It’s been said that individualism is no longer solely a Western world trait, but is in fact on the rise globally. These findings were first published in Psychological Science back in 2017. Drawing from 78 national census data, this growing global trend has been tracked and documented over the past 51 years.
Individualism has been defined as ‘the habit or principle of being independent and self-reliant’, and ‘a social theory favouring freedom of action for individuals over collective or state control.’ If you are anything like me, there may be a negative association with the term ‘individualism’. Most likely it is because of the many facts and issues that can arise from a culture that embraces individual liberty, rights and freedom as an essential value. In the Western world we have witnessed a significant shift away from the value of family ties and fitting into traditional accepted cultural norms. I indeed share many concerns over the growing individualistic trend, however, allow me to share a positive comment and ongoing challenge for our younger individuals and emerging adults.
One of the challenges (complaints) that I hear from emerging adults when it comes to the Church is that the style, culture, presentation, music, technology, methods and ministries need to change. In short, everything! What this means is that there can be expectations put on the local church to be state of the art, multi-staffed, have professional musicians, lots of parking, oodles of cash, and volunteers to carry out every ministry known to humanity. All of which needs to be in place and running smoothly so that any potential seeker will have all of their ‘perceived needs’ met. Now that my venting is over … I will get back to my positive comment.
Let me say that I am very thankful for this emerging culture we have in Canada and in the Church. They have been a voice and catalyst for change in areas where change needs to happen. One area being ‘how we worship God’.
A challenge that traditional Christians face is their very own tradition. We know that much of Christian living is based on our traditions (thank you Wesley). But oftentimes our traditions can be elevated and placed almost on equal ground as Scripture. Take the ‘sinners prayer’ for example. Many evangelicals would passionately believe there is indeed a ‘sinners prayer’ in the Bible that needs to be prayed for sinners to find acceptance with God. I have yet to find such a passage.
When it comes to ‘how we worship God’ and ‘what that looks like’, our emerging adults and younger generation have helped us to examine, re-clarify, ditch, and strengthen certain facets to church worship and Christian living. In a conversation I had with a group of Millennials who attended worship at the church I pastor, I was informed very honestly about some of the elements and essentials that they were looking for in a worshipping community. I appreciate their honesty and sincerity. It has helped me to look through their lens and critically think about Pentecostal praxis in varying ways. But that’s for another blog perhaps. This one is getting lengthy enough. Here’s the point: It is time for our young adults and emerging generation to break away from traditions that miss the heart of God, and blaze a trail when needed.
Jesus told a parable about a certain person who fell into the hands of bandits and robbers. This individual was beaten up and left half-dead on the side of the road. The first person to come along was a priest. The priest moved to the opposite side of the road to bypass the hurting individual. Next in the story was a Levite. Following after the priest, the Levite did what was done before and moved away from the needy individual. Next came a Samaritan.
Many of us know this parable. It’s perhaps the most recognized of Jesus’ stories, but often overlooked in meaning. Essentially Jesus is teaching us not just ‘who our neighbour is’, but how we are to love God and show it. Sometimes traditional people need a real shocker to wake them up, and Jesus gave the audience of the day a real wake up call. You see, most of the audience would have believed that a Jew would be the third person in this story. However, it was not a Jew who saved the day and fulfilled the heart of God. It was a Samaritan.
Within Jewish law, there is one law that stands above all others. Saving a life overrides any other prescript of law. What that means is regardless of good intentions, (to remain ceremonially clean and pure) the priest had a duty to save a life. The same could be said for the Levite who also moved on. Jesus makes the point very clear that both the priest and the Levite were without excuse for showing lovelessness to the hurting individual.
The shocker here is that the Samaritan did not follow the same loveless path of use the priest and Levite. The Samaritan (who followed the same law) actually displayed a heart of compassion and demonstrated what loving God looks like. In other words, the Samaritan was the one who demonstrated a proper ‘all in’ love for God (heart, mind, soul and strength).
The positive comment and challenge is this. The emerging culture beckons us to break away from loveless religious traditions that miss the heart of God.
Within the heart of individualism culture, there is a cry for something authentically real. There’s a plethora of research stating that individualistic cultures seek sincerity and authenticity. This is good news for the Church. If we desire to engage this culture, we need to keep the main thing the main thing: Love God and love others.
Secondly, the challenge goes out to those who are coming behind the Silent Generation, Boomers, Busters, and Gen’Xr’s. Stop waiting for a trail to emerge. Blaze a new one! In the woods, when new trails is ‘blazed’ there is often a mark notched into a tree on both sides indicating the path of the traveler. Emerging adults have a great opportunity to blaze a new trail forward for the Church; new trails demonstrating the love of God toward those who hurt physically, mentally and spiritually.
As a fourth-generation Classical Pentecostal, I admit that ‘we’ have not gotten it right all of the time. We have been pretty good at things, and not so good at others. Regardless, we need to move forward and embrace the ways in which this emerging culture can help us move forward towards the hurting.
To the ermerging culture: Help us embrace the worldview of Jesus who connected the sacred with the secular. Help us make the connection to those who hurt, have needs and are broken. Help us do ministry and Christian living different. You were born for such a time as this. Lead the way. The world is waiting.