As I worked on my vision, I realized the that the core constituencies (others may come, but these are who the work of the church are directed towards; dubbed “ministry focus group”) have one thing in common: these are people who have given up on Christian faith because they feel (often with good reason) that Christians have given up on them.
Rather than “pre-Christians” – a precious and often presumptuously insular term – as often seen in church planning resources, I suspect that the people I ought to reach are really “re-Christians.” For the moment, I’ve identified three sets of them.
- Twenty- and thirty-somethings who dropped out of mainline churches in their teens. These adults (no cloying “young adult” speak, please) were bored to tears by their mainline upbringings. Even today, their parents’ church is dying because it has failed to make the generational transition effectively. Still, they have the consciousness that “rock n’ roll” Evangelicalism and “hands-up, eyes-closed, brain-stopped” charismatic Protestantism and Pentecostalism isn’t for them. They want Christianity something like they think they remember: participatory with cultivating narcissism, current without being “corporate” (think “suits” not “common prayer”), and deep without being moldy.
- Gay and lesbian persons who have gotten on with their lives: are out, may have a successful spousal relationship and children, and aren’t “into the scene.” At least, not anymore. (Who has the time? The patience? The abs?) Yes: there’s a lot of anger about the church and none of the options seem worth the bother of returning. They don’t want the be drowned in rainbow flags (how gays could be associated with such a tacky color scheme remains a mystery) and be pigeon-holed accordingly, forced to be closeted, thrown into a church-as-meat-market, or go to the most peculiar house of worship because it is the only one that would take them. No “you’re depraved and sick” from the Right; no kid gloves “you’re O.K.” and infantalizing pandering from the Left will do. (For the latter, yes, lesbians and gay men have some real and nagging issues as a community. There’s no use in whitewashing them.) This church will have to deal with some righteous anger with grace (in both meanings of the word) and dignity, and at the same time get past “Gay Bible 101.”
- Family members, and especially spouses, of active Unitarian Universalists who are Christian, and though they want to support their kin, find “garden variety UU-ism” to be shallow, weird, or pointless. They may have been insulted or snubbed because of their faith by Unitarian Universalists who don’t believe they really belong in their congregation. They’re also not keen on becoming Episcopalians or some other mainline Protestant, in part because (at least on paper) the Unitarian Universalists look like they ought to be the right choice, or because the worship is way too high or way too low.
would love your commentary.