A couple months ago I was asked by the managing editor of Worship Leader Magazine to answer several interview questions for a special segment in their September edition. Says Worship Leader:

The issue we’re working on is themed on the influence that the Millennials (people who have always had the Internet, general birth years of 1975-2000) are going to have on our practices in worship services. This is to get at the heart of who the Millennials are and what they care about.

I just received an email informing me that they ran out of room and will not be able to use my answers. And "as much as it was a space issue, the tone of your answers was more educated than what we were looking for. It's a great 'problem' to have because your answers were fantastic and well written, it's just that we were going for a little more raw feel." So, since you won't be able to read the interview in Worship Leader, here it is.

Name: Ryan Flanigan
Age: 27
Church, city and state: Trinity Community Church, Libertyville, IL
Favorite book (other than the Bible): The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther
Favorite movie: The Princess Bride
Favorite TV show: Lost
Favorite video game: Tetris

1. What pushes you away from church? In addition to my own sin that keeps me from loving the church, I am immediately turned off by consumerism, performance/entertainment, cultural accommodation, anxiety relief programs, sacrificing quality for quantity, topical preaching, shallow songs, and narcissistic worship. In a phrase, I don’t like when people are “being churched.”

2. What draws you into church? I am particularly drawn to expository preaching, narrative flow, gospel-doctrine plus gospel-action, holistic worship participation (heart, soul, mind, and strength participation in every part of the service), order, cultural engagement, Trinitarian worship (entering by the Spirit into Christ’s communion with the Father), fellowship/friends, and lots of babies. In other words, I like when people are “being the church.”

3. What is the reason you go to church? I go to church to devote myself “to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Every week at church I am reminded of the gospel of truth, which I so easily forget; that I am a sinner saved by grace, and that I am not my own. At church I have the honor of worshiping the Triune God together with His people, and I am encouraged and equipped to share Christ with the world, both in word and deed.

4. In what way do you feel the way you express your spirituality is different from the way your parents do? In what way is it the same? According to Robert Webber, “Spirituality is a passionate embrace of God’s vision. It is understanding your place within the context of God’s story.” Generally speaking, my parents’ generation has been bombarded with traditionalism and/or seeker-sensitivity, less Bible and more self-help, and hence a diminished view of God. Their spirituality in effect reduces God to a mere object of their affection, to which they might commit a portion of their life. They are more concerned with following the methods of extraordinary church leaders than the vision of God. In contrast, I express my spirituality by learning my role in the drama of God and acting it out. God is the subject of my affection, and I am the object of His. Like my parents’ generation I often live as if I am the subject, trying to find a place for God in my own story. This always leads me away from the cross and toward self-exaltation. (My mom and dad do not fit the generalization.)

5. When you are dealing with big life issues, where do you turn? Spiritual answer: the Bible, prayer, and pastoral counsel. Truthful answer: my intellect, my wife, my friends, and then, after letting me flesh it out for a while, God brings me back to the spiritual disciplines.

6. What would an ideal church service look like to you? See my answer to Question 2. Additionally, I prefer a four-part worship structure (Gathering, Word, Table, Dismissal), where each part facilitates full church participation. Every time we gather the whole gospel must be presented through fellowship, communion, the arts, and especially the sermon. Musical worship should primarily aid the church in better understanding and responding to the Word of God.

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