Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in book review, community | Posted on 09-05-2015
Tags: book review, millennials
by Erin S. Lane
IVP Books, 2015
I haven’t had the pleasure of doing a book review in a while (actually haven’t had the time to read or write much), so I was pleased to see this title come along. Part of my ministry is talking to active pastors who ask me a lot of questions. One of the most common questions I hear from pastors my age is, “Do you know any way I can reach the millennials?”
I thought I had some kind of idea before and that’s why I was so intrigued by Lane’s book. She grew up being a staunch church attender and now struggles with the same questions many millennials ask: “Why be part of a church?” Her book is part personal journal, part theological questioning and all excellent reading.
Up front, I want my extremely conservative pastor friends to know something (you know who you are). Ms. Lane has some views different than your own. But that’s okay. You see, if you really want to reach millennials, and if you really want to welcome people into your community like Christ did, then you’re going to have to love people first for who and where they are. We are one body with many different functions. That’s what makes us so great. One of the best things I encountered when reading her book was her fresh and biblical perspective on a lot of things I had never considered.
One of the things that Lane speaks about consistently is “belonging.” She relayed the story of being at a prayer vigil in the community, amongst all walks of people, just being able to meditate and be silent:
“Unlike most churches, the prayer vigil is a space without much of an agenda. You could stand next to a pregnant pastor or a balding drug dealer and it didn’t really matter, because you weren’t there to convince one another of anything. You were there to bear witness. To grief and the joy that persists. To God and the people that subsist.” (p. 146)
Her story is a thread of her search for belonging. The same type of belonging that a lot of millennials are seeking. She tells the story of the church she regularly attended. She wasn’t sure if the church was worthy of her trust or if she would get burned by them. She is transparent about her feelings and her theology is sound: “Trust had always ben a test that someone . . . either passed or failed. If they failed, I withdrew my affection, as if to say, You don’t deserve me or I didn’t really want you anyhow.”(p. 73)
She relates trust to the story of God and his covenants with man and how despite man’s sin, God still loved us: “We weren’t worthy of trust based on the evidence. But God weighed the risk of loving us and said, ‘I can handle it if I get screwed.’ And God did. Again and again.” (Ibid)
Through her journey, she shows how we can relate to one another if we are willing to open our hearts and love, trust and belong. It requires trust on the part of the person making the choice to join, but it requires love on the part of the community who is welcoming the person in:
“If I am to join a church, any church, maybe even your church, I need to believe that you want me to belong. This me. The me that I will be in a week. And when this me pretends to walk away, go on ahead, forge the path by herself, I need you to say the following words with some sense of urgency: ‘Stay with us.’ And I will try.” (p. 182)
I really cannot relate to you how profound the thoughts are in this book. I want to tell you that this book is not a strategy for breaking the code for millennials to sign your church register. If that’s your goal, don’t read it. But if your desire is to learn more about a generation that is looking for something greater than themselves and might want to join your community of faith, then I encourage you to buy this book and devour it.
Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
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