Brian McLaren spoke recently at a conference taking place at Willow Creek Community Church and shared something which I find fascinating. Back in the 1970s, McLaren volunteered as a youth minister. He asked the kids in the group to make a list of what the pressing issues at their churches were. They came up with things like contemporary worship music and speaking in tongues. Then he asked them to make a list of what the pressing issues facing the world were. Their list included typical 1970s concerns like nuclear war, communism and famine. McLaren points out that there was no overlap between the two lists. The problem as he saw it was that as he was leading young people to Christ, they would get drawn into the first list of concerns and become less and less involved in the issues of the wider world.
I think that a lot has changed since the 1970s and churches are starting to do a better job of creating overlap between McLaren’s two lists. In fact, much ink has been spilled observing the rise of a new generation of evangelical leaders who are as interested in social justice and global warming as they are in gay marriage. However, I wonder how much overlap is going on at ground level in churches across the nation between church concerns and world concerns. If you walked into your church’s youth group today and asked the kids for their two lists, would there be overlap?
I wrote a couple of posts ago about how in the church and in the world at large, we seem to have a hard time thinking about things beyond their currently accepted boundaries. However, I think that considering a problem like the one McLaren’s lists points to is a good demonstration of our desperate need to move beyond our current idea sets. What could be accomplished if as a church we started thinking about how Christian values could be applied to problems like inner city poverty, poor education systems, low marriage rates, global poverty, the condition of women around the world, etc. And I don’t mean just sitting from the sidelines criticizing and complaining. What solutions can we come up with out of the wisdom offered to us through our faith?
What would a church built around overlapping lists which each informed the other look like? Ideas?
I do have a few ideas that I may share later, but I would be very interested in hearing what other people think a church which is as involved in addressing the problems of our communities, country and the world as it is with buying a new lighting system would look like.
HT: Out of Ur blog