Have you heard of the Mindset List? It’s a list put together every year by Beloit College. What the list tries to do is give us information about the world in which each year’s incoming college freshmen live. Here are some things from this year’s list:
--The internet has always existed.
--The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major league sports.
--There have always been at least two women on the Supreme Court.
--“Don’t touch that dial”? What’s a “dial”?
--“LBJ” means LeBron James.
--There has never been an official Communist Party in Russia.
--Music has always been available by free downloads.
--No state has ever failed to celebrate Martin Luther King day.
--People have always been able to create wills and other legal documents online.
--Michael Jordan is the guy who does underwear commercials.
--They won’t go near a retailer who doesn’t have a website, and they have never shopped out of a catalog.
--The first president they remember is Bill Clinton, and the first president they really remember is George W. Bush.
Sometimes, older people (meaning people my age) look at a list like this and don’t like it. We feel like a part of history is being lost forever, and we’re unhappy about that. We think it’s sad that young people don’t remember the things we take for granted.
Here’s the thing, though. Whether we like these changes is irrelevant. The world has changed, and we have to deal with it. I’m not knocking history; it’s important that we understand the past, so we can know how we got to where we are. We cannot live in the past, though. We need to live in the present, with an eye toward the future. The world our young people have grown up in is the world that exists now. People my age and older need to understand that world and figure out how to relate to it, not lament the fact that the world is not the way it was when we were young.
That applies to the church, too. If we want young people to come to church, we need to understand the world young people live in. We cannot conduct a 20th century church service and expect 21st century people to come to it, because most of them won’t. Whether they should or not is irrelevant; they won’t. If we want to attract 21st century people, we need to develop a worship service that fits a 21st century world.
That’s not something that’s going to be easy. I’m not claiming I have all the answers for how to do it. It’s something we’re going to need to work on together. One thing we’re going to need to do is ask some of these 21st century people what would attract them. We cannot assume we know the answers; we need to find them out.
People my age and older can lament the fact that the world has changed, but we cannot change that fact. The world I grew up in is gone, and it’s not coming back. We need to live in the world that exists now. We need to make disciples of Jesus in the world that exists now. The only way we can do that is by learning to relate to the people who live in that world.