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    Emergent’ churches seeking to connect to new generation

    At a time where many college-aged people have stopped attending services, some churches are taking new approaches to bring them back to God and to the church.

    This new movement of churches is referred to as the “emergent” or post-modern church, generally seeking to draw in those who have not been to church or have been disenfranchised by a church they have attended, according to Leanna Tankersley of Flood, an emergent church in San Diego.

    Kent Eaton, associate dean and associate professor of pastoral ministry at Bethel Seminary in San Diego, said the emergent church has a “missional” focus toward contemporary post-modern youth and young adult culture.

    Many people are becoming aware of the reality that much of the program and methodology of the church has become irrelevant to post-modern youth, said Eaton.

    Rather than watering down the truth of God to reach a culture, the emergent church uses more contemporary visuals and dynamics to connect with this new generation. Contemporary music and a lot of media — such as lights and video — are used to appeal to this audience, said Eaton. To make the churchgoers feel like they’re part of a conversation, rather than being preached at, a dialogical approach is taken with the use of questions and answers, he said.

    The emergent church seeks to make Christ and the Gospel relevant in the lives of youth, therefore attempting to proclaim the Gospel in a way that can be understood and used by the post-modern generation.

    Flood and theMovement in San Marcos are two local churches reaching out to this generation, but drawing in worshippers of all ages.

    Jeremy McGinty, pastor of theMovement, said it’s likely you’ll see someone with a tattoo sitting right next to a guy in a suit. Although there are a lot of young people in attendance, kids are bringing their parents and then a domino effect is produced.

    Tankersley, who works with the married and couples ministry at Flood, said the age range is expanding and it’s not just a college church. However, Flood recognizes that this age group contains the leaders of tomorrow and doesn’t want them to slip through the cracks of culture.

    Eaton said a relaxed, coffee shop atmosphere usually makes up the scene at an emergent church.

    Because Flood values innovation and creativity, it has low lighting and a “rockin’ band,” as well as Pastor Matt Hammett, who has a casual and authentic style, making it feel like you’re listening to a conversation, said Tankersley. Also setting this church apart are the service times. Flood only has evening services, with the last one starting at 9 p.m. “It’s not overly relaxed or a big production,” said Tankersley, “it’s just who we are. And it’s not about feeling cool, alternative or counterculture.”

    Dark walls and candles make theMovement feel more like a living room than a conventional church.

    “It’s not your mama’s church,” said McGinty.

    Behind all the lights and music, a deeper value exists in both churches. The goal is to reach souls for Christ and to have people experience wholeness, and that mission is expressed through values that differ from the traditional church.

    At theMovement, a lot of emphasis is placed on media and the arts in order to make God’s home a beautiful place. McGinty said God was very specific on what he wanted His church to look like and poured out spiritual gifts on an artist who laid out the temple beautifully.

    He said theMovement recognizes these spiritual gifts by having art on the walls, dancers while musicians play, and because some people worship God through their art, tables set up for people to draw instead of sing with the music.

    The generation these churches are trying to reach has less interest in what someone can tell them about the word of God; instead they want to see what God can do.

    “When you let the power of God go on a Sunday morning,” said McGinty, “you never know what’s going to happen.”

    Because man does such a good job at getting in the way of God, theMovement avoids structure, which allows God to move, said McGinty.

    Flood deeply values serving and has had an ongoing relationship with Malawi, Africa. Tankersley said more and more people are being trained and serving in Malawi, owning the mission of Flood and stepping up to lead.

    She said Flood is not about being trendy; it’s about being relevant. It’s also passionate and revolutionary, seeking people to worship and serve God.

    Even churches that do not take on the emergent-church-style accept some of the same ideas, such as the need for community. The Rock Church in San Diego values building community in order to reach people for Christ. Though not an emergent church, a recent survey done at The Rock Church, which was located on the campus of San Diego State University until relocating in Serra Mesa last year, showed that one-fourth of the church is made up of 20-24 year olds — and the next largest group is 25-34 years old.

    Rather than going up to strangers and forcing their way of life down their throats, they build friendships first, said Paul Garrison, college pastor at The Rock Church.

    The set up and music at The Rock Church resembles the modern model, rather than post-modern, but the sharing of the message by Miles McPherson has some things in common with the emergent church. Garrison said people don’t say “Pastor McPherson” – but he’s commonly referred to as “Miles.”

    Because of the community that is valued, McPherson does not come across as the expert or parent, but as a peer, he said.

    McGinty is very passionate about including all people in what God is doing. In the future, he wants to go into neighborhoods and set up church in a cul-de-sac, so the word of God is on the move and going to those who aren’t coming to the church.

    Through community groups at Flood, people are able to “get their feet wet,” getting to know others better, as well as God. And the presence of older attendees provides the opportunity for younger people to have mentors, said Tankersley.

    Instead of letting the post-modern generation figure things out for themselves or have them adapt to the styles of worship and preaching that their parents grew up with, the emergent church has created their own way of ministry to reach a culture for Christ.

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