What is a major concern for the modern evangelical church that many appear largely unconcerned about?

There remains a growing trend, especially in SBC churches, to perpetuate local churches with only one generation present.  On one hand, there exists the old, historical, local churches, but hard times and steady decline have left these once vibrant churches on the edge of closing.  These churches typically contain long-time faithful members who are of the older generation.

On the other hand, there is this rapidly growing church planting movement where young, zealous church planters ready to set the world on fire for Jesus; name a city; study the type of young, professionals who are unchurched who live there; then set out to plant a church in that city; in a certain busy location; target with their promotion a certain demographic of person; driven by cutting edge worship services and technology.  These churches most always gain that group they target, often times multi-cultural, and they are almost always of the younger generation.

In an amazing irony, it seems the most zealous, faithful, and hard-working of those in the older and younger generations agree on something—one of their biggest hindrances in the growth and ministry of the local church is the other.  In other words, the most common ground in these kinds of single generation local churches is they both are convinced they don’t need the other.

I want to submit to you that the Bible gives a very different design through the Apostle Paul as he writes to his young protégé, Titus and is seen in how these new churches in Crete are to be established.  My intent is to demonstrate through a few future posts, that the book of Titus provides a blue print of that which many are fighting against…the multi-generational church.

I welcome any feedback or thoughts you might have on this post or any future posts that will address this great concern I have that I sense many are largely unaware of or unconcerned about.

Posted in Caring for Widows, Discipleship, Evangelism
14 comments on “What is a major concern for the modern evangelical church that many appear largely unconcerned about?
  1. I think you have put your finger on a significant issue. I look forward to your insights.

  2. Kenny Benge says:

    Stanley Hauerwas speaks to that issue in this video. He basically says when worship is patterned after generational styles it creates homogeneous churches. Liturgical churches do a better job of creating multi-generational churches.

  3. Chris Poteet says:

    I completely agree. The homogenous age groups and multi-service/campus meetings are my two greatest trepidations about church planters my age.

    These young churches have outwardly the appearance of healthy, growing churches, but I wonder how it will fare in the long run. I fear we will have another Bill Hybels situation in a decade or two where some admit it was a wrong approach to church life.

  4. Aaron Carpenter says:

    Agree. Where are the young pastors who are called to church revitalization – a task that may take as much or more energy and time as a church plant? What does it say about our doctrine of the church when existing churches are bypassed for a chance to “do it right?” I don’t want to dismiss the challenge and sacrifice of church planting, but sometimes it looks like young men avoiding the hardships of leading and serving their spiritual elders, or following the cult of the “new.” Yes, we are called to make disciples, but there are sheep that still need tending.

    • Marc Mullins says:

      Aaron, you bring up a great point. Convicting even. By trade I am a change manager which basically means I work with companies during cultural and significant organizational change. That being said I have along said I would rather plant a church than go into an established or dying typical SBC type church and fight battles to bring it to a God glorifying healthy state. Your comment points to my sin, I was willing to do it for money, but not for God… I certainly agree we need to be able to go into and rebuild churches and plant, but I also think we need to be careful and prayerful stewards and shepherds of those congregations and be in it for the long haul to shepherd the flock. Like a physician who would have to to care for an ICU trauma patient to bring back to vitality and then maintain good health.

  5. David Head says:

    At our 60- year-old church, we have had a team leading a strategic ministry planning process for the past year. We spent the first 6 months immersed in Scripture to get a fresh feel for the nature of the church Jesus intends. One conviction we came to early on was that the NT model is of a diverse church membership. But diversity is not only an ethnic or socio-economic principle; it includes generations and ages as well. But one thing we have discovered is that there are very few resources or encouragement for those committed to pursuing a multi-generational approach, or figuring our how to broaden generational involvement. Looking forward to this discussion!!

  6. John Mark Yeats says:

    This all stems back to McGavran’s the Homogeneous Unit Principle in church growth. While correct that “birds of a feather tend to flock together”, this is not the design of the church and actually hinders our testimony to the broader community and stunts our own spiritual growth.

    We need each other. The young provide zeal and fervor while the older adults provide wisdom and maturity. I have argued in my book Franchising McChurch that this type of age segregation actually violates the text of Scripture and should be avoided at all costs.

  7. Steve Sims says:

    Excellent point, Brian. This has been an annoyance of mine as a music/worship leader who does not try to “catch the wave” of the newest trends. Another church-planting trend that is slowly picking up here in the southwest is the “cowboy church”. Believe it or not, the idea of “virtual churches” online is even being played with. Douglas Estes wrote a book back in 09 called “SimChurch: Being the Church in the Virtual World”. Frightening!

  8. Andrew Middleton says:

    This is a very important issue. But I think its is not good to bash either the old church or the way people are doing young church. We must remember that in most situations the older generation doesn’t want to mix with the way the younger people are doing church, and vice versa. The older churches are dying by their own choice. Also the young churches will after time have multi-generations.
    I also used to have issues with the multi-campus churches as well. But if they are bring lost people to know Jesus with Biblical doctrine, does it matter if they do it over recorded sermons? Maybe in 20 years we will look back and say, “that was a bad way to do church”. But we will never be able to forget all the people that came to Christ through our broken ministry approches. God can and does use our “bad ideas”.
    I must admit however that the church I attend has, by the grace of God, a great mixture of young and old. I have been married for just over a year and the number of amazing godly men that go to my church have helped my marriage tremendously.
    With that said I am also looking forward to future posts!!

  9. Sam says:

    I’m looking forward to the discussion. As someone who attended a young, 20 to 30-something-year-old young professional and am now pastoring a small, multi-generational church, it seems that the difficulties involved are in an entirely different galaxy when it comes to the daily grind of ministry. I know you’ll be focusing on Titus, but in 1 Timothy 5, Paul’s assumption is that Timothy would have been pastoring a multi-generational church. What have we missed?

  10. Matt says:

    This doesn’t seem to be only SBC trending. I see this in Fundamentalist, various Conservative Evangelical, and progressive circles.

    From my observation, I see a disregard for patience and self-control from both the “older” generation and the “younger.” Paul addresses this and both groups in 2:2,6. We are excitable when something is different. We, in a word, “overreact.”

    Let me illustrate with a silly/extreme example. Let’s take movie theaters. Their popularity and accessibility grew in the 20′s. Now, pastors had to make decisions on what to do with this venue. What the pastors decided would influence their church body. So, some decided to teach/encourage faithfulness to Psalm 101:3, etc. while others determined that these places were evil. So, “going to the movies” was “sin” in some places. My point: overreaction. Let’s stick with what the Text says and let that be our guide to faith/practice.

    This happens today in our churches. An older generation may see the use of technology, difference in dress, or variety of (non-pragmatic) avenues of getting the gospel out and wonder about the younger generation. They may think we are compromising the old time gospel they defended. They are unsure about the changes and conclude they younger generation has to be “wrong.” They wonder about the younger generation’s motive. So, perhaps they might not want to associate/fellowship with the “young whippersnappers.”

    Now, our generation is just as guilty. We see a ministry that does or did things differently than we would, and we conclude they are out of touch, dull, aren’t missional, etc. Why? because we are unsure about their lack of change and conclude they have to be “wrong.” We wonder about the older generation’s motive. So, perhaps we don’t want to associate/fellowship with the “old fogies.”

    I believe one of the results: fragmented churches and chronological snobbery because of this overreacting. While there are things that are worth fighting for, what we should be doing is celebrating the commonality in the grace of God that hath appeared to all men in 2:11.

  11. Sam Bierig says:

    Brian, I know i am a bit behind the times, but I just wanted to congratulate you on your election by your association to Moderator! What an honor. Praise God for the favor you have gained with the pastors in your association.

  12. Stewart says:

    This is a great topic! Many church planters have become almost Pelagian in their thinking that to start from scratch and “do it right” somehow doesn’t involve sinful people. I am glad that there is church planting but I hate to see the grand old churches die out. I pastor a church that is 200 years old and in decline. But I would never really consider anything else (other than missionary). It is a great task to work to see revitalization, young and old together for the gospel (pardon the pun). But it is hard work since it is very difficult to find any believer interested in worshiping with old people. And it is difficult to find any family that wants to be a part of it when it is so easy to go elsewhere.

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