I went to Next today with an RC friend. Next is the only "emerging" style church in our city. It's just called Next, without the Church.
On the whole, the experience was interesting. I found their website almost deliberately obtuse trying to be trendy. Figuring out when the meeting/service was was a bit of a challenge (they called it Next Classic and stated that it started at "about 11").
What struck me most about Next was that my friend and I, in our mid 40s, were probably the oldest people there. This was a twenty-something crowd with some thirty-somethings, and with lots of little kids. Funny how all the other churches are full of grey heads. This church had none. And it was that kind of grungy young-intellectual look -- goatees, dreadlocks, noserings, counter-cultural clothes. What also struck me was that this young crowd was 50% male. The young male cohort is the hardest to pull into a church. And here they were.
The church had pews, but it also had some sofas thrown in, apparently for the people in love, because they seemed to grab them. There was a large toy and play area at the back with some pews facing backward. The office was part of the main room. There was coffee and muffins on arrival, although they were in a back room, so you had to know they were there. And of course, there was the rock band at the front.
My son's piano teacher happened to be at the piano, leading the music. They did U2 (Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For), Joan Osborne (What If God Was One of Us), and Bruce Cockburn (some Christmas song I'd never heard of). They also did one song written by one of the musicians, which the congregation apparently knew very well. The music was pretty good, although the guitars and drums were amped slightly more than the piano and vocals, so the main theme was hard to follow. People sang, at least for the songs they knew. The words were up on a slide.
The pastor was impossibly young with a facial hair thing going. He kept handing around the microphone to let others talk -- e.g., he interviewed three children about waiting for Christmas and let another woman improvise a prayer before the sermon. Another woman did the sermon, her first time speaking before the group. Before the service, he walked around and talked to people, not officiously, just very quietly and naturally. He came up to us and introduced himself. Very friendly, not pushy.
The art on the walls was intriguing. One piece looked like a fridge door spattered with paint. I think it was a fridge door spattered with paint. There were some kids' paintings and some canvas boards with paint dripping down them. Purpose of this art? I'm not sure.
I won't get into the theology of what I saw -- I'll save that for another post. But I am occupied right now thinking about the demographics. Why do these young people come to this church? Was it the music? Maybe the sense of community? That and the fact that there aren't any people their parents' age?
I've often thought that churches are based around personality types. Quakerism is for introverts and would push an extrovert to the brink of insanity. Evangelicalism is for extroverts and gives introverts the willies. Mainstream churches try to cater to both groups, possibly very unsuccessfully.
But maybe age groups need certain types of churches too. Maybe there isn't much point in fishing around for other age groups to round out the ones we have. Maybe we should just come out and say it: "Quakerism - a silent worship community targeted at the older educated adult."
No, don't get mad -- I'm just telling it like I saw it.