Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why We're Losing the Julies of this World

Julie R. Neidlinger, editor of the Lone Prairie online magazine has nailed it. In her article, Why I Walked Out of Church she describes the disaffection so many young Americans have with the modern Evangelical church, "the coffee bars in the foyer, the casual attire, the buzz words, all the programs and activities imaginable, the big-screen video monitors, the contemporary music," all of it.

She confides that a recent World Magazine cover story about "NextGen Worship" actually "inspired a strong desire to smack the pastors depicted in the article and in the photos. The cover photo alone enraged me, with the pastor wearing baggy jeans and untucked button-up shirt with flip flops and an ear microphone. Later, the same guy is shown out front of a church holding a paper Starbucks-like cup of coffee. Could he try any harder to be lame? I'd have liked to have taken that cup of coffee and dumped it on his head. But it's nothing personal against that guy or his beliefs or sincerity. It's an anger at something else."

She goes on to say, "I'm not going to be one of those starched-collar Christians who, based on personal preference, say that this is a sign we're going to hell in a handbasket and that all things are wrong unless they are done as they were with the Puritans. What I'm saying is that I can't stand the phoniness, or trendiness, or sameness that the church seems to catch onto at the tail end, not even aware of how lame it is. The fact that this is not only actually successful in appealing to people, but attracts them, also disgusts me. It makes me want to throw up. It's buying into some kind of lie or substitution of cool culture as being relevant when it isn't."

Then she says, "If I see another cool Bible college student or pastoral studies major wearing the hemp choker necklace, flip-flops, open-at-the-collar shirt that's untucked, and baggy jeans, saying words like dude and sweet, I will kick their ass. It's like the Christian version of annoying hipsters, an overly-studied and homogenized with-it faux coolness."

Amen and amen. I agree 100%.

What she longs for, she says, is her "home town church" filled with "ordinary, uncool people" who actually "know each other." In other words, as my friend Bing Davis has said, "what she is longing for is parish."

Neidlinger's article is a classic. But her longing is even more classic. May God bring that same realization to modern Evangelicals--before it is too late and all the "Julies" of this land "walk out of church" too.


Lawrence Underwood said...

Thank you for posting this excellent article. I've not read the World Magazine article yet. I'm actually not sure that I want to read it. I've become so fed up with the dumbing down and hipping up of the evangelical church that at times I want to vomit. The Gospel is being masticated into unbiblical pulp by the very men who took oaths to uphold it.

White Horse Inn had an excellent program recently entitled 'Radical Informality' that addresses this same issue. One might not agree with the all the comments they raise but they raise some wonderful observations.

Bohemian Cuppa Tea said...

I love how my...*ahem*..our new associate pastor is in his late twenties, married( with a one-year-old), wears open-at-the-collar shirts, flipflops, and includes "dude" and "sweet" in his vocabulary.

Because that is who he is.

Come the Sabbath Day, he is seen in his suit and tie talking and assisting various people of various ages, preaching the word, and keeping his one-year-old in the service and out of the nursery (unless he becomes too much of a distraction, then his mommy has to listen to the sermon in the crib room.)

I love that even though his fashion fits "vomit-worthy" description Julie so cleverly laid out, he would completely agree with her. As you pointed out, the point isn't flipflops, it's family. A real family, not bases to be touched or support groups and whatnot.

I love that he visits the sick, and the elderly, and the middle-aged, and even my friend and I (currently reading/discussing Timothy Keller's book), not to mention the littler ones.

I love how my (other?) Pastor fits this discription as well, save differences in age and weekday fashion. Same goes for the elders and deacons.

And lastly, I love how similiar to the church I was raised in is to Parish in it's model and it's heart. So, as I send Julie's article to the session with a thank you, I want to thank you as well, Dr. Grant, for doing the right thing, instead of pandering to what's popular.

So thank you.

-John Hollidge

P.S.-Say hey to everybody for me :)

George Grant said...

John: Great to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

Wow. A very revealing indictment of the modern evangelical market-oriented mentality.

It also makes me want to explore a biblical theology of community. Though the Gospel is constant, yet it is multi-faceted, with a unique message to each culture into which it comes. The Gospel defines and offers true community. So instead of christening the individualism of our culture - what megachurches seem to be bent on doing - we should embody and proclaim the community that God brings by the Spirit.

I enjoy the blog. Maybe it will help rekindle an interest in Thomas Chalmers again.