I have a working theory that I would like to share and receive feedback about. The idea of authenticity in our expression of faith is getting much attention these days- and for good reason. For faith to mean anything it must be authentic. For us to make any difference at all in our faith-walk we must be sincere in that walk. This is really a no brainer.
But what does authenticity in expressing our faith really mean? Could it have different meaning to different folks? Likely, and it could very well be this that has caused confusion within the church. Consider this:
- For some older church members could authenticity mean adherence to a doctrinal system including a more traditional style of worship? This is what many were taught was primary in expressing faith. This is where many feel most comfortable. Any attempt at change challenges their idea of authentic Christianity.
- For the baby boomers could authentic mean a more expressive type of faith? Possibly in reaction to tradition many in this generation seem to equate authenticity with the freedom to worship more expressively. Much emphasis has been placed on a praise oriented style of worship and grace-centered teaching and for many in this generation authenticity is felt primarily in expressive worship.
- The next generation- that of the late 20s and 30s pose a challenge in defining authenticity. Could it be that they are not sure? From my observation these are the least plugged in among the entire church body and are still searching for what authentic faith means to them. Not coincidentally they were the generation that most felt the direct fallout from the conflict over the meaning of authenticity among the previous generations.
- The latest generation does not have any problem identifying authenticity. They not only know what it means to them, they are fully engaging it. The folks in their teens to mid-20s see hands-on ministry as the best expression of authentic Christianity. They enjoy Christian service that gets them into the streets- among the people- especially those in need. They do not seem to possess the worship style concerns of previous generations nor do they have the same sense of loyalty to a particular church as their parents and grandparents. While this alarms many, this group is not content to sit in the pews. There is an energy here centered less around an institutional church approach and more around a personal ministry approach. These would be among the first in our churches to volunteer for relief work in Haiti. (Please continue to pray for this hurting country.)
Now with any such theory, it is far from static. Certainly lines blur among the generations and other ideas of authenticity exist. But if this theory has any merit it could help us better understand and respect each other. This then could create a healthier and trusting atmosphere in which we could all learn and grow together.
What do you think?