In yesterdays BreakPoint with Charles Colson, he writes a small critique on the Alt Church movement. Part of what he writes is this:
Now, younger Evangelicals are ?creating alternative churches in coffee bars and warehouses . . . ? And, just as the alternative music scene is an implicit criticism of the musical mainstream, the ?alternative church? sees itself as a corrective to the churches many of its members grew up in.
One participant told the Times that his ?generation is discontent with dead religion . . . ? They ?don´t want to show up on Sunday, sing two hymns, hear a sermon, and go home . . . ? He added that ?the Bible says we´re supposed to die for this thing. If I´m going to do that, this has to be worth something . . . ?
That´s obviously true. What´s not as obvious is how playing basketball after church or worshiping in a coffee house brings us any closer to that kind of sacrificial faith and the hard demands of the Gospel.
There´s something else that both alt and seeker-driven churches often have in common: Their goals are to create a model church that conforms to the individual´s needs and expectations, rather than the other way around. In other words, people demand a church that will tell them what´s in it for them.
If the Alt Church movement is just a church redux for the new century, done in a way that's acceptable to "Todays Generation," then I agree with him. It will eventually turn out the way the church of the 90's is turning out.
As much as we don't like it, we become like those we judge. If the Alt Church is just a reaction against the way the church carried out its mission in the end of the last century, it will be no better. In fact, it may end up worse off, because the movement was immature, and it was based on the rejection of the established church.
However, it was always my hope that a large part of the Alt Church movement was a desire to move past the "Dead religion" that was a part of many churches. That it wasn't about the basketball or coffee shop religion, but it was about the fact that there was more to worshipping God than "Sunday, sing two hymns, hear a sermon, and go home," stuff they experienced in the church.
And yes, it is obviously true that "(we´re supposed to die for this thing.) If I´m going to do that, this has to be worth something." The question is how do you respond to the tension of living with an established church that has it's questionable moments and sometimes a spirituality that seems on life support. A church that doesn't always get that a faith or religion or a walk with Jesus is required that is worth something.
Well, sometimes you stick around because God's called you there. You work and live with those around you, challenging and coaxing them to the deep end of the spiritual pool where you find a faith that is worth something.
And sometimes God calls you out to meet an unreached group of people in your own town who won't set foot inside a church but they will have coffee with you. Or God will connect you with a growing group of disillusioned, hurt ex-sundaymorningatelevenchurchgoers. Who were hurt and got lost in the churches push to get big and blessed and forty days closer to something or other.
Yes, there are good established churches, and there are churches that should have their lampstands removed.
And I know that there are Alt Churches that are right where God wants them, out there on the edge, livin large, making the difference, helping create faith within people that is worth something.
And, given the nature of the human heart, I suspect there are Alt Church guys out there who are just trying to stay young or create their own following. Trying to pay the bills and stay relevant.
Time, and God, will test the depths of our hearts.
And if the Alt Church doesn't learn from the boomers mistakes, then they will repeat them and another generation will rise up in complaint of the emptiness and powerlessness of the God of the Alt Church.
I like Colson, but this time his brush strokes were a little broad.