The line stretched two city blocks; all twenty something’s, clustered in groups, sipping lattes, laughing and taking phone shots. I kept walking and walking, thinking I would never find the end of the line. The club opened in half an hour, so I settled myself in the back of the line. When the line slowly started to move, I guessed once inside it would to be standing room only.
Music greeted me, both its pulse and sound thickening the already congested corridor. Lighting was sparse, yet faces greeted me on well placed monitors; New Yorkers from all walks of life. I climbed the stairs, because that’s where late people go, to the balcony. The floor was beer sticky. The standing area resembled a mosh pit, five deep, every rail place filled, most looking down on the others who had gotten their ‘on time’, about an hour before the doors opened. Well, I thought to myself, here I am, with several thousand others …ready to worship God.
Yes, this is church, where you might least expect it.
There’s more of this going on than you might expect. In Manhattan, for instance, the population of evangelicals has grown from 1% of the population to 3%, in ten years. Do the math, that’s astronomical! Whoever the neigh-sayers are who tell us that things are growing dark for the church, need to be around movements more often. Sure, denominational attendance has plummeted, and the number who call themselves genuine Jesus followers can be as low as 4-5% on a national scale, but let’s not get discouraged. There’s a migration in this generation away from what the world has held out as significant and soul enriching, to the spiritual idea that faith in God through Jesus holds answers to some glaring social and spiritual issues. To it’s credit, the church has sprung back from a barrage of insinuations about hate for homosexuals, judgment for social practices and the like, and is beginning to rise out of a deep self evaluation, it’s own internal audit, to again become the salt and light Jesus inferred when he said, “a city on a hill must not be hidden.” This generation has a different brand of faith, not less biblical, but more social and concrete in it’s expression of love, a kind of love they want so badly to offer peers and neighbors. Jesus with tattoos and piercings, some hoisting a beverage a generation ago the church frowned upon. All sensing an overwhelming need to bring the gospel’s message, not a cultural faith, into the conversation.
How do I respond to this movement under way? These are future pastors, seminary professors, missionaries, moms and dads. Christ followers! What can I offer?
I won’t try and mimic their movement. I don’t need to critique music or cultural appetites. (At one point in church history our most sacred Hymns were deemed sacrilegious.) I don’t even need to become nervous that holiness, the way I define it seems stretched to the breaking point. But I can offer wisdom. I can come along side and mentor and coach young leaders. I can rev up the revolution of a serious succession plan wherever I lead, and empower younger leaders to take a more active voice in shaping the spiritual future of Christ’s body. I can love this generation, as demonstratively as they seek to love the lost.
All around me people were standing. It had been a long rousing worship, with a message about bringing Christ to your neighborhood. Someone ended the service with a simple invitation. “Raise your hand if you would like to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ.” I was supposed to be ‘head bowed and eyes closed,’ but I cheated and scanned the balcony section. I watched as at least twenty hands lifted in the air. In that moment, God distilled a vision that I extend now to you. He will always be faithful to rescue from every generation those He has called out of darkness. He has never failed in His mission, and never will.
My tired legs ascended the stairs and brought me out into noonday sun. I looked down the sidewalk where another line formed, bending out of sight. Standing room only! God building spiritual hunger in a hectic, wild-eyed cityscape with a Sodom and Gomorrah reputation. I couldn’t help but smile, and think that for all the warts and shortcomings any movement has, there’s one certainty. God is growing His church. In the final analysis, that’s what really counts.