Yesterday I was in Barnes and Noble. In the religion section, I overheard a conversation between 2 young adults (17-19 years old, something like that). They were talking about religion, and Joel Olsteen in particular. They didn't like his kind of "Christianity"-- "He's all about money. Very slick. Could be the anti-Christ." They, well, one young man in particular, went on to say what he thought was wrong with that approach to faith, and why, according to his upbringing in Sunday School and his church, he thought living the faith is more about community and the Bible, less about money and attendance and status. The young woman with him then joined in, about how her church taught her about the Bible and learning about faith in the church, and what's on TV isn't usually the same thing as she thinks church should be.
I found myself eavesdropping, and smiling. I was so intrigued by the conversation that I interrrupted it. I apologized for listening in, but told them I am very proud of them for being so thoughtful about their faith, and not being just "sucked in" by flashy stuff on TV. I wanted, of course, just to sit down right there on the floor and have a pow-wow, an interesting and invested conversation about their faith life, their church life, who they are and how they got to be that way and where they're going. I am drawn to young adults like a magnet: I hear their voices and their topics and I want to be part of it. But I'm also aware that I'm old and a stranger to these folks in the bookstore, so I kept my comments brief, hoping only to encourage them in their questions and convictions.
On Thursday I participated in a conversation about emerging church, that undefinable renewal that's so energizing among young people. The question, and the only common denominator I can find that comes close to "defining" emerging communities, is, "What does it mean to be church?" In the bookstore, I found myself glad that young people are even asking such a question, and impressed that they've thought enough, and participated enough thus far in their lives, to have an answer. For now.