If I could just respond on the record as a so-called millennial to the conference session I just attended. What we DON’T need from you “boomers” is for you to focus on accommodating our cultural forms. There is nothing more pathetic than a boomer in skinny jeans. There’s a reason our generation is so transient and entertainment oriented, hopping from one distraction to the next. It’s because we are looking for something that is not transient, not fleeting and unfulfilling; we are looking for something that abides. When you wear skinny jeans and entertain us in “church,” you are only suggesting that neither have you found anything that transcends the restless hopscotch of the cultural milieu.
We need you to give us the Gospel, which we have proven to be almost entirely unable to articulate. Give us tradition, too. The assumption is that you need to “contextualize” such that there is a seamless transition from culture to church, which of course only communicates to us that there is no difference between the culture and the Church. This ‘felt-needs’ approach to ministry assumes that we actually know what we need and that our feelings and our needs are congruent in the first place. I may only be speaking for myself here, but I would be suspicious of a doctor who attempted to treat my unknown sickness by asking me what I wanted him to prescribe for it to make it better. The Gospel is not only a prescription, but also a diagnosis. And given the fact that part of the diagnosis is the disease of self-referentiality, treating the problem by accommodating our needs with the Gospel may very well only add to our sickness. No doctor treats a diseased heart by trying to keep it alive. There are some diseases for which a heart transplant is the only adequate treatment. The Gospel diagnosis is something like that. And when it is heard for all that it is, the News that is so Good about it is that a new heart has indeed been provided.
We come to the Church with a need to identify the seam, the great chasm we feel in our hearts, and we are desperate for a solution. Don’t try to remove the seam. Please don’t tell us you have nothing more to offer than the world. That’s why we came in the first place. We’re looking for something different. We need a diagnosis, we need a prescription, and we need a special language to talk about it. At some point a burst appendix has to find a category outside that of “stomach ache.” So be bold and proclaim something so alien that you have to describe as revelation, as News, because that is what we dare to hope for anyway–something New. That is why we are here.
So please, boomers, invest in some pleated pants.