In the 60's, we saw the rise of the independant charismatic churches that focused on Jesus as a "personal savior" and looked to give individuals hope. At the same time, we saw the decline of mainline denominational churches that focused on societal change and helping those less fortunate. This created a great split in the American church.
Today, as we see the rise of "missional" and "emergent/emerging" churches focusing on helping those less fortunate and not as much talk of personal hope - but more talk of a unified hope. Parachurch organizations like Feed The Children, Companssion International and World Hunger Fund are seeing more help in recent years than ever before. The Bible says TONS about helping the poor and people are now being reconnected to that truth.
Is this the next "move of the Spirit" or is it a generationally driven societal shift?
I say its the latter. Allow me to explain. In 1993 William Strauss and Neil Howe said in their book Generations that western society swings on a pendulum of an idealistic outlook (selfish, me first outlook) to a Civic outlook (needs of others, group first) every 40 years. These swings, according to them, take 6 years to complete. The last Idealistic swing began in 1963 and ended in 1968. According to their prediction, the Civic outlook swing would have started in 2003 and will conclude this year - 2008. Were they accurate? We'll let's take a look:
Every major corporation is focusing more on how they "care" (i.e. CBS Cares, NBA Cares, etc) than how they are #1 in what they do.
Every major corporation is focusing on helping others in their campaign (Target's "Do Good" campaign where they give 5% of their profits to cahrity, Always tampon's campaign to give tampon's to girls in Africa, Starbucks'...well...have you been to Starbuck's lately?)
PSA's about giving to the poor or being a big brother(when was the last time you saw a "Say No To Drugs" PSA?)
During the writer's strike, we actually CARED more for the writers than the studios and we blamed the studios! We cared for the group and our personal satisfaction. In 1999 during the NBA strike, we said the NBA players were "greedy" for wanting a fair cut of their profits. We sided with the filthy stinking rich NBA OWNERS because we just wanted our NBA back on. Remember how long it took for us to forgive MLB for their strike. Hockey fans STILL haven't recovered from the NHL strike. Attendance is still not what it used to be.
When was the last time we saw an "I want my MTV" type of ad?
People who will NEVER be homosexual care about the possiblity of their civic "right" to be married.
Judging from those things alone, we are definately looking like a civic society and less like an idealistic society. So how does this effect my church? It effects it TREMENDOUSLY! It makes teaching authority a bit tougher. It makes teaching on loving others a lot easier. It makes your church's inability to respond to the needs of others the reason why your church will be ineffective for the next 40 years! It makes your church's superiority complex look like the pride it really is - even to the spiritualy inept.
If we are going to reach people where they are, it helps to know how they think. We have wonderful opportunities to connect our society's civic outlook with the power of the Gospel and make a GIGANTIC difference in the world. Are you rallying the troops around a God-centered cause or are you rallying the troops around their self-centered needs? I hope its the former because that's our lane to reach the people of our communities for the next 40 years.
The pendulum is swinging, are you ready?