What do Christians under 40 want from Religion? | Mike Mazzalongo | BibleTalk.tv

Hi, my name is Mike Mazzalongo and this class is entitled, What Under 40s Want: Speaking to the Internet Generation. I want to begin by saying that every generation finds a way to distinguish itself from the previous generation. Whether they do it by social custom or new philosophies or advancing technologies, every generation has a way of breaking away from the previous generation. Let me give you an example, I’ll use my own mother for example. She and I parted ways at the introduction of FM radio. Her AM radio set was always tuned to the AM dial, which in the 60s and 70s where I lived in Montreal, was set to 800 CJAD. CJAD was the king of the airways, king of AM in Montreal, where we lived. They had talk shows, they had music, they had contests, weather, news. First thing she did in the morning, she’d get up, turn on CJAD, and it would just stay there for the rest of the day. But then this new type of radio was being sold that had two bands. It had AM and this newfangled thing called FM. FM radio had less talk, more music, and most importantly, it sounded better, especially on your stereo system. Now for some of you listening out there you might not even understand what I’m talking about, but if you’re over 40 or 50 years of age, you know exactly what I’m talking about, when FM radio made its appearance on the scene. So I bought my mother a new radio that had both AM and FM. There was even a clock on it and an alarm. So something new. So I said to her, I said, mom, look, all you have to do is switch the button from AM to FM. And when you do that, you’re going to get more music. It’s going to sound better. You don’t have to listen to as many commercials. She looked at the radio and she looked at me and she said, well where’s CJAD on this FM? And I said, well, mom, it doesn’t work that way. So she said, well, find CJAD on this new radio. So I switched it back to the AM, I found CJAD 800, loud and clear, and she said to me, just leave it there. Until the day she died her radio
was tuned to CJAD. Now I don’t even want to get started on the time I tried to get her a VCR so she could listen to movies. She never used it. Not one time.
So in my own life I’ve experienced the disconnect between the generations about technology. This was the technological disconnect point in the relationship between my mother and I. And it stayed that way until she passed away. Of course, it’s easy to be smug
when you’re on this side of the generational divide, and you’re up to date with all the cutting edge technology. But sooner or later the next generation and its innovations is going to catch up to you. My wake-up call came through my children as well. I had always prided myself on being the cool dad. The dad that knew all about modern music. I was into jazz. I was into rhythm and blues, even some country. I could relate. I had all the moves. I was thinking that I was the the cool dad,
and then one day I heard from my son’s room upstairs a rap CD coming out of his boom box and in one moment I became my mother, and I yelled upstairs, what’s that racket? Turn it down! I didn’t get it.
I didn’t get it. They say that you’ve passed the tipping point of middle age when you stop complaining about the older generation and you start complaining about the younger generation. And so the advent of rap and the whole hip-hop culture sent me to senior-ville in one single day. Like my mother, I didn’t get it. And like my mother, I didn’t want to get it. Like that insightful family counselor Bill Cosby used to say, when it comes to teenagers, dad is not interested in understanding or justice, he just wants peace and quiet. Okay, so why am I talking about this? What’s the point here? Well, the point is that this generational disconnect over technology and social norms happens in the church in the very same way that it happens in families. It doesn’t mean that families have to break up because of these things, it simply means that parents have to learn new things; new ways to understand and communicate with their children. For example, I bought an iphone and I learned how to use it and text with it because that was the only way I could communicate with my youngest son, William. He will not go to voicemail and check voicemail, rarely even answers his phone. He always looks to see if there’s a text. So the only way I could keep in contact with him was to learn how to communicate with him on his type of technology. What I want us to think
about for a moment is about this newer generation, what I call the under 40 generation, because they were born in the 70s and in the 80s. I want us to consider for a moment what disconnect do they feel, not with their parents, but rather with the church. I think this is worth examining because the people who are the leaders in the church today are actually part of their parents’ generation. And so the same dynamic of disconnect working intergenerationally in families is also at work in the church as well. Our challenge, therefore, in the church is to find a way to connect with this generation and understand what they need and what
they’re searching for, especially in the church. And so, this lesson continues under the title, The Four C’s That Under 40s are looking for in the church. I want to share with you what I believe are four things, four C’s, basic elements that under 40s are looking for when they’re seeking a church, when they’re seeking spiritual guidance. Elements or markers in their Christian experience that makes church relevant to them. You see, we need to understand that the under 40s are not as loyal to a movement or to a group as were the previous generation. We can maintain Bible integrity and our restoration ideals, but we have to be sensitive to the markers or to the elements that the under 40 people are looking for, in order to identify with and see as genuine christianity from their perspective and what they are looking for. It is not unbiblical. It’s just not always present in our churches. So the four C’s here, number one, Connectivity. Under 40s are looking for connectivity. Our usual sense of connectedness in the church revolves around the Sunday, Wednesday worship and other fellowship events. It’s one of the reasons we stress good attendance at all worship times and participation in fellowship events. I’m not saying we should abandon these biblical and basic ways to connect with people and help them integrate into the body of Christ. I know that the purpose of worship is not necessarily fellowship, but in our case it’s a major time for fellowship. What I’m saying is that we have to add ways that people, especially those under 40 can feel connected to the church on their terms. For example, websites that provide up-to-date information on the church and on its members, its ministries, and its teachings. And I repeat for emphasis, current information, about who’s sick, and who’s new, and what’s going on today. Not a listing of a picnic that happened three and a half months ago. What’s going on today in the congregation. Another example, perhaps a church Facebook page. So that members can give feedback and talk to one another and post pictures of the new baby or the youth event. It’s an electronic bulletin board where virtual fellowship can take place. Another example, blogs. Where ministers and elders can provide teaching. Instead of one article by the preacher, once per week, you can have several articles, comments, teachings, by various elders and ministers. And you can have them on a daily basis, and then you can also have feedback from the congregation. The under 40 group has a tremendous appetite for information. And we can use the present technology to satisfy that appetite for information. Another example, perhaps a Twitter feed to provide breaking news or announcements about the the body life. The under 40s, they want to know now what’s going on. Not 10 years from now. Let me give you an example, Let’s say Mary Smith has her baby. She has her baby, she’s a member of the church and she has her baby Monday afternoon. Now the old way that we handle a thing like that is, well, there may be a line in the bulletin. There may be an announcement made from the pulpit six days later, on Sunday. But the under forty way is different. For the under 40s the news about her new baby breaks on Twitter, on a Twitter feed, or on Facebook the very same day. And pictures of the newborn are posted Monday evening. Congratulations and comments are added throughout the day, throughout the week, and then Sunday a picture of mom and dad and the new baby are flashed on the screen along with the other announcements. We think that’s very high-tech. To the under forty crowd, that’s just normal for them.
That’s just normal connectivity. Speaking of Powerpoint slides, the under forties appreciate modern AV equipment, audio-visual equipment and usage in the preaching and the teaching of the church. Where I preach and where I serve, the Choctaw congregation in Oklahoma, we have a teaching site, we have a website for the church that gives information about the church body life, but we also have a separate website, a teaching website called Bible Talk. BibleTalk.TV. This teaching site provides an opportunity to have in-depth Bible teaching throughout the week, not just on Sunday or on Wednesday. There are over 300 million cell phones in the United States alone and fifty percent of the population in America are on Facebook. I mean, this is how the under 40 generation connects and it’s creating a sense of community for itself. For whatever reasons, we are less together, physically, then before. I mean, it’s just as one of the rappers says, it is what it is. And it is what it is. Attendance is down on Wednesday night, on Sunday night. It’s hard to get people out to things. Our attendance is in decline, but modern technology provides us with the opportunity to at least maintain a connection with our members throughout the week, especially those under 40. And I believe that we should take advantage of every opportunity to maintain that fellowship and body life in addition to our in-person presence on Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday night. Second element that under 40s look for is competency. Competency. The people who have grown up in the church and those who have been converted as teens or adults have higher expectations than the previous generation. This generation comes from wealthier homes, they have on average a better education, more training, they generally serve in management or professional capacities, more than before. They’re used to higher standards. In Choctaw were, again, where I serve, things have changed. Our congregation was established in 1939. And I began preaching there in 1993. And in those days we had some teachers, we had farmers, we had a lot of people that worked in factories, at Tinker Air Force base. Today we have medical doctors, we have engineers, we have nurses, still teachers, businessmen, businesswomen, people with college degrees, at a much higher rate than we did 20 or 30 years ago. So what’s my point? My point is that if the congregation is better educated and employed at higher levels than before, they are more demanding as far as competency is concerned. In other words, the church has to be as well organized and function as smoothly as where they work. It’s a question of confidence. The under 40 group wants to feel that their leaders, the elders and the deacons, the ministers, the teachers, they want to feel that these people are as competent to care for their souls as the company they work for is competent in shipping boxes from point A to point B. It’s difficult to inspire confidence in a software engineer who supervises 10 people at the office during the week, if he comes to church and he sees a spelling mistake on the sign out front
or he sees poor language or poor grammar in the bulletin. You’ll have trouble convincing a young mom to attend Bible class if the sheets in the nursery are dirty or they are smelly diapers that remain in the trash can a week after she has last visited. Our Bible teaching and preaching may be accurate, but if we’re incompetent in taking care of our building or organizing our projects or preparing an orderly and well-run public worship service, under 40s will not take us seriously. And I stress the worship service because it’s the most public thing that we do. Everybody sees it and our competency in other areas many times is judged by what we do in public worship. All right, third element the under 40s are looking for, they’re looking for compassion. Compassion. The under 40s have long been aware of the national disasters taking place around the world, thanks to their exposure from a young age to television and more recently to social media. This generation is more likely to care about human rights and concerns. They’re more likely to get involved in idealistic projects that improve the environment as well as the human condition. And get involved in these things apart from the church. They’re not so much interested in correct doctrine about compassion as actual acts of compassion to legitimize the doctrine. They would certainly amen James’s admonition in James Chapter 2, verse 18 where he says, “You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith without works and I will show you my faith by my works.” Of course this has been true in every generation, but it is especially true for this generation.
If you have no compassion, then you have no credibility in their eyes. And then finally, the final element in the four C’s under 40s are looking for in a church, of course, is Christ. Jesus Christ. Every generation needs to know Jesus Christ and searches for Him, including this generation. Our generation, I’m talking about my generation, 50-plus, we used the teaching about the true church to teach about Christ. We come from that generation that trusted and were loyal to institutions, the government and the president, to the corporation, or to the church. Many years ago you could you could anticipate if you work for the company, if you started working for the bank or this company, you could have your entire career with that company 30, 40 years. Today, there isn’t that kind of loyalty by the company or many times by the employee. There’s a lot of mobility on both sides now. Back in the day if you could trust the institution, in other words, the government or the church. Therefore, you could trust the head of that institution. There was the thinking. If the institution was solid, then of course the head of that institution was solid as well. And I think that’s why a lot of evangelism materials back in those days focused on the New Testament church and the marks of the New Testament church, and the form of the New Testament church. The idea was that if the body is true, then the head is also true. This generation is more independent. It is less trusting of institutions across the board, from the government to corporations, including the idea of church. They are less concerned with who is the true church. Because in the end, all churches make the same claim, so they’re not interested in figuring that out. They are interested, however, in spiritual things. They’re interested in good things, life and death things. I believe that we need to teach them first about Christ, so that we can then teach them about the church. The church that belongs to Christ, the church that belongs to Christ that is connected to Him and connected to every believer. The church that belongs to Christ is competent to minister to them. The church that belongs to Christ is compassionate, as He was compassionate. If you were a Bible teacher, if you were organizing an education program, my advice would be, first to new Christians, to first teach them the epistle to the Colossians. Before you teach them the book of Acts. We need to teach them about Christ, who can answer the questions that every generation has. It’s not the church that answers the question. It’s Christ that answers the questions. And He can answer the questions that even this generation asks. They want to know is there really a God and how can I know Him? They want to know, why is the world and my life so messed up? They want to know, is there life after death? They keep asking that question. They want to know, how can I find peace and happiness? And, which religion is true? And, how can I know this? We know. We, in the church, we know who Christ is. And Christ answers all of these questions in His word. So my point is that teaching this generation about Christ first, is the way to lead them to the Lord’s church. Well I want you to notice that I have not suggested in any way that we change any of our teachings or any of our good traditions. I mean, every generation responds to the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And why is that? Because the power of salvation is in the gospel, Romans chapter 1 verse 16. And every generation is blessed by their life in the church of the Lord. My appeal is to make sure that we speak to this generation in terms that they, because of their experience and formation in the internet age, can understand. Therefore, if we reach out with special attention to their sensitivity to the ideas of connectivity, competency, compassion, and of course Christ, we will fulfill more effectively the great commission in our time. Well, I hope that this lesson has been an encouragement to you. I hope it’s been an admonishment to use the technology that is available to reach out to other people. And I remind you about our website: Bibletalk.TV. Hundreds and hundreds of hours of video, audio material, and print material all for free. Free Bible media that you can use in your evangelism. I encourage you to avail yourself of that ministry. In the meantime, I pray that God will bless you and if you have any questions, you can always write to me [email protected] God bless you. We’ll see you again soon.

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