Belonging, Believing and Being a Boomer

Tuesday Re-mix –

I grow tropical plants in my backyard, specifically, plumeria and some hybiscus.  It is one of the wonderful “perks” of marrying into a Hawaiian family.  Mind you, I am no master gardner, which makes plumeria the perfect plant for me.  I can break off a limb, stick it in the ground, nurture it for a year or so, and it will take root and bloom just like all the other ones around it.  I just have to have some patience while I wait for the roots to grow.  That is the key…patience.

Besides being a gardener, I am also unashamedly a Baby Boomer.  Pretty much all the observations I have heard sociologists make about my generation are true about me as well, at least in some degree.  I was shaped by a cultural mindset that said anything is possible, that I can make a difference in the world, and that a common vision is critical to any “revolution”.  For my generation, the way this all translates into church is this: what I “believe” is of first and highest importance…if we don’t all “believe” the same central truths, our “revolution” will fail.  For my generation (and, by the way, for the generations which came before me as well), BELIEF comes first, followed by BELONGING to the church.  For us, without belief, there is no belonging.

So it is with great fear and trembling that I turn to Generation X and then to the Millenials, two generations who will lead the church sooner than any of us realize, and I begin to embrace their very different values and priorities when it comes to church.  These generations hold connection and community as much higher values than we Baby Boomers have.  These generations may well come to respect the concept of a “regenerate church membership”, but they will otherwise radically blur the nice, bright lines we have drawn around categories of “belonging” to church.  They will do this because, deeply rooted in their generational culture is the need to belong.  In short, for them, BELONGING will come first, even before BELIEVING.

For them, gathered worship services will be filled with friends who have come for the BELONGING, but are still trying to work out exactly what they BELIEVE.  They won’t be “members” in our traditional sense of the word, but they will be friends with whom we are developing a growing relationship and whom we are nuturing and to whom we are ministering.  They will be very much like my plumeria sticks which “belong” in my garden a long time before they actually start blooming.

I admit that this scares me a little.  I admit that I will continue to talk a lot about the importance of doctrine and believing and authority and truth, etc.  I will continue insisting that truth is not negotiable and that scripture teaches us to respect authority.  But I also admit this…I’m going to learn a thing or two from these younger generations about how to love the non-believers around me and how to engage them in relationship SO THAT they can see Jesus in me.  I am going to learn to invite them to “belong”, i.e., to find community here, even as they are still working out their beliefs.  I am going to learn something about loving my neighbor and, as Jesus might say, figuring out exactly who my neighbor really is.  I am going to learn to do church a little differently, at least in this particular regard…

…and I am going to LOVE this change!

How about you?

© Blake Coffee
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One response to “Belonging, Believing and Being a Boomer”

  1. […] post comes on the heals of last week’s post about generational differences in the church today, specifically, how Gen X’ers and […]

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