The Bridge: An Introduction

“Excuse me
Oh will you excuse me
I’m just trying to find the bridge… Has anybody seen the bridge?
(Have you seen the bridge?)
I ain’t seen the bridge!
(Where’s that confounded bridge?)”

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine (one who is about 13 years younger than me) about how “church” is done here in America. We talked about many things, but mainly about what I hear so many ministers  ask: “How do we effectively reach the Gen Xers and Millennials?” Today I received a letter from this individual, and wanted to share it with you.

To my fathers and mothers- shepherds,

I heard that you were looking for me.

And while I have looked forward to this introduction for a long time now, I must admit that the idea of coming out of the corners and shadows of American Christendom really doesn’t sound like something that I am looking forward to.  Now I know that there is a lot to say.  There are words I have reserved for this very moment and I know them all too well.  Those sharp and jagged words have played and replayed in my thoughts time and time again, dripping from my dreams to my soul and back again, in a rhythmic flow of anger, joy, hurt, and peace.  But in my maturity I have realized that those are words that are not ready to be shared, at least not yet.  We have a lot more introducing to do and we have a lot more trust to establish before we are ready to deal with the consequences of those words. 

 Getting back to the point,

 I must admit I am curious about a couple of things.  Why are you looking for me?  It is odd you see, that you would be looking for me now.  It’s odd that after all this time you have found it important to come looking for me at this moment and at this time.  Please forgive me, but I am curious about your motives and your intent.

But let me back up a moment, perhaps I should introduce myself a bit.You see while you may believe you know me, I think that you may have to rethink things a bit.   Perhaps, just perhaps, if you would be willing to pause a moment you may realize a few things.So if you are willing to hear what I have to say…..

 You may believe that you could pick me out in a crowd, like a dislocated tourist clothed in full rain gear in the center of Times Square during a sunny-sky heat-wave, but shepherd you may want to think again.  I am not sure if you have considered it, but could it be that a reason you have been unsuccessful in finding me is that you don’t actually know what I look like or who I even am?  Could it be that when we have wondered into your places of worship your lack of knowledge of me, my life, my dreams, or worldview have left me shaking my head disappointed with your ignorance?  And instead of pursuing your company we simply walked out of your carefully manicured institution crying with tears of sadness and loneliness. 

 Could it be that we have been in your presence for a long time now, many since birth and yet you have walked right past as if I possessed the attributes of the Invisible Man?  Could it be that you now seek something that God deposited into your life years ago, and yet you have neglected, rejected, and overlooked?

Could it be shepherd? Now I know there are many things to be said at this point, and there are a great many things that we will have to work out.  There is much forgiveness to be sought, much forgiveness to be granted, and plenty of repentance for us both to entertain.  But we aren’t there yet shepherd, not even close. 

 You see man and woman of God, before we can even speak we have a language to bridge.  You see this isn’t an issue of marketing slogans, Christian survey strategies, hipster haircuts, or intense worship experiences.  This is not an issue of supporting the most relevant social justice projects, building the newest beautiful building, or voting Jesus into office. 

 You see my friend it’s not an issue of dialect, no not even close.While you may believe the response you seek will occur if you can find the magic generational hip-spoken relevant message coming from a David Crowder masked sermon.  Shepherd this issue goes way deeper than that, and I have to tell you something that may just break your heart and disappoint your religious authorities- It won’t work….

 There is a fundamental error in your perception of me shepherd.  For a long time now I have heard voices emanating from somewhere behind your pulpit proclaim with Ecclesiastics 1:9 flair that I am just as all others that have come before, that I am just as my fathers and my father’s fathers and my father’s- father’s- fathers.  But your hermeneutical error shepherd is where you have missed the hello of our conversation.  Despite the great Evangelical desire to lift the reality of yesterday onto today, the effort has failed. 

 So shepherd could it be that perhaps the answer you seek and the hearts you desire have evaded you not due to failed strategy or poorly executed seeker sensitive programming, but because you have no idea who I am?Could it be, that there are consequences to cultural decisions and those consequences have unraveled to produce a schism in the reality you believe you understand shepherd? So let me explain a bit:

 We are the generation of latch key kids, abandoned at birth, flavored by microwave dinners.  We are the resulting generation of fallout from the sexual revolution, HIV, deregulation, and the fall of communism.  We are the generation that found itself standing face to face with a little man proclaiming his wisdom and authority from behind a rotten wizard’s curtain.  We are the generation who realized that the Santa Clause of the American Dream was an imaginary sugary placebo pill as intangible as the “truth” we learned of from the worn sweat stained floors of our local church.  We are the rejected generation of single-mother families who clung to televisions like daytime-night-lights dreaming of a day when we would feel whole for the first time in our lives.   We are the generation of technological social media prosthesis.  We are the generation that will, for the first time in American history do worse financially then our parents.  We are the generation that not only lost our childhood innocence but our ignorance of the world and its monsters way too soon.  We are a generation without heroes, for our heroes exist in death, Celebrity Rehab, or prison cells.  We are a generation of ADD, ADHD, Ritalin infused lifestyles, and anxiety flavored depression.  We are the generation of immediate gratification, lopsided debt to credit ratios, and Science.  We are the generation of designer babies, cloning, abortive mass genocide, and chaotic financial instability.  We are the generation that watched screeching planes destroy our buildings, Columbine mass murder, Al Jazeera, worldwide political protest, celebrity confessions of homosexuality, and Congressional investigations play out live in real-time from the un-comfort of our Best-Buy television showroom floors.  We are a generation who does not trust the politician, the doctor, the teacher, the parent, the neighbor, the employer, or the pastor to not rape, molest, lie, manipulate, and steal our dreams and heart.

 And yet shepherd

 I am a generation that despite myself, my experience, and my cynical reservations desires to believe. I want to believe in you shepherd. But shepherd you will not win my trust in the ways you have been trying.  You will not find my heart or my body anywhere near the places you have been looking to find me.  It is a wasted attempt and it will not work.

 So here we are shepherd.  Perhaps you have been lost in my introduction.  Perhaps you don’t understand what I have tried to explain.  But that’s okay shepherd.  Even if you don’t know where to find me, even if you have no idea who I am or what it is I live for, it’s okay.God has moved me beyond the hurt, the rejection, the neglect, and the pain.Where in times past I wanted nothing less to strike a match and watch your man made traditions burn, I am coming back to start a new conversation, to start the restoration.  But understand shepherd I am not looking to be involved in the restoration of your religion, your institution, or your previously designed programs intended to manipulate our hearts into a tradition that can not contain the dream of Jesus Christ for our lives.  I am seeking the restoration of a relationship of our hearts.So let’s start with an introduction.  I would love to get to know you.

 Your brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Nameless Faceless Generation

 

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