What You Should Know About My Generation: We Prize Honesty

I think that this could be a mildly useful series for pastors and people whose life work is ministering–or trying to–to my generation. I don’t know much, but I know a few things about what makes a Nexter tick. I want to take a few days and think this through, especially in light of the emerging church movement that is drawing so many young people. I want to ask two questions, then: first, what makes my generation tick, and second, why does the emerging church draw it?

The first thing you should know about my generation is that it values honesty. Genuineness of thought and expression is extremely important to my contemporaries. Think back on the backdrop of our lives. We’ve grown up in an age of great political corruption, which followed an age of political corruption, and so we’ve learned to distrust both from our own experience and our parent’s. Our heroes fall on seemingly a daily basis. Floyd Landis cheats and forfeits his medal (maybe), Barry Bonds breaks the home run record (via steroids, probably), Bill Clinton messes around twentysomethings (and lies), Stephen Ambrose plagiarizes (and so do lots of other prominent authors). Do you see this? Corruption is everywhere. It’s not just stupid jocks or movie stars who use drugs and who abuse the privileges of fame. It’s everyone–boring historians cheat! What kind of age is this?

Now, this is not to say that my peers have a theologically couched moral objection, or some such thing, against such behavior. They don’t. Along with distrust, they inherited postmodernism from their parents, and so while they may feel uneasy about cheating and scandal and so on, they don’t make much of an effort to condemn it. But that last sentence is important–they do feel uneasy. You can’t suppress your conscience entirely. But that’s another day’s topic. For now, just know that the flip side of this disposition–the opposite of distrust–is that my generation values honesty, or at least respects it, even if they don’t say that openly (it’s not cool to do so). In our outreach to my peers, then, know that you if you desire to reach them, you need an uncamouflaged honesty, an unproduced genuineness, a realness, to use a silly colloquialism, that will show that you are not hoodwinking them. This generation has a deep distrust embedded in its genetic code. If you violate this trust, you will lose whatever audience you may have had, and said audience will be worse the wear. So speak honestly about yourself, show vulnerability, exude genuine-ness, and don’t worry about trying to put on airs. We can sniff them out, and we’re not impressed by them. We prize honesty. That’s the first thing you should know about us.

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