Dr. Benjamin Spock and Bill Hybel are not often mentioned in the same sentence, let alone in the same breath. But each has had a profound impact upon the world around them and both have come to the same conclusions: they were WRONG.
Dr Spock, the preeminent child psychologist, warned the baby boomer generation of parents that they couldn't discipline their children, because such action would warp the fragile ego and harm the generation to come. Better to allow freedom of expression, noncompetitive activities, and reiteration of "You're special" to douse these up and coming generations with than the opposite, where you have competition, expectations, and standards common to society being adhered to.
"People, we were told," says Pastor Gary Gilley, "were not rejecting the gospel or Christ; they were rejecting our out-of-date, unappetizing form, philosophies, and methods." Faced with the decline in church attendance and participation, Bill Hybel, Pastor of Willow Creek, set out to change the tide and make church 'relevent' again. Out of his efforts came the 'seeker-friendly' church. Hybel took the gospel message and packaged it to be more attractive, and changed the stotic worship model to a more consumer friendly environment where a person can be comfortable and happy because they aren't challenged, but entertained. Preach positive messages, using the interest of the seeker to present the gospel in a way relevant to them became the model that was the pastoral sermon from the pulpit which became more often a table and chair arrangement.
As another "seeker-friendly" proponent Rick Warren of Saddleback says, "More people are won to Christ by feeling God's presence than by all of our apologetic arguments combined. It is a sense of God's presence that melts hearts and explodes mental barriers."
Through the use of hour-long presentations that use artistic interpretation of a 'watered down' gospel that are combined with professional sound and stage equipment to interest visitors in Christianity.
Dr. Spock, before his death, realized that his 'non-competitive, special' model of child-rearing had created something so opposite of what he had intended. "We have reared a generation of brats. Parents aren't firm enough with their children for fear of losing their love or incurring their resentment." Spock came to realize that the God-given self assurance of parents was deprived through the 'best intentions' of professional experts.
Bill Hybel, according to the latest release from his Willow Creek Association REVEAL, has realized that his model of church has also created something far from what was intended. The design of 'cutting edge', 'consumer-friendly', and demographically built congregations has created a generation of spiritual 'brats'.
Hybel realized, "Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back, it wasn't helping people that much." The "Seeker Friendly" church has created a crowd of socially aware, biblically shallow Christians who are the new "fascist" or rather the new "nationalistic and communal" secularists. Instead of a church growing with responsible, discipling 'self-feeding' Christians.
So what do Spock and Hybel, along with a majority of the 'new' evangelical leadership have in common beyond the fact they were wrong? The result of their efforts have finally met in the culture of the Millennials and the Emergent Church.
Just as Dr. Spock failed to take into account the biblical standard of parenting, so has the new "evangelical" leadership that has created a new horse to pull the buggy rather than accept the reins from the aging leadership of the likes of Billy Graham and James Dobson. In attempting to find new ways to effectively give the Gospel message to a spiritually and morally dying world, the new intellectuals have destroyed the very cart they were trying to pull. Just as Spock did with parenting the generation that has taken its first steps into the world stage.
God said, "Train your child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not stray from it." Instead of ensuring that the faithful were teaching their children the message of the Gospel, emulating it in the households and workplaces of America, the church allowed itself to be forced into a corner, where the cobwebs of the ages would spell its doom. Gone were the tools that the church once used to train, equip, and disciple men and women of the body, who in turn would train, equip and disciple the children of the next generation.
In a 'new' societal model, where nurturing was replaced with conformity and competition with equality, the seeker friendly church was developed from necessity to reach the generation of coddled, pampered, and 'special'. And the church became a commercial venture.
The Millennials, that generation from 1980 to 1995 some 80 million strong, is entering into the adult realm of work, family, and spirituality. The generation that was coddled, pampered, and declared special is taking that opinion into society with them. The world, for the first time in history, owes a generation something. And the emergent Millennials are ready to demand it.
This is good, according to some of the 'new' experts, who find this generation "sociable, optimistic, talented, well-educated, collaborative, open-minded, influential, and achievement-orientated." The only worry that Linda Walter, of Seton Hall University has is the "decline in their face-to-face social skills in a tech-dominated world." William Strauss and Neil Howe, authors of Millennials Rising, find this generation to be "America's new conformists," who believe in "security rather than radicalism, political order than social emancipation, and collective responsibility rather than personal expression."
With the cookie-cutter boy bands and advertising that is interchangeable with a host of synchronized products, standing out is no longer the norm but the apotheosis of the alienated loner. Fitting in is the norm sought, tolerance is once again redefined. Scott Beale, author of the Millennial Manifesto, says, "Millennials are a post-consciousness raising generation."
Out of the model of 'Seeker friendly" churches where the size of the return on the financial investment matters and consumerism is rampant, the Emergent church have begun its rise with the Millennials who run the spiritual landscape. Social issues that are considered 'general' and 'nonthreatening' are highlighted. Hard lines of anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality, and hell for the damned are swept under the rugs of "religious zealots" and frowned upon. Expectations of 'good feelings' are to come from anything that is 'worth' doing. Christianity should feel good and fit easily into the desired lifestyle of its adherents. If you aren't happy, then you haven't experienced Christianity right. After all, its custom designable to your own taste, according to the Millennial emergents.
Instead of defending the death and murders of thousands of the next generation and not seeing the affect it has had upon their own generation, the Millennial Christians want to ignore such controversial issues and focus on the feel good efforts of feeding the starving in Africa, where the faces are too often smiling pictures upon the refrigerators of the new Body of Christ rather than the actual pained expressions of dirty faces in the environments that they are forced to live in. The personal, private faith of this new 'faithful' is accepting of the biblical sins of homosexuality, willing to change the standard of biblical marriage, and tired of dealing with the nuances of the truth, accepting rather the easier version of 'personal and private' spiritual expression.
Feeding the poor has eclipsed the need to save the generation of unborn. Christian morality's effect upon the health of society has been drowned out by the cries of the minority who's proclivities and desires clash with the traditions of the majority. Exclusion of those who would seek the harder lines of absolute truth has become the norm. Intolerance of the tolerant is what commonly runs through the headlines and reforms of a 'new age.'
The Millennialists have taken their church model into the political arena, where it is considered 'uncool' to voice accountability and responsibility to those sent to government to represent each of us. It is easier to believe the surface than to dig into those who would represent us and our nation. The reemergence of "better the devil you know than the one you don't" pervades our political views. And we are allowing those who are wanting the power of political office to tell us what we need to know.
Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudy Giuliani for Republican President of the United States proves this, as Robertson has said our focus needs to be upon; not the candidate's moral, ethical, and spiritual views, but rather upon the 'security of our national populous and federal spending. Giuliani, himself, expresses it as "You can accept where I stand," even if you disagree. The latest generation of voters are told to fear the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton by the republican candidates rather than vote your moral and ethical values.
Is it any wonder why the societal standard of our forefathers is dismally portrayed on the American landscape of today? Is it a surprise that the generation taking its place as heirs have woefully inadequate training and preparation for the same?
The more and more that man decides that he is God and God is him, the further and further we --as a society and a world-- fall into a declining hope for the future generations. But all hope is not lost!
Just as the Bill Hybels and Dr. Spocks of the world can realize mistakes made, we can hold those Millennials who haven't had the faulty parenting model to the standards their parents taught them of 'the way they should go.' And we can start holding our leadership, in our churches and our homes, in the workplaces of society and recreation, and throughout the world to the standards that haven't changed through the thousands of years that they have existed. And we can demand that the morals that support those standards are once again established as the norm for all.
We can go and retrain our leaders to reflect the glory of God and not of man. We can show these Millennial seekers the model of service and honor to a God that loves them, but will not accept a lukewarm adherence to His will. We can redeem a generation lost. But only if we find our way.
And once again, we can declare with pride and honor, "One nation under God, indivisible. With liberty and justice for All."