The Coming Wave in the church

My students--where do these dots lead? [MORE]


Kris said...

I think your observations were particularly keen because I can identify with a good portion of them!

I am unsure how many comments to make on down the line however. It is hard for me to identify with 1 and 2 because I have come from small church's, and have no real idea of what a youth pastor today is or does, and from what I've seen I have been particularly turned off and unimpressed.

#3 Isn't there a spirit of contriteness that leads every generation--looking for continuing the work of our fathers and righting the wrongs that have been made?

#5 Denominations can do alot of good but seem to be generally messy. My father is a pastor and has been ordained in multiple denominations including the Wesleyan church, Missionary church, and although there is commendation for the goodness of the ministry there are large holes of inconsistency and corruption, Alas.

#7 "You may be right, but your attitude is wrong!"

#8 a very good insight on breaking down "compartmentilization."

#9 Shows an apparent lack of teaching and education of Church history which is unfortunate. When you can view the main picture of history through a refined lens, alot of questions are answered and much beauty is revealed.

11. True, but I think there is a little problem in reconciling these good works with keeping evangelism in mind.

12. Yes, confirmed by an unfortunate weekend at a certain Denomination's youth retreat.

13. Breakdown of manners it seems!

#14 is interesting, I am not entering the ministry currently but I think I would assume that laymen/women would be taking up positions of work and staying away from having large staffs. I suppose it is all situational.

#15. One issue might be that we feel the sort of evangelism that has been done is of the "wham, bam, thankyamaa'm" type and leaves people hanging. It is a sort of Shock and Awe campaign, I liken it to the BattleCry events that Ron Luce unfortunately does. Once such a great fire is acquired, when it goes out it's real cold!

#16. O How Good it is For Brothers to Dwell in Unity!

#21. I think tolerance is saying you can still sit down with a man and eat at his table with having the ability to disagree in peace.

#22. I am reminded of a quote I just saw on Mr. Thada's site by Mr. Wesley, "I went to America to help the Indians get converted but what have I discovered meanwhile? That I myself need to be converted to God."

#23. I myself am in a strong desire of fellowship, but our cultural background doesn't orient us this way. I think many of us desire the fellowship we see happening in the int'l church, especially us po'mo's who read what has been done previously in the Jesus Movement and today with groups like The Simple Way (see Shaine Claiborne).

#24. I think it would be interesting exploring the creation of education in the church on the level you might see in a Jewish yeshiva. Training people in community, but also in truth, not leaving out certain life skills...including essential things like backpacking and starting a fire with a knife and stick, and birch bark! :)...it would be interesting.

"A few insights from a 17 yr. old who is empathetic with the makeup of your students because he himself has been raised in similar conditions"

Grace, Peace.

Mark Schnell said...

It's funny Keith but I'm a 38 year old Gen Xer and I identified with about 19 or 20 of these items. I identified with number 22 when I got out of college too but the first couple of years killed the naive, cocky side of me.

I got out of IWU in 91 and back then the boomers were touting all the John Maxwellish type of church growth stuff. My classmates and I believed that working in a church of over a thousand with a multiple staff was the promised land. Senior pastoring one of those churches would be like winning the lottery!

Well, now I've been there and done that (on staff at least) I've discovered that I'm looking for the authentic journey more than the flashy, high tech stuff that too many of us have chased after over the years. I'm excited about this new crop of leaders that are coming out of IWU and other schools.

When I was at IWU the religion dept. paraded a steady stream of workaholic hard driver pastors for us to look up to. But then over the years we've seen them burn out, burn through staff, marriages, and churches. After 15 years of ministry I find myself wanting to identify with these young students more than the hard driving boomers that have gone before.

Kurt A Beard said...

I’m going to be a bit negative so I apologize for raining on the thought parade…
When your students get out of college and into the real world I think they will become disillusioned with the system that they have set up (my peers and I did). I think the ideas of #24 “Woefully trained in life skills” and #22 “Tremendous idealism and naivety” will start to shake their assumptions (#9, #14) which will in turn mix up parts of their system. I don’t say that to be mean I say that in the sense that many students want to hold on to their college ways when they leave those halls of the academic world I say it to mean they will be forced (against their wills?) to grow and change.

They very well could march into churches full of staff and congregants who aren’t under the evangelical assumption; they may get rejected by the church who doesn’t want their entitled leadership. Some of what I saw from my peers in college was a fa├žade of humility by this I mean my peers talked about the value and importance of small churches but never wanted to be stuck in one, if they wanted to work at a small church it was so they could grow it into a mega-church. They see something wrong in the church so they can fit it into their goal and task oriented system, they will find a lot of things to fix but little desire outside their own to fix it and when they do they will see it as broken soon after being fixed.. Everyone wanted a youth pastor for their model but this seems to have quickly fallen apart they wanted to spend endless hours ‘building into people’ over coffee and lunch in an authentic manner. What they didn’t realize is that they adults in their congregations don’t see that as important or part of their pastoral jobs and they won’t have time to run the church and have youth-pastor style relationships.

To add some positive their views on Holiness, journey evangelism (maybe Pilgrims Progress will come into vogue) and suspicions of everything will benefit them by creating an inquisitive adventures nature which will expand the abilities of the church.

The AJ Thomas said...

I’m not sure if I think (of crap – I’m one of them) that #1 is completely accurate of everyone in this generation. I went to BBC which is a small school (although we train more ministers than you – na na na na boo boo) and I think most of the people I went through school with and most of the ones I know who are there now went to small churches and want to be on staff and eventually pastor a large church – maybe not willow large but a couple of weekend services and multiple staff large. I think this phenomenon a combination of two principles.
1 – The grass is always greener… I went to a big church. It was to corporate/ impersonal/ flashy. I didn’t like it. Therefore a small church is obviously better. I went to a small church. It was to boring/ ineffective /lame. I didn’t like it. Therefore a big church is obviously better. If I were you I would tell all of there students who come from big churches but want to work in small ones to quit going to College Wesleyan (they can stiff catch DeNeff’s podcast) and find a small church – like under 75 small – and attend it while they are at IWU. If they like it as much as they think they will then great.
2 – You do what you know… The kids who were bitter about big still went to the big school and the kids who were sour about small still went to the small school. Why? Flashy brochures, excellent education, proximity to home or maybe just a sense of familiarity, ironically with something they claim they don’t like.

My prediction is that the big church kids will graduate from the big school and go work in big churches and be unhappy about it but keep doing it because it’s safe and familiar. The small church kids will graduate from the small school and go work in small schools and be unhappy about it but keep doing it because it’s safe and familiar.

Thinking in Ohio said...

I like most of these characteristics and relate well to them even after nearly 10 years of ministry and 30 years of life.

I lost my optimistic and naive idealism after about five years into the ministry, because I came to believe the rough and tumble, warring church was all I had to hope for. But in the last four years the Lord has renewed my hope, partly through the values of this generation, partly through ministering in a more healthy setting and partly through personal growth.

I'm more optimistic than ever and I have high hopes for the future of the church, while hoping we can build on the strengths of the past.

Pastor Rod said...


I suspect that some of these attitudes are enduring and some will not last much beyond college. Among that latter group are those attitudes that are mostly a result of their young age and limited experience.

(Note to students: I mean no offense. I remember how I thought when in school. Some of those strong opinions have survived, but nearly all in a slightly different form.)

So the challenge is determining which is which.

Here's my guess:

Enduring: 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23 & 25.

Sort-lived: 2, 5, 9, 13, 14, 15, 19, 22 & 24.

Through the attitudes in the first group, this generation has the opportunity to help the church return to its "core mission." And this is not a generational issue. In fact, I would hold most of those attitudes (and I'm at least as old as their parents).

I certainly don't know your students as well as you do. But I do know that there are many pastors my age who feel the same as I do.


John Mark said...

This was interesting and lol funny in a couple of places. This bunch sounds Catholic to me in their approach to conversion, evangelism, sin and holiness. I'm probably reading too much into it....
I wonder, given the sense of faith in the possibility of "holiness" this indicates, has there been a shift in how IWU students view holiness as a doctrine or lifestyle? This seems more optimistic than some of the things you have posted about them in the past.

Keith Drury said...

I've wondered at times if the "next generation" in their values often offer a "corrective" to the previous generation's excess. There are some of these values that might be that fit in that category--thus many of us say Go-for-it!

Others are (as said above so well) are simply characteristics of age 21 and nothing more perhaps.

AJ's comments are intriguing--especially related to church size... Hmmmmmmmmm. I was raised in a "super church" myself (about 200) but that was then--this is now and 200 is a "moderate sized" church to many folk now.

This wave of students is an incredible bunch of people--I love them lots and admire their work ethic. I sometimes hate to e the bearer of bad news when I "tell them the truth" about life and church work, but I do try even though it disappoints. I am always trying to walk the line between discouraging their idealism and telling them the truth. I never get it right and am always kicking myself one way or the other after classes. Generally I save "the truth" for senior classes... still don't know if I'm wise doing that.

JustinJNierer said...

I LOVE the fact that you used the word "product" in #2.
They are the product of their youth pastor and because of that we need to hold the youth leaders accountable for the "product" they are producing.
I have worked with incredible youth guys (AJ Thomas for instance) and I have worked with youth morons. Unfortunately, the morons are the ones with the thriving "ministries." Most of the concerns on the list can be addressed with focused discipleship and Biblical emphasis. Of course, that would mean more work for guys already spending so much time "building relationships" in front of the XBox.

Nathan Crawford said...

I like the list Coach. And, I think the attitudes have changed in the four years since I graduated.

I'd like to respond a little. I'd very much put myself in this emerging generation (still not sure if I like this moniker), and so I think I speak a bit from experience. The two things that matter most to us are authenticity and action. We've dealt our whole lives with people being "fake" and, essentially, lying to us. Not a big fan of it.

Also, we like action - which is why we believe in holiness. But, we believe in holistic holiness. If you want to talk about being personally holy, you better be ready to talk about being holy in all that you do, i.e. you better feed the poor, work with the "orphans and widows" etc. We also see the church as doing the work of God in the world.

And, I have hope that we will change things in the church. I think change will occur. And, part of the reason that I think that, is because some of those people disenfrachised with what is being offered in the church have decided to go get Ph.D.'s and then come back and teach the next generation of students.

Saxguy00 said...

There are a lot of positive things in this list and what I see as a lot of negative things as well. What really stands out is what I see as the easily influenced nature of my Christian generation. In these elements I see young adults who have been heavily influenced by writers like Donald Miller and musicians like Bono but who have never questioned their own self centeredness, unpreparedness, and idealism. Even the trends toward holistic ministry and unity seem to come more from a cultural expectation than study and wisdom.

As a part of this generation I do have great hope. I see the potential for incledible progress of the kingdom through my peers. But I also have some very real concerns. If we are so easily influenced by the Emerging Culture of the church how easily will we be influenced by the world?

Personally what I long to see are Christians who first and foremost are serious about Bible study and knowing the God they worship. There needs to be much mroe self reflection, skepticism, and analysis of current trends and beleifs from a biblical standpoint rather than just trusting whichever Christian leader is the next to write a hip best selling book. These young adults are good at challenging the long held belief system of the church but bad about questioning the one they substitue it with. Until they begin to take a hard look at what they beleive and why they believe it my generation will never be as effective in this world as we could be.

Russell said...


This essay was perceptive and disturbing, just like your "The Holiness Movement is Dead" essay. As I read through the list, face after face came to mind from classes I teach, my church and from stores. Yes, stores. Apart from ministry, this generation stands out as possibly the WORST customer service employees ever. Think of the 16-25 year old folks who work the cash registers, stock shelves, work behind customer service counters, etc. in many of our stores. They won't look you in the eye, greet you properly, are clueless when you have question and won't find out the answer from another employee unless you ask them too. Overall, they domonstrate no appreciation that customers are the reason they have jobs.
And these are our future church leaders!

Eric said...

It is a listing of characteristics from a new, postmodern church. What saddens me is that it is not a Biblical church.

What the church is lacking is a knowledge of what sin is - not in the theoretical sense, but in the personal sense. When a person truly understands what sin is, he or she will realize that an infinitely holy God was violated in the thought or deed and therefore requires infinite punishment. The issue is that all of the lost and the vast majority of those who claim to be saved don't think that they're that bad - but the Bible says that no one seeks to do good, no not one. As long as pride is a dominant ideology in one's life, true regeneration can not happen. The Law is a schoolmaster teaching us what sin is, but in this postmodern culture of relative truth and "tolerance," it is intolerant to help another see that they have transgressed God's law and therefore have a punishment to pay.

The good news is that Christ came to pay that punishment so that we who are His may repent. When is the last time one of these students told anyone that?

The gospel is offensive to those who are pride-filled. It is not "tolerant." So, as long as those who are buying into postmodern values (instead of biblical values) keep doing so, they change the gospel into something else (e.g., Jesus wants you to be His student) which does not have the power unto salvation.

Ultimately, the Bible is either correct and evangelism should be of high priority - or it is not (and we have played the fool). If the former, then playing the Xbox with others will not draw others to Christ. Only the presentation of the Gospel will do that. What you attract someone with is what you have to sustain to keep them... and I don't see the Xbox mentioned in the Bible as an evangelical tool.

Again, the gospel is offensive in nature (apart from its presentation). The world hated Jesus... and if the world does not hate those who are followers of Christ, those people should seriously examine themselves to see if they are in the faith.

Ultimately, the gospel comes down to this: *Repent* and *Trust* in Christ alone. Anything short of this does not have saving power. Unfortunately, as I watch the Seminary students on my campus talk, this is not the message that is getting out. Rather, it is that Jesus wants you to be His friend. The watering down of the gospel makes me want to throw up. Christ will receive all the glory due Him for the price He paid on Calvary (not _most_ of the glory as some self-ascribed Christians wish it to be since they want some).

Gayle said...

Really insightful and interesting commentary.

Joel Liechty said...

I wonder what other professors would have to say about your evaluation of students. In my experience, students can respond in ways polar opposite depending on the teach style and expectations of professors. From word of mouth, I've heard that you are one of the tougher professors in the religion department and I wonder if that in some way affects your perspective of our generation. That's the idea I developed as I read some of your points - but it just may be your attempt to give an air of hope in light of some disparaging characteristics. Either way, I guess I will find out this next semester just how "tough" you are :)

Keith Drury said...

Good question joel... the list was made in consultation with student development leaders and nine other professors, four of them in the religion division, tthough I did the typing.

roy said...

hmmm... I was fascinated at the degree to which they still identify with the institutional church. I'm curious at how their characteristics would be reflective or not of those who had not identified so clearly with evangelical churches. It will be interesting to watch and see how this all plays out.
thanks for sharing the observations.