Young Adults Who Wander from Faith (You Lost Me 3)

I want a pair of Google glasses.

A pair of glasses that are basically a computer in your field of vision.  How cool would they be?

I actually got into an argument with some of my students a few months back.  They seemed more skeptical then me about the possibility or usefulness of something like this.  It is almost like they do not appreciate how quickly technology is changing and developing!

I am 32 years old.  I remember the first time I went on the internet: in the tech ed classroom in high school, back in 1997.  Somehow I made it through college without owning any sort of computer!  I used computer labs on campus.  I did not get a cell phone until 2003.

Freshman college students are 18 now which means they were maybe 2 or 3 when I first went on the internet.  They do not remember a time without the internet.  Not only do they all have cell-phones, they have phones that can go on the internet anytime and anywhere.

I don’t think they appreciate how amazing that is!  Though I am sure my parents might say I do not appreciate how amazing things are that they did not have that I take for granted.

David Kinnaman writes:

In this chapter I argue that the next generation is so different because our culture is discontinuously different. That is, the cultural setting in which young people have come of age is significantly changed from what was experienced during the formative years of previous generations. In fact I believe a reasonable argument can be made that no generation of Christians has lived through a set of cultural changes so profound and lightning fast. Other generations of Christ-followers have endured much greater persecution. Others have had to sacrifice more to flourish or even survive. But I doubt many previous generations have lived through as compounded and complicated a set of cultural changes as have today’s Christians in the West.

Kinnaman, David (2011-04-01). You Lost Me (Kindle Locations 538-543). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.

This change is not limited to technology, but that is a primary area.  Kinnaman tells a humorous story about how a friend of his recalls going to see Star Wars numerous times in theaters because, in the 1970s, he was not sure if he’d ever see it again.  There were no DVDs (or VCRs) yet.  To see it outside of a theater, you’d have to wait till it was shown on television.  What we have today is unlimited access to almost anything.

Whenever my wife asks me a question about something, from how to fix a broken appliance to where to find a recipe, I respond, “did you ask Google?”   Access to the internet, unlimited access to all the information we want or need, changes everything.

How does this access to information via rapidly and ever-changing technology change how we talk about faith?

Kinnaman talks a little about how this can be an opportunity for the church.  One thing that jumped out at me was that young people do not just want to be passively soaking in whatever a preacher says, they want to engage and participate.  Perhaps one reason some walk away from the faith is that the church services they attend are very passive: all the action is on stage and done for an audience, kind of like a movie or concert.

Though, you could argue church was never meant to be a passive experience for most in attendance.  So maybe technology will drive us back to the original idea of a community in which all have, as Paul says, “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation” (1 Corinthians 14:26).

What can be done to allow more interaction and participation in our faith communities?

4 thoughts on “Young Adults Who Wander from Faith (You Lost Me 3)

  1. Yes, but just look at how many people are attending movies and concerts. And consider how many people are choosing to go to extremely large churches where they have the freedom to be passive and experience it like a movie or concert. Consider how many people think of these large, passive churches as “successful,” both in and out of the Christian community. — also, think about how many people are not just avoiding church, but avoiding all forms of public service and commitment. What is happening in churches is not unique. It is part of a broader cultural issue.

    1. Good points.

      I didn’t mean to imply that people don’t want to be part of a large group event/experience ever. As far as large churches go, I would imagine that the reason most people, young or old, go to a large church is because they are part of a smaller group in the church. I could be way off on this, but I don’t think many people show up as one person in a crowd of 5000, not knowing anyone, listen to a sermon and then leave. I bet they have a group of friends they sit with or a small group that meets some other time where discussion happens. I would argue, theologically, the small group is more “the church” then the large group.

      That said, I think the bigger point is that young people do not just listen to what the pastor says without questioning it. Even if people in previous generations questioned things, the nature of questioning is different today. People can be on their iphones in church, finding other opinions on the subject being preached on. The pastor may say one thing, but the person can find any number of blogs and articles online saying other things. Perhaps technology is more taking away authority – the pastor does not enjoy automatic authority by just being the pastor.

      I agree with you though, it is not a unique issue to churches. Fantastic point. I wonder then, what can we do about it?

  2. I’m not at all sure what to do about it. Or even if we should be trying to do something about it. It’s a very complicated thing that is likely to be resolved, to whatever degree it is resolved, on a church by church basis. But it will take some thinking outside the box.

    I guess what I was saying in my comment (and I hope this is more clear) was that while we say going to church should not be a passive experience and we say people don’t want passive religious experiences, there is a lot of evidence (I believe) that people DO want passive experiences. Or, maybe a better way to say it is that they want want to be free to be passive when they choose to do so. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but I think it’s true: more and more people want options that will allow them to craft their own personal spiritual experience. Freedom to change their mind. Freedom to leave. Freedom to serve or not serve. Freedom to think how they want to think. Freedom to step into and out of relationships with other people. No “pressure.” Things like the internet (whether good or bad) only add to their ability to do these things. Large environments with anonymity and lots of options give them the ability to do it as well, and people like it. Just like people are doing with the news these days, for the more skeptically minded, teaching at churches becomes just another source of information that can be taken or rejected as a part of their personal belief system. All of which makes life on life discipleship more important and yet harder to attain than ever before.

  3. You gave me lots of good points to think about! I think you’re right on with saying people want to be free to choose to be passive, that they want options. Thanks for the comments.

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