Your Kids. And Their Kids. And Their Kids

Michael Metzger

It feels like the pandemic has slowed down time but it’s just the opposite. It’s fast-forwarded us into a future that few boomers and gen-x seem ready to face.

Covid-19 has accelerated changes that might have otherwise dragged out across a decade. This includes the coming avalanche in higher education. It’s accelerated working remotely, the decline of malls, and the global decline in religion. That’s right – global.

While the most dramatic shift away from religion has taken place among the American public, it’s happening globally, even in India. I saw this firsthand last fall in Mumbai. I was told Christianity is impacting the rural population but can’t get to first base in the cities.

The reason is urban millennial Hindus are becoming outsiders (exiles) or they’re leaving the faith, becoming religious “nones.” I was told they’re not drawn to evangelists or apologists.

This is happening in the US as well. The pandemic is accelerating the exit of exiles from the church. They already had one foot out the door before Covid-19. Months of both feet out the door are accelerating what would have taken years to happen. Exiles are AWOL Christians.

Others leave the faith altogether. They become religious “nones.” They’re post-Christian, what C. S. Lewis described in 1954. A post-Christian is not a pagan. Pagans are often open to the faith. Post-Christians are not. They’re divorcées, so over the faith. Been there done that.

Lewis felt few see this. I agree, mainly with boomers and gen-x (full disclosure: I’m a boomer). Few recognize how the reigning models of culture change are ineffective. This might be due to age. Research indicates that few people make a big shift in their thinking after 20. Other research goes as high as 40, but after that we cling to old models, even if they’re ineffective.

The youngest gen-xer is 40. I’m 66, but at the age of 35 my models of culture began to change. I read The Myth of Certainty. It describes how the church embraced an Enlightenment view of certainty. I read The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society. Lesslie Newbigin describes how we impact a post-Christian society. Later I read Proper Confidence. Newbigin shows how our models of change are drawn more from the Enlightenment than the Bible.

I’ve long known this, but Covid-19 accelerated a change that might have otherwise dragged out across a decade: The future is less with boomers and gen-x, more with millennials and gen-z.

I’m not writing off anyone. But millennials and gen-z are facing changes few boomers and gen-x are ready to face. These include gender, sexuality, fertility, racism, systemic poverty, and politics. These changes are accelerating. They’re quantifiable. The average boomer or gen-x parent is not ready to address them. I know. Many ask me for help with their kids.

This has accelerated my work, migrating it to mobile resources for millennials and gen-z. The results are quantifiable. We just published our first ebook for business. It’s for the wider world. It translates the faith into the language and literature of today’s business world.

Our next book is for believers. Our target audience is quantifiable, starting with our millennial kids: Mark and Christy, Stephen and Sara, Pat and Jennifer. But it also includes an engineer at UnderArmour, a branding guy in Baltimore, pastors around the country, a couple in Milwaukee, a missionary in China, a teacher in Texas, a financial consultant in New York City and so on.

We’re also targeting gen-z, a generation that’s quantifiable. It starts with our nine grandchildren – Tess, Claire, Tate, Drew, Rhodes, Wynn, Sage, Elowen, and Zane. But gen-z is also a national audience, one that’s 80 percent religious “nones” according to numerous surveys.

Again, I’m not writing off anyone. But I’m not spitting in the wind either. Behavioral studies show that those under 40 are more likely to take the first difficult step in changing the world: “discard the prevailing view of culture and cultural change and start from scratch.”[1]

There’s a famous scene in the film Back to The Future. It captures how I’m going forward. Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) fills in for the band’s injured guitarist. He riffs on “Johnny B. Good,” a tune his 1950’s audience had never heard. They’re stunned. “Guess you’re not for that yet… but your kids are gonna love it.”

We hope your kids are gonna love the stuff we’re pioneering. And their kids. And their kids.

 

[1] James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2010), 27.

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3 thoughts on “Your Kids. And Their Kids. And Their Kids”

  1. Hi Mike. If Clapham is measuring the current crisis in terms of church attendance and religion affiliation, how does Clapham measure quantifiable success in the big picture (e.g. 20 years from now)?

    Is increased church attendance and greater religious affiliation the goal or does the success of Clapham have a different expression (e.g. church attendance still low but “this other good” is realized”)?

  2. Michael Metzger

    Gerard:

    Clapham is measuring success according to the criteria God set forth in Jeremiah 29:7 – “as the Babylonians flourish, so shall you flourish.” Flourishing requires that the arenas where cultures are made take our definition of reality seriously and act on it. I know that’s a rather dense statement. but it makes basically means our faith is no longer viewed as privately engaging but publicly irrelevant.

  3. Clarification: the high school kids in Back to the Future loved “Johnny B. Good”. They weren’t “ready for” Marty’s heavy metal guitar indulgences at the end…

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