- which i think at calvary temple, you guys do---an AMAZING job at it. what i mean is- what if there is a specific message that God wants to down load into a pastor or teacher and then creatively communicate that message and THEN let God move...- but what if that message is out of the norm or doesnt go with the series or maybe the body would dispute a theological belief inside the message....what if its inconvienient or too bold. what if we ofend someone...ISNT GOD BIGGER THAN THAT? WONT HE HONOR OUR OBEDIENCE TO PREACH THAT WORD? WHAT IF THATS EXACTLY WHAT WE NEED FOR BREAKTHROUGH?? isnt God big enough?

OK-** I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT CT- IM TALKING ABOUT "the church"... I agree, with the quote above- young people want something real. well, we've got to have the SPIRIT MOVING. and i feel like in so many churches the spirit of God is restricted in a way... I feel like sometimes, we are on such a time crunch or a schedulee crunch or a formula crunch that if God really wanted to move, we wouldnt let him ..becuase we have to be somewhere....becuase we are hungry- for lunch...because we want to "fellowship with our brothers and sisters in christ"...i guess i just wanna go deeper. and I want the whole body to go deeper together. i just wanna see God move. I am sick of singing songs about the blind seeing and the deaf hearing, I WANT TO SEE IT. I belive I will...im just hungry - but the business of life pulls at me.....anyways- just some of my thoughts...hope it all makes sense...let me know what you think-