I led a retreat today for the bishops and denominational executives of about 20 Christian traditions in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. The discussion reminded me of an overwhelming reality that the church is struggling with in our time: the tremendous change in how people relate to religious institutions, including congregations, denominations, etc.
The way in which the Baby Boom generation has assaulted institutions with change and cynicism has been difficult for business and government, but it is especially devastating for religion. Religious institutions do not have the wealth of business corporations nor the power of government institutions. They depend entirely on the trust and commitment of volunteers. They only capital they have is constructed from the hopes and dreams of believers. We have left the generations that follow us with little demonstration of how to invest hopes and dreams creatively and constructively in religious institutions.
There is an urgent need to encourage Gen X and Millennial believers to re-create a new generation of religious institutions appropriate to the world in which they live. We need to show them that it is all right to believe in mission and ministry, to invest sweat and tears in constructing congregations, ministries and missional structures. They need not just permission, but inspiration to invent the future of God's people.