‘Emerging’ Church is a Gen X not a Gen Y Phenomenon

I talked last time about how the Emerging Church is not a theological movement but a reaction to mass culture.

The Emerging Church is also about Gen X culture.

The Contemporary Church model of grew out boomer culture, and thus naturally reflecting many of its values. So it is with the Emerging Church, which grew out of Gen X culture, reflecting many of its shared values.

Yeah but i heard you say that you don’t believe in generational theories. Don’t worry I did not either, that was until my phone started running hot with calls from Gen X young adult and youth pastors who were tearing their hair out trying to get their heads around Gen Y’s and their culture. So I read everything on Gen Y and interviewed as many Gen Y’s as I could, and it dawned on me they were totally different to Gen Xrs. If anything Y’s are more like boomers than Gen Xrs, hence the reason why advertisers call them echo boomers. They are boomers on steroids.

(and of course we are generalizing, you have to do that with cultural analysis Silly!)

Then it went crazy, everyone seemed to want to get their heads around Gen Y. I ran seminars, did consulting, and spoke with leadership teams, helping them get their heads around Gen Y. My colleague Sarah Deutscher and I even made a DVD for leaders to get their heads around Gen Y. Then two bombshells dropped for me.

The Emerging Church is Gen X

One day I was preparing a slide for my powerpoint presentation on Gen Y which compared the cultural values of Gen X vs that of Gen Y. As I looked at the left of the slide which described the values Gen X, I suddenly realised that I could replace the header of Gen X with Emerging Church. The value matched.

The second bombshell hit as I was at an “emerging church” conference. The person up the front was describing the emerging church as the newest expression of church. As I looked around the room I noted that the average age in the room was around the late thirties to forties mark. Not exactly the youngest group in the world! Down the road meeting at the same time was a large pentecostal Young Adult conference, for 18-25′s over 8 thousand people were in attendance.

Lots of Gen Y’s tell me that they find themselves ‘out of place’ at emerging church events. They find the Xrs too obsessed with consensus and navel gazing; Y’s see Xrs as too negative and cynical. Gen Y’s have told me that they find Gen Xrs judgemental of Y’s confidence and aspirational values.

Gen Y’s like action rather than talk, they like to be told in which direction to march, they don’t want to discuss the nature of truth they want to conquer and change the world. They know that they are children of consumerism, however they don’t pretend they they are not like their older Gen X siblings.

Strangely the emerging church may in the next few years find itself being hit by a boomerang of critique. Those charges of irrelevance that have been directed at the contemporary/boomer church just might to come back to bite them on the behind.


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