(A note before we begin: I try to hold a “No Generalizations” policy…and I admit that this article will be filled with them. Please understand that these words aren’t the end-all-be-all…rather, I hope them to be a conversation starter. My hope is to encourage honesty, the sharing of differences, and the safety to examine those differences together.)
There’s a funny meme that is circulating the web that goes like this:
Trust issues. As I listen to millennial pastors and leaders (a generation I, myself, belong to), and then compare that to what I hear from earlier generations of pastors and leaders, I am finding there is a very real and growing difference in the way we see the church.
This difference of opinion is often the unspoken and under the radar message behind every issue and disagreement hashed out in public and private.
Within the tribe I serve, the Nazarene church, this mistrust among millennials has been exacerbated over the past year through the public mishandling of a situation with the denominational publishing house, and now through the confusion over the removal of a beloved professor at one of our denominational Universities.
This post is not an attempt to place blame or innocence on a particular party, rather it’s my attempt to help explain some of the growing frustration and mistrust inherent in the younger leaders and thinkers within our denominational context. (This post will exclude some of my readers who are not Nazarene, for this I apologize)
So, to the leaders of the church I love, a few thoughts.
“Pastor” is no longer a universally defined term: Our worlds have shaped us differently.
For those over the age of 40, you were reared in a culture which celebrated the church and her clergy, and by in large, the Church honored this trust. Many pastors over 40 grew up listening to great pillars of the faith like Billy Graham and Francis Schaeffer speak of what it means to follow Christ. Western culture respected Christians, and respected those who served in vocational ministry.
Sadly, this is no longer the case.
For those of us under the age of 40 (or more specifically, under the age of 30), we’ve witnessed a steady stream of mismanagement, cover-ups and abuse. From the sexual abuse cover-ups in the Catholic Church, to the recent allegations made towards Mark Driscoll, to the handling of the NPH situation, the increased exposure from social media has made the flaws of the church evident to all, and these flaws make it hard to trust institutional church for fear of being hurt and mislead.
As a millennial pastor, and for many who share my age and vocation, our baseline to nearly every decision made is general skepticism. Simply put, we have a hard time trusting a leader and their decisions when the primary reason offered is the title or position they hold.
Authority and respect are no longer assumed realities.
Maybe they should be, unfortunately it’s not that simple.
Experience has proven otherwise.
This leads me to make a request.
Be patient with us
For those who get frustrated with the growing, vocal, and often frustrated millennial generation; please understand where we are coming from.
Please understand that the experiences of many, and the mistakes of the few, have planted the seed of doubt in an entire generation’s heart and mind, and through this doubt, for right or wrong, we now process everything the church does.
Because of this, trust is no longer assumed.
Honesty is everything.
At the end of the day, all we ask is for honesty. Please don’t play politics with the church we love. Please don’t cover up. As a leader, if you make a decision, explain it clearly, openly, and allow for conversation. We might not agree, and that disagreement might be heated, but know that we will certainly respect you for how you came to, and executed this decision, and will gladly continue walking the journey of faith with you.
Finally, please hear this:
For a leader to refuse honesty and dialogue means they are refusing inclusion into the community. This then becomes a universal issue, regardless of which generation you belong, for nobody wants to live in a house where they are not welcome.