Evangeline Colarossi—Staff Writer
“This generation will be the end of the church.”
That’s not a completely uncommon phrase to hear these days. With church attendance seemingly on the decline and more people expressing dissatisfaction with the attitudes and actions they see from church members, the future can appear bleak.
But Dordt Chaplain Aaron Baart is far from discouraged. Rather, he spends hours each week pouring over the Scripture and other literature, finding insight and learning more about this issue, in hopes of addressing it during chapel this semester. However, he hasn’t set his mind on degrading Generation Z for the issues they’re addressing in the church. The issues found in the church aren’t unfounded, and speaking out about them isn’t in vain.
“All of the [church] critiques are completely accurate,” Baart said. “All of the things Gen Z doesn’t like, they’re right! But [the church says] don’t go!” He believes the church is asking for honest criticism and begs people to stay regardless of whether things are changing or not.
“You should want something different, something better, something more,” Baart said. “But you’re not going to find it by leaving. You’re going to find it by staying and helping us find it together.”
We live in a society where according to Baart, if people don’t like a class they can drop it, and people are treating church the same way. Church can be a challenge, but challenges aren’t bad. Baart believes a huge part of learning is being surrounded by different people. It’s the dissonance in a cognitive life and a spiritual life that helps people to learn new things and desire to develop them in their own lives.
“Wherever you go, that’s where you are,” Baart said. “If you leave something, you haven’t left the problem. With the sin problem in life, you are the problem.”
As students, no one would want to pay thousands of dollars to go somewhere and get a mediocre education. Likewise, Baart argues that people shouldn’t invest their time and money into the church and not expect that life to be hard. People put in effort and take out benefits, but sometimes they’re not all equal.
“As with anything in life, it’s often the things that challenge you the most that have the largest growth curve. We don’t expect to be stretched in church, but we expect that in school,” Baart said.
He asks, what if the greatest leaders are the ones that people grin at in their Sunday best, as they sing children’s songs? What if the faith lives to imitate are the children in church?
“Rather than telling the younger generation, ‘stick around and learn to be cynical just like us’ [we should tell them] ‘come with your world-changing ideas,” Baart said. “[Tell them to] come with your Pentecost-sized visions and your dreams of changing and transforming the world, and start with those changes.’”
Just because the voices of the current generation may seem drowned out, it does not mean that there aren’t ears to hear. There are people who desire to see Generation Z wanting to enact a difference in the church. Aaron Baart is one of them, and through this chapel series he wants to encourage this dialogue in each listening student.
“I want you to change the church. I hope it looks nothing like it does now, by the time Gen Z is done with it. I want you to lead us,” Baart said.