Finding Momentum, Finding Vision
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.