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Stages of Growth and Being Big Tent Christians

January 26, 2011

There is something of interest, an irony perhaps, in the relative ages of those who push for a “big tent” concept of Christ-following.  Maybe I’m premature in this suggestion, and will have to revise it after being at the Big Tent conference in February.  So far my involvement has been very peripheral. 

But it does seem that much of the push for more inclusiveness, more emphasis on commonalities than on differences, more desire to respect despite disagreement is coming from Christians of about age 20 to 40, and little from those over 50 or so.  Now, it takes a few years to get trained and then well-settled into leadership positions, so leaders and organizers we’d expect to be a bit older, and they probably are, but I think they still average young for leaders overall. 

So the irony is this, at least from my understanding of how personal and spiritual development takes place: That the perspectives and maturity needed to BE more inclusive, to show mutual respect without abandoning one’s own convictions, to work effectively together, etc., are being demonstrated more by younger rather than older, supposedly more mature people.   

I have a couple hunches as to why this may be going on, particularly at this time, and will continue on this theme in days to come.  But what are your observations and thoughts on this seeming reversal of what we may think of as normal processes of development?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 2, 2011 3:53 pm


    I am one of the “old” people organizing Big Tent here in Phoenix and I look forward to exploring this with you. I am right on the same page with you about young people. I feel the mainline churches have done a great disservice to themselves by not seeing this trend and therefore not trusting the new generation’s ability to see Christianity from a variety of perspectives. BUT, in defense of my generation, AzFCT has a large cadre of women and men who are open to new ideas and frustrated that their churches (if they still attend) do not trust them with new perspectives.

    • Howard Pepper permalink
      February 2, 2011 8:01 pm

      Hello Penny!

      Thanks for the note and thanks for your organizing work on Big Tent, Phoenix…. If it weren’t just driving distance away, I’d not be able to come, from San Diego area. Also thanks for your work with AzFCT, which I just discovered via Big Tent, and am on your mailing list now. I will definitely look for you at the event next week!

      I intend to be more in touch with church leaders to more deeply see what is going on at that level, and BTX will help. I’m not a “professional” theologian or church leader, but am a bit “ivory tower” in terms of being primarily into books and concepts lately. I do think I, and others, can contribute from a conceptual and strongly interdisciplinary perspective… something I push FOR church and seminary leaders. That will help with the gap you imply between the open, curious, integrating people and those satisfied with the status quo. Looking forward to next week!

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