Finding Momentum, Finding Vision

Monday, 24th August 2009 at 22:07 UTC 9 comments

So Momentum is in full swing here in Somerset. My major feeling is that this is the first year when Momentum has really escaped from its image as “Soul Survivor grown up”, and begun to find a vision of its own. And its seen some truly groundbreaking talk addressing the concern that so many 20-somethings are quitting the church in such numbers, with our age group half as likely to attend as the general population and that 50% of those of us who do attend are within London; the regions being a place of total absence for an entire age-band.

For those who don’t know, this is the 20-somethings version of a teenagers “festival” that draws 25,000 young people together over 3 ‘weeks’ that are actually 5 days each. It features main meetings with some of the biggest names in worship (or modern church) music and some of the best speakers around dealing with the issues that face young people, and has been inspirational in the lives of possibly a million Christians today through one means or another.

Anyhow, without discussing the “ministry” and “worship” side of the event, which I know makes some people a little queasy,  I want to just make some quick comments on the debate. It was definitely interesting how Mike picked up on some very clear issues in his opening talk, and that these generally received nods from the people listening, and have been discussed in huge detail ever since. He’s definitely on to something. And it didn’t stop there, as Mike hosted an “open mic” session today in one of the seminar venues that saw over 200 young adults giving their opinions and experiences to Mike.

He identified three major trends in society that prevent 20-somethings from committing to church, friendships and relationships, a vision and so forth: these are “Consumerism”, “Individualism” and “Entitlement”. Its interesting that these are the very same issues that we face in overcoming Western society’s carbon addiction – our destruction of the planet and our destruction of our own lives are coming from the same place, perhaps. The first contribution to the discussion today was from someone who asked if Mike had meant “Entitlement” as taught by society, or as taught in a less-financial form of prosperity gospel. Mike was very quick to say that whilst he meant the former, he could see the latter might be happening.

Someone mentioned the pain that Church has caused, and when Mike asked for a show of hands, the hands went up. 3/4s of those who showed up had seen people (or themselves) been seriously hurt by the church. Mike gulped, I nodded, the discussion was raw, the emotions ran, Mike asked some more straw poll questions and it was clear this was an area he just hadn’t been made properly aware of. You might think he’d hear this all the time, but apparently people just aren’t telling him.

The other area of major shock; Christian student societies. Someone mentioned it, Mike went to ask the question, and almost every hand shot up. It was profound, it was from the heart, and story after story showed the active damage, as well as careless stupidity, going on in different societies around campuses in the UK. Mike claimed church leaders didn’t know, I wanted to say “surely you must”, but then I realised that either he hadn’t taken the time to listen, or the people most affected just never bother telling him. He didn’t want to single out any one organisation, bringing Fusion and Covenanters into the mix, but in reality, beyond the complaints of cliquishness, the complaints were clearly all about UCCF CU’s, and they fitted the patterns many can recite like mantras.

It was an amazing outpouring of angst. It was a healthy debate. It was clear people needed permission to share their gripes, and that some really didn’t want to break the taboo of berating a church, but needed desperately to do it. I shan’t be surprised if the session doesn’t return in a year, and that Mike doesn’t return to the subject. I suspect he really didn’t know that people would spill out such stories. He might be have been faking it, but I really doubt it: shock that as a church leader, he wasn’t being told about these problems.

And hierarchy. He identified it, and everyone ran with it: today’s generation want de-hierarched churches! This is amazing. Perhaps when we sat in the Stirling Eco-Camp and I58 prayed and discussed the non-hierarchical camp around us, we were actually seeing something genuinely ahead of our time, and it is coming.

I shall have much more to add on this topic over the coming weeks I’m sure, especially when I get my laptop back at Greenbelt. But to those for whom Soul Survivor means bad memories, please know that ears are open, and that now is the time to speak, especially as the Evangelical Alliance have a consultation going. To those who have things to say, get saying them, and join the discussion. And to those who long for the church to truly deal with the issues facing 20-somethings, tomorrow began today.

P.S. Please, please start giving me things to pass on, or writing your own. I’ll give you the email address you need.


Entry filed under: Church, Religion.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. James  |  Tuesday, 25th August 2009 at 7:56 UTC

    Carelessness and cliqueishness sounds like the student world in general – everyone wants to be your friend in freshers week and then the cliques kick in. It’s not just how Christians act towards one another it’s everyone.

    Simultaneously saddened and not surprised by the way that Christians treat one another and then hold the grudge rather than responding in self-denying love and forgiveness. Ho hum.

    • 2. Graham Martin  |  Tuesday, 1st September 2009 at 21:05 UTC

      I did mean to point out that the “clique” issue was not one specific to UCCF-allied CU’s or indeed to Christian societies. Christian Societies should have more reason than any other to attempt to avoid this dynamic, but what I did take away from the session was that this was the only issue that spread outside of the UCCF regime.

      All the other claims made about Christian societies could only have referred to UCCF CU’s, no matter how much Mike P (rightly) wanted to avoid naming names.

  • 3. Lois  |  Tuesday, 25th August 2009 at 12:30 UTC

    I am a little surprised, though not much, that such a big church leader doesn’t know how much people are being hurt by the church. In a way it only refelects a disinclination to listen to young adults in many churches that may have something to do with the hierarchical point you also raise. Young adults have very little representation in churches. Youth and childrens’ needs or views can be represented to church leaders through youth workers, but young adults, though often having specific needs of their own, much more rarely have a ‘channel’ to the leaders. Many just don’t seen that they have specific needs, or that they can contribute to church life in ways they aren’t currently.

    Like most people there, I could add to the stories of damage the church and uni groups have caused- mostly unintentionally, but because of a lack of understanding or thinking. And again, a lack of a way of listening to what’s going on ‘on the ground’.

    • 4. Graham Martin  |  Tuesday, 1st September 2009 at 19:43 UTC

      As Mike has been asked to find out what is actually going on “on the ground”, perhaps you could write something. Particularly on the shared housing vs family living thing you wrote on a while back. I’ll give you the email address for it.

  • 5. Brainduck  |  Tuesday, 25th August 2009 at 15:28 UTC

    ‘You might think he’d hear this all the time, but apparently people just aren’t telling him’
    Then he’s being an idiot walking round with his eyes shut. What does he think happens to people who don’t carry on being GLEs? That level of ignorance makes me more angry than excuses could, because it means people are choosing not to see, and so often even if you do tell them they don’t believe. ‘Not in my church, we wouldn’t do stuff like that, you must have just been misinterpreting everything’.
    If he can really be that insulated from what happens on the ground, the whole organisation is irredemably fucked up and should be abandoned.

  • 6. David Fredrickson  |  Tuesday, 25th August 2009 at 22:19 UTC

    Being hurt, unheard and unheeded “in church” is not rampant among young people only. The dwindling number of people who’ve made it through youth groups and attend the Sunday event have learned for the most part to keep their mouth shut and nod at the appropriate moments during the sermon. They’ve learned that their primary value lies in helping to fill a pew and put money into the pot. Since the desigated “leadership” does all the important stuff and knows more than they do, why should their vote count? The fact that the function of the church as described in the epistles is all about “one anothering”, and that leaders are simply servants to help toward that end, is merely a fuzzy notion in the eyes of most who have mistakenly taken a place of positional authority, something Jesus warned against. (Matt. 20:25-28,23:8-12)

  • 7. Betty  |  Wednesday, 26th August 2009 at 21:22 UTC

    I left a church, I might have left two actually, I never said anything about any quibbles, or feelings, or uncertainities to anyone. I didn’t say I was leaving, didn’t say bye, didn’t give reasons or feedback. No one from church number one called, texted, really noticed I’d gone, (until a year later a girl who had gone away came back and realised I wasn’t there..which was reassuring, but came too late really). When I left CU I said it was because I wanted to commit more to a different student group, which was true, but I chose the others because a whole loads of issues with CU which I never aired to anyone there. Then, this second group, I got slightly disilusioned with, couldn’t find my place so well, so “zoned out” a bit, without giving any reasons, then came back. So, probably it’s the fault of people like me that the leaders don’t know why we left.

  • 8. A different James  |  Saturday, 5th September 2009 at 21:37 UTC

    I am a 22 year old who has just graduated from university and will be staying in my university town of Coventry (rather than going back home, or moving to another city) for the forseeable future because I absolutely *love* my church and want to help build it.

    I am another one that is clearly completely ignorant of this issue. There clearly is work to do here.

    However, I wasn’t at Momentum and this is the first I’ve heard of this issue. Would it be possible to hear some of these stories? To get an idea of what sort of things are going on in our churches that are causing such hurt?

    I’ll mention now, if anyone does bring an example of a story, please do avoid mentioning or implying specific individuals or churches. People and churches can do some nasty things to each other and the hurt can be great, but we must aim ourselves at unity and sacrificial love.

  • 9. Starbucks vs Church « Graham’s Grumbles  |  Thursday, 4th February 2010 at 20:09 UTC

    […] about “on demand” individualism and consumption. Remember back in the summer when I wrote about Mike Pilavachi’s three words to sum up our culture? What he summed up was basically Starbucks: Individualism, Consumerism and […]


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