Recently (and perhaps surprisingly), a well-known post-semi-evangelical said something that, on its surface, might seem encouraging to us cultural conservative types: “Stop trying to make Jesus cool.” She unleashed an acerbic millennial jeremiad at the baby boomers’ seeker-sensitive model of ministry. Her tearing down of the stronghold was vigorous in a storming barbarians sort of way, but it does highlight one now-obvious truth: the cloying sentimentality that so appealed to the baby boomers nauseates their more worldly children.
She tears down, but does she build up again?
As you read through her response, you may be able to spot some code words from the emergent movement. Here is a representative sample, with such key words in bold:
My friend and blogger Amy Peterson put it this way: “I want a service that is not sensational, flashy, or particularly ‘relevant.’ I can be entertained anywhere. At church, I do not want to be entertained. I do not want to be the target of anyone’s marketing. I want to be asked to participate in the life of an ancient-future community.”
Millennial blogger Ben Irwin wrote: “When a church tells me how I should feel (‘Clap if you’re excited about Jesus!’), it smacks of inauthenticity. Sometimes I don’t feel like clapping. Sometimes I need to worship in the midst of my brokenness and confusion — not in spite of it and certainly not in denial of it.”
Authenticity. Community. Honesty. Old, scruffy rituals. Something foreign and out-of-sync with consumer culture.
But isn’t that what we want?!
For one thing, the perspective is entirely wrong: worship isn’t about me “in the midst of my brokenness and confusion.” Worship centered on “me” is supposedly what they’re rejecting in the seeker-sensitive churches. The seeker-sensitive “me” wants to party at Jesus’ place with rock shows and therapy sermons; the millennial “me” wants church-of-the-NPR-narrative, complete with social justice platitudes and homosexual couples comfortably participating in the neighboring pew.
One could attempt to make an argument for worshiping Dagon rather than Molech, but it seems like more of a lateral promotion to me.
Here’s a helpful analysis of what the author of the above-linked article is really trying to accomplish, complete with her “litany of Millennial demands,” which is a good analytical rubric to keep in your tool chest.