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Gen Y guys know stuff

My set of ministry questions came out of my perception of Gen Y guys in the Australian church. Lots of Gen Y Christian guys want to ‘fix’ the church, and like to practise ‘DIY theology’. There is a certain desire to ‘go to Bible college’. There are bloggers, there are fanboys of American figureheads…

Lots of us young Christian men really think we know stuff. There is a deadly arrogance in my generation. Of course I’m hardly immune.

But this is part of a bigger issue for us Christians at large in Western society. We think we can personally ‘learn’ things in order to ‘choose’ a ministry career. However, in other neighbourhoods of world Christianity — the parts that are growing — new ministers are chosen by others because they’re already tangibly becoming fit for the task in their communities. Steve Addison’s blog documents this disconnect between our Western obsessions with information and systems, and the rhythm of flourishing Christian movements. Steve for example critiques the idea of ‘church planting assessment’.

There is also a disconnect between our self-assurance and the stark fact of the decline of Western Christianity. Would God give us humility!

I’m all for building the church. I’m all for the renewal of the West, even though I want other horizons. But there are some really hard questions we have to ask ourselves if we’re to entrust ourselves and our churches to God. If the next generation of Christian leaders is comprised of Gen Y know-it-alls, God help us.

Categories: Tanzanian culture Written by Arthur

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Arthur Davis

Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

10 replies

  1. But the flourishing church planting movements are also theologically thin and vulnerable to cults and false teaching… the wisest representatives will often acknowledge their need of the theological depth of the West.

    Besides, theological rigour has no necessary negative correlation between theological church decline.

  2. Yeah — our Western theological resources are part of why we’re not staying in Australia! :)

    My beef is not with rigour but hubris.

  3. “Lots of us young Christian men really think we know stuff. There is a deadly arrogance in my generation. Of course I’m hardly immune.”

    Love this. True for me too. The problem is also sorting out signal from noise – many of us probably do know stuff in a way older generations don’t. We’re educated with more diverse inputs, conversant with technology and issues that other generations aren’t…

    So how do we do that? How do we cut the hubris from the equation while “fixing” whatever genuine deficiencies are identified.

    How much of the “church planting assessment” process is a legitimate method of identifying and encouraging gifts? I don’t think I need “church planting assessment,” nor did I think I needed a ministry apprenticeship beforehand, but that’s because there were plenty of people training me already, and many pushing me towards ministry (albeit not church-planting, which I’m naturally inclined to reject because it’s the “cool” thing). Had I not those people, then those resources would have been great.

    “There is also a disconnect between our self-assurance and the stark fact of the decline of Western Christianity. Would God give us humility!”

    Alternatively, the disconnect is precisely because of the decline of Western Christianity – perhaps, by God’s grace, our generation are recognising some of the causes (not just the symptoms) of this downward movement. I’d say identifying the fallacious disconnect/dichotomy between truth and love occasionally being practiced by the western church is one such example.

  4. Rolling back the hubris — well, that’s why I wrote those five questions.

    I think it’s a question of horizons…

    One of the things I’m hitting at here is the idea of personal autonomy, which I think is an aspect of our concern for and belief in control. I think this is at the root of the hubris.

    But that’s something for another day — part of me trying to get a majority world perspective…

  5. I’m a Gen X/Y guy who wants to “fix the church”, a know-it-all (or know a lot), obsessed with information and systems. But I don’t want to be a leader.

  6. Eric,

    You can come and hang out at my church in three years if you want.


    Yeah, I thought they were great questions. I guess the question then is how we convince the older generation to listen to our suggestions without sounding like arrogant know-it-alls. As the son of a member of that generation who is doing ministry pretty well, I can tell you that nothing grates that generation like young guys who act like they’ve got runs on the board when they don’t.

  7. Hey Nathan

    I suppose I’m less interested in making suggestions to older generations than joining them in the family business of making disciples — getting those runs on the board, I guess.

    I mean, if we actually want to fix the church, well, that will happen in the discipleship of persons. So far, we may be all talk.

  8. “that will happen in the discipleship of persons. ”

    Yeah, but for those of us in the throes of denominational ministry it also needs to happen in the discipleship of structures. I know they’re made up of people, but there’s an organisational psychology that needs to be understood and addressed too, and that’s where I reckon most of the angry young critique is directed, and probably rightly so.

    But the former angry young men are now the system, or the machine, that they once railed against.

    I think of my future (and current) ministry in two fields – the act of getting on with the job of making disciples, but also the act of reforming broken systems and adopting new ones. I understand why other people want to toss away (or walk away from) systems, but my inner pragmatist balks at that sort of waste.

  9. Hear hear.

    One thing I’ve been working out in the last couple of years is that my parachurch path cannot be an escape from institutions. I just get a different set of them to work with. :D (See the four-part series starting here.)

  10. Speaking as a baby boomer or Gen X guy depending on whose dates you use, I can vouch for the fact that arrogance didn’t originate with Gen Y.

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