Purpose

We live in a pretty funny time.  I consider myself a quasi-Millennial.  I was born in 84, and kinda have a foot in the Gen X world, and a foot in the Millennial world.  I tend to hangout with younger people, but when I was a kid I played with Transformers and GI Joes (thanks to having older brothers), so I’m a generational mutt.  But as a quasi-Millennial, I speak the language a little bit.  One thing that I’ve noticed over the years speaking to people about the big things of life is that there is this tangible hunger for meaning.  Young people seem to desire purpose in a louder way than past generations.  7 years ago or so I wrote a paper about it… Here’s a little snippet…

There are nights in which I stare at the ceiling burdened for my generation.  The postmodern, post-Christian, emerging generation is described by Tim Keller as, “…getting both more religious and less religious at the same time.” (Keller 2008, x)  Within this current culture of young people resides a potential to transform the world, perhaps as much or more than any generation before it.  Young people possess a passion for Jesus and for justice which is evidenced in their ecclesiology.  Dan Kimball writes, “…churches attended by emerging generations usually have a strong emphasis on bringing the love of Jesus to others…many emerging churches are concerned not only with local and global social justice but also with taking action.” (Kimball 2007, 110)  Although this is accurate, concurrently an ever-increasing percentage of young adults are rejecting the church, convinced of its hypocrisy, hatefulness, and judgmental tendencies (Kinnaman and Lyons 2007, 28)  Now more than ever, a trend exists among young people which is characterized by a collective desire to help people in charitable ways.  A new sense of pluralistic and relativistic morality exists in this culture.  Charities litter the bulletin boards of colleges while new humanitarian causes fill-up the twitter feeds of millions of teenagers and twenty-somethings.  Whether it is the newest “Invisible Children” movie or a product like “Tom’s Shoes” promoting a good cause, the trendiness of humanitarianism among younger generations is palpable.  It is popular to help people.  A new reality exists in this idea.  As decency within a Christendom society often correlated with church involvement, in a postmodern and post-Christian setting it is often assumed to exist outside of the perceived hypocritical and judgmental reality of organized religion.  

As a young believer in Jesus and a church leader among postmodern Christians, I rejoice in these relief efforts.  It is not that a generation of people is feeling the burden of helping people that keeps me up at night, rather it is the fact that the Church, which has historically blazed the trail in terms of charitable efforts, is for the most part, on the sidelines.  The search for meaning is being found outside of communities of faith. Young church-goers and non-church-goers alike are hungry for purpose, dissatisfied with the boredom and triviality of their lives.  Meanwhile, the primary purpose-provider of past generations is, according to a study by the Barna group, perceived by outsiders between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine as being “out of touch with reality” (seventy-two percent of young outsiders), “old-fashioned,” (seventy-eight percent), and judgmental (eighty-seven percent). (Kinnaman and Lyons 2007, 28)  The church is not providing purpose because the church is not known for possessing it.”

What’s crazy is that, in the past decade, I’ve really seen the inconsistencies of this generation.  We long to have purpose, we voice our opinions, we want to see change, but in all reality we’re as selfish as any generation before us.  We give less, but we complain more.  From a Christian perspective, it’s been interesting seeing how churches respond to this.  Because when I read the Gospels, I’m blown away by the deep purpose in which followers of Jesus possessed.  When Jesus called his disciples, he called them into immediate mission, tangible purpose (“Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men”). On a personal level, I think that has driven me to continue to follow Jesus almost as much as anything else.  I want to matter.  Not necessarily in how this world defines it, but I want my life to matter for the Kingdom of God.  I want to have meaning at the deepest level of my being… to know that, no matter what my job or family or hobbies look like, I have a deep calling in life.

I guess that’s what this site is all about: to unpack the question that has always stirred in me: What is our purpose?  What I have been called to do? And then, in turn, how do I go about doing that?

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