Had lunch today with David Kinnaman, the President of the Barna organization, who’s a really charming guy with a good mind and an eye on the culture. He’s got a savvy take on where the church is and where it’s going. His book, unChristian, charts the PR of the Church, saying that for the 16-29 year old crowd, the church is perceived as homophobic, judgmental, hypocritical, political, etc.
Two questions remain for me from his book: we say the church shouldn’t be dogmatic because “they” don’t like that, but in fact, “they” are joining the most clear, dogmatic churches far faster than the more nuanced, circumspect ones. The “emerging church,” if it can even be given sufficient borders to be called a group or movement, is a branding that doesn’t promise to last. They have certainly captured the need to modernize the atmosphere of the church, but they are so theologically ill-defined that I don’t think they will be cohesive over time. And the fundamentalists will continue to grow.
Secondly, liberal 20 year olds often turn into conservative 40 year olds. I’m not sure that what 16-29 year olds think of the church today will be the same as what that same group thinks of the church in 15 years, after they’ve been through their divorces, illnesses, tragedies, burnouts, and the like. The church, for all its failings, may come to look more like their peer group over time.
We shall see, of course. In the meantime, I’d like to be called and fundamergent. We are radically middle of the road.