One of the blessings of lo these six years of middle age in Sioux Falls is my contact, both through a diverse and vital local Christian presence and via the internet, with some exciting young Christian leaders.
Shel Boese is a church planter/pastor of Mercy Church (CMA) right here in Sioux Falls. He keeps up on the world so well with his 8-track tapes, word processor, cordless phone and other newfangled technology those young people have.
Today he shared research out of Baylor University that overthrows the sloganeering about Christianity's evaporation from America. He quotes from an article summarizing the research:
"Those who argue that a new American landscape is emerging—one in which the conservative evangelicalism of the past few decades is losing numbers and influence—are simply ignoring the data.
Membership in the mainline denominations declined 49 percent from 1960 to 2000; membership in evangelical denominations increased 156 percent in the same period.
Fully one-third of Americans (approximately 100 million) affiliate with an evangelical Protestant congregation. Indeed, evangelicals remain the numerically dominant religious tradition in the United States."
Shel comments frequently on the need to get Christianity out of its codependent chaplaincies to right or left wing politics. He does so with solid theological grounding, real life ministry and a fearless approach to ideas. He isn't the left's fantasy of "emerging Christians," which seem to be a projection of dying Liberal Protestantism on younger people, or the right's boogey man of an amoral MTV reality show loser.
Via internet, there's Carson Clark in Texas, who just wrecks all kinds of ideological pigeon holes while helping start up Anglican ministry around Waco.
Sunday he posted his struggle with "Conservative" Christians who "will question your salvation if not come right out and say you’re going to hell if you vote for Democrats... (and) have trained up a young generation that excels at cultural critique but utterly fails at cultural creativity."
But before you flame or get smug (depending on your ideological camp), just last month he posited the case for supporting a Tea Party presidential candidate in 2012.
These young Christian voices really refresh me. I don't always agree with their positions (indeed, they are against an ideology that would require me to do so). They remind me that we represent the Father "of the living, not the dead;" the Savior whose work is "to make all things new;" the Holy Spirit of "new birth." The aging and failing of systems - even church systems - is just part of our temporary labor in this world. There is always a future in faith.