The Great Awakening

Christopher Hitchens, Diana Butler Bass and the Third Great Awakening

Old Time Prayer Meeting image via Shutterstock

Old Time Prayer Meeting image via Shutterstock

Everyone who calls me to speak somewhere, it seems, wants me to address the issue of declining church membership, and particularly how to connect with younger adults. The problem is that sometimes the invitation is built on a false premise. It’s the hope of many churches that if they can find a way to connect with younger people in a relevant way, those young adults will join the church and save the institution for future generations.

And while this is possible in some situations, it’s really the wrong question to be asking.

The explicit question I get asked, time and again, is “How do we better serve younger people?” And if the question really ended there, we could have a pretty productive conversation. But there’s an implied subtext in most cases that we have to tease out, and often times, the church isn’t even willing to admit that this footnote is married to their question. So although the words above are what are spoken, here’s what they really want to know:

“How do we better serve younger people (so that they will come back to our institutions and save them)?”

A Misnomer Becomes a Movement

Tuesday night, I spoke at the historic Park Street Church in Boston, where the second Great Awakening evangelist Charles Finney preached in 1831, calling people to faith in Jesus Christ and then to enlist in the anti-slavery campaign. William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first abolitionist speech here when he was only 23 years old. I was facing a packed church on a Tuesday night, full of 600 20-something evangelicals who want to be a generation of new abolitionists - focusing on the most [...]

My Prayer for Traveling Mercies

This post is drawn from a message I sent to our staff at Sojourners, thanking them for their hard work and support as I begin the exhausting pace of The Great Awakening book tour. I'd like to share it with you as well. I really need your prayers, and wanted to share with you the prayer that I will be saying everyday-likely again and again! It is from Charles de Foucauld. He was a French aristocrat who joined the French army in Algeria, then left it, lived there identifying with the [...]

Here We Go Again

I'm on a plane to Portland, Oregon, to begin the West Coast swing of The Great Awakening book tour that will also take us to Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego-all back to back. The events are quite diverse and very interesting, from universities, churches, various civic forums, [...]