I wrote on the evening of the Obama victory in the Iowa Democratic primary. I thought it was relevant to post here today on the eve of this historic election. CH
2004 many predicted that the 25 and under crowd would sweep Kerry into office. Post election tabulations showed that college age people wanted to head bang with John at Bruce Springstein rallies but that they did not want to chad punch for his cause. After the votes where counted, twenty something came out to vote at the same level they always do. This did not surprise the tabulators. Twenty something have a long history of not following through at the voting booth.
Amazingly, in this election cycle something different has already happened. Almost 100,000 under 30 voters shattered turn out records in Iowa. In New Hampshire Hilary’s come from behind victory suppressed the story of record turnout but they to saw a wave of twenty somethings actually voting. In South Carolina a record one in five voters where under 30. The AP is reporting that the number of young voters registered in California for this primary is already greater than the total for the 2004 presidential election.
At this writing, even though Obama fever has taken a few team Clinton body blows it is still evoking messianic devotion at rallies and record breaking numbers at fund raisers.
In short, Obama my have be able to do what Springsteen and Kerry could not. He may ignite a generation to produce real change.
No one can say just yet if the early signs of young voter turn out will hold through the fall but the church should not be shocked if it does. What if this generation does more than rock? Like their boomer elders who found their voice in one historic summer of love, we might be in store for another 1967 revolution.
If it happens it will not be another hippie movement. Instead of LSD trips expanding minds we will see RSS trips mobilizing people. Instead of “turn on and tune out” as a message we’ll hear “iTune in and YouTube on” to get the message. What this revolution lacks in flowers and beads it will make up for in blazing technological. It will make the hippy movement appear like a blip on the green monochrome screen of history.
Let me be clear. I am not commenting on a candidate or a political cause or an issue. Whatever your personally feelings about Obama, this is about more than liberal vs. conservative. It is about the what, why and how of capturing the hearts of a generation.
And this is not just any generation. This is a group that may be the most talented and confident cohort to come along in 100 years. Whether it is the predictions of noted generational experts like Neil Howe and William Strauss, the trends reported in the UCLA freshmen study, the hard data of rising SAT scores or a simple observation of their internet savvy, make not mistake, this group has game.
Here’s the problem. According to Barna, this super skilled set of twenty-somethings are the least likely age group to go to church.
Some will argue that at this time of life young adults always leave the church. “When they become parents they will return.” I am not sure our attendance records would support this notion but even so, why wait. Would you let Charles Wesley, Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, Jim Elliot, Lillian Thrasher, or Charles Spurgeon get away at age 20? These leaders set the course for their globally impacting lives in their early twenties. We can’t give up on this time of life. It is the season that forms greatness.
Right now, however the church is not succeeding. Whatever we are doing, whatever we are preaching, it is just not capturing the hearts of this group. Maybe we are not living the message we preach? Could it be that somehow the rhetoric of political change looks more attractive than the message of Christian change?
Maybe we are relying on techniques over substance? Maybe they are looking for more than a cool new slogan, smoke machines during worship, or a strong coffee in the foyer?
At the risk of sounding over dramatic, I wonder if it is too late. Maybe the lesson of this primary season is that a cause has already captured their hearts. Will they serve a political uprising only and never discover the higher calling of the kingdom? Is it too late to see a wave of college age believers break over the church flooding us with renewed faith and effectiveness?