Engaging the New World

John ArmstrongMissional Church

I wrote yesterday (November 15) about the aging baby boomer generation and the way this massive group of people (78 million) has altered our culture dramatically. The generation that is coming behind the boomers is very different, radically different in many cases. Some see this as a terrible development. I am not of such an opinion.

The younger generation, especially those young adults born since 1976, reflects what is sometimes called the postmodern generation. Older Christians are pretty negative to these developments. You can spot this type of reaction a mile off. It links postmodernism to relativism and then the condemnations and fearful reactions are not far behind. This approach is not only shallow and reactionary, but it fails to see the missional moment we now face, thus the amazing opportunity the church now has with these younger folks. 

I’ll not elaborate on the philosophical differences between these various age groups but I will tell you that I regularly teach people from this generation. I also have adult married children in this generation. Personally I love what I see in these young folks. (I sometimes wish I was born in this generation to be very truthful.) They are honest in a most refreshing way, and willing to question a great deal but with a deep interest in spiritual reality. And they are not afraid to break with the materialism of their parents.

I am quite convinced that what we have is a "new" world. Christendom is plainly dead, at least as we have known it for centuries. The West is secular and post-Christian. If I am right about this then we need a "new" church to reach this "new" world. Note that I did not say we need a "new" gospel. We need a "new" church, one that is a clear embodiment of the gospel. This church needs to re-imagine its identity as the "sent people of God." This "new" church calls for "new" leaders. These leaders must be able to:

1. Read culture

2. Model the mission

3. Empower others

Lest you think this is easy to do please think again. Few pastors are taught to read culture but rather to build institutions that reflect Christendom’s ideals. And almost no boomer churches "model the mission," preferring rather to serve the needs of their narcissistic seekers in some way. And empowering others is not what most seminaries teach future pastors. We have our work cut out for us friends. This will demand a new kind of leader and a new kind of mission, which is why I borrow the word missional to describe what the church really needs. If I said "mission" a whole generation would think programs and professional pastors and evangelists. This is exactly what the church must give up if it is to reach the new world with the old gospel.