"What's in it for me?" is a modern question. Moderns presuppose personal gain as a motivational force.
"What will people think?" is a Traditionalist question. Traditionalists require conformity and so worry about what "they" think.
What is the Millenialist question? The generational metaphor for Millenials is connection (both wired and personal) leading to community. The generational question for Millenials will grow out of their metaphor, as surely as the Moderns assume personal gain and the Traditionals worry about image.
So, to determine the generational question for the Millennial, let's explore where connection/community might lead a generation. When we first read (admittedly biased) statistical surveys of our Millenials we get, I think, a skewed view of this group.
I am troubled by their feelings of immaturity, as various studies find them living at home and depending on strapped parents into their late 20's.
I left home at 18 and never looked back. It is hard to say who was happier about my departure, me or my parents. I was an adult living in a house of adults. Home had become more boarding house than a home. I had a draft number, for goodness sake, and there was a war on in Viet Nam. I needed to grow up. It is hard for me to empathize with Millenials who cannot cut the "apron strings," in the parlance of my generation.
Yet, the world changed. I think the Traditionals and the Moderns left a bit of a mess for the Wired Ones. There is more information and less emotional support than ever. That is to say, you can be reading and retaining in your specialty twenty four hours per day, seven days per week all your life and you cannot help but fall hopelessly behind even if you read only in your specialty. No wonder the Wired Ones feel overwhelmed.
In addition, they are unsupported. Parents are gone (or were never there as a duo), schools are competitive and expensive (and often inefficient and ineffective), businesses think only of the bottom line (and so condemn the entire culture) and churches are just plain hateful.
Really, don't tell me how your church is an oasis of love. Look around and see who can comfortably gather round the watering hole. Oasis of love? Hah, it's an island of isolation, secure because it is the place where some know how to act.
Little wonder so many of our (shrinking pool) of seminary graduates look for something else to do within five years of graduation. They can go find anger anywhere. They would rather not have to haul out a can of "God's Wrath" over the heads of the alienated.
My Wired Friend, Austin, suggests, as a cultural question for the Wired Ones, the sobriquet, "What's the point?"
This sounds a bit acerbic in writing on a screen, unless you know Austin, who embodies most of what is good about the Wired Ones. He is actually a big Teddy Bear looking for love. A good woman will come into his life (perhaps she is already there) and the boy will blossom.
More to the point, his question is really, "What's real? What are we doing in church as a means of producing budgets, baptisms and buildings but very little actual Christianity?"
I do not think that will finally be the query of the Wired Ones. If the cultural metaphor of the Wired Generation is connectional/community, I think the question that defines this generation will be some variation of the question, "How does this help us get together?'
If their question is, "How do we come together?" we have, then, a viable explanation why the Wired Ones feel so differently about sex, race and social issues. Sexual mores and racial preferences establish differences and mandate distance. Wired Ones look for similarities and manageable proximity.
Seminary graduates leave the Church or take the denominational name off their buildings because the established Church/Denomination establishes differences/distance in a world where no one can possibly hope to keep up alone. The Wired Ones need the computer interface for everything from their intellectual range to their sex life. They live longer, know more, feel deeply and experience frustration at very high levels.
So, no, "What's the point?" will not be the question for the Wired Ones. The Wired Ones will ask, "What is real?" just like all the generations before them in history, with its corollary, "What is real worth" (or "What Counts?") but their cultural milieu seems to be connection and community. If they get to the top only to look down on broken bodies, the Wired Ones will not consider their view Olympian.
I punished myself in my workout yesterday. I like to get the week going with a strong set of endorphins, so I did upper body weights and abs for an hour, followed by lower body for an hour and capped off with an hour of Mixed Martial Arts. Today, I have some residual soreness prodding me to moderation but I live with the fact I am going to binge every few days.
During the workout time, I interacted with dozens of people but only two church members. The prospect pool of (already) friends and (potential) Christ Followers was deep. Some asked about my workout or told me about their workout. We compared eating habits (stll a problem for me; there is nothing worse than a recovering addict) and medical procedures. We had a good chat about supplements.
Understand, In high school, I was voted, "Boy Least Likely To Break a Sweat."
I have been converted. I could backslide but I do not think I could ever live comfortably, again, fat among the obese. Be offended if this seems judgemental, for it is actually only a statement of fact. Your adipose tissue accuses you, oh, man, or your 3,000 calorie meals full of soda and salt, not me.
The Wired Ones will not easily backslide into yet another system of classes intended to indoctrinate , when the world is dying form thirst and 4% of the population hoards 96% of the planet's resources. No, you cannot legislate intelligence or ambition, but it is equally demonstrable you cannot forever restrain kindness, decency, compassion. There was Joan of Arc, but there was also Mother Teresa.
So, I have hope for the Wired Ones. They lack a bit of discipline and many of them are just self-absorbed liars, like junior staff I suffered with who expressed their self-righteousness in their unwillingness to do their job, all the while, complaining about how others did their jobs. We need grown-ups who will not empower these behaviors.
We desperately need for some of the Wired Ones to turn off their additictive, moronic, violent, hedonistic video games and get on with life. You cannot be watching cartoons into your thirties and expect to be assessed as a grown person and, after all, video games are just violent cartoons, where the players gets to be violent but never suffer any consequences.
Young, wired, weird ones will need to do somethings after they turn off their video games:
- You young pastors will have to learn to think. Really, you are carrying empty-headed way too far. You are mechanics and we need engineers, at least, if not inventors.
- You young pastors will have to risk.
- You young pastors will have to explore your guilt. It is Ok that you are alive and that someone pays you (if poorly) to study Christ in order to live Christ before the Christless.
- You young pastors will have to be pastors, undershepherds of the flock, not someone looking to put together some other segmented, sectionalized avant-garde nonsense that is more fun than working at your calling. You are ironic to your cultural metaphor if you intend to look for ways to marginalize rather than connect.
- You young pastors will have to decide on your question, the one for your generational metaphor.
Tomorrow, should we live, we will talk about how to overcome the Big Church Business. I have three young couples coming in today, in various stages of recovery (no, they don't care if you know, so stop being offended for them, it does not make them any better or you any bigger or me any more bad) and some exertion later.
Decide on your question.