20+ event inclusive, but not for everyone

Attempting to attract young, enthusiastic Christians risks failing to win over converts.

After I walked several blocks past the Hennepin Avenue train station on Monday, the flashing lights of the Pantages Theater came into full view. A large crowd stood on the narrow sidewalk, seeming to spill onto the street.

I had the opportunity to attend “20+,” an event staged by the River Valley Church. The event focused on bringing young adults closer to the message of Jesus for what was labeled as “the greatest party of the season.”

As a Hindu and Universalist, my experiences with religion were incredibly different than the one I had there. I was brought up in an environment that emphasized the sacredness of the academic nature of religion. However, emotion seemed to be the main focus at 20+.

As the event started, I definitely didn’t find myself in what I considered a place of worship. The stage was set up to match that of a rock concert and was occupied by singers in large shirts, beanies and skinny jeans. The music they were playing was also not music I stereotypically associated with a Christian church.

As a Hindu, I don’t necessarily subscribe to the views the church presented. Hinduism holds that there are many ways to get to the same God. However, 20+ emphasized that Christianity is the only salvation for our souls.

What was interesting, though, was the seeming merger of youthfulness and devotion to the Gospel message. Young adults and teenagers my age were jamming to music with a message that truly mattered to them, and that was rather inspiring.

Later that evening, Carl Lentz, a charismatic pastor from the Hillsong Church in New York City, delivered an emotionally charged message that challenged everyone in the room to consider their values and prioritize the importance of God in their lives.

Even though I was an outsider to this community, it became evident why the 20+ movement is growing.

From what I experienced, this environment does indeed break from how I perceive Christian church services. This new path makes 20+ attractive to Christians who could feel disillusioned or uncomfortable with their traditional church. But that was just it. It was an opportunity for Christians alone.

As I left the theater, it occurred to me that I still hadn’t felt like a part of the church’s message. There were many facets of the event that I had no experience with, and thus I felt intrigued but also uncomfortable. At the event, concepts such as praying for someone else were entirely foreign to me and challenged my beliefs.

Why can someone else connect to God for me? Why do we put our hands in the air to pray? Questions like these left me more puzzled than I had expected.

To me, it seemed as though the target audience of such a movement was Christians who no longer felt inclined to go to traditional church settings any longer. The rock music and emphatic sermons all speak to that demographic.

One question remains, though: Is it enough?

Is it enough to bring people shying away from organized religion back to celebrating the Gospel message? Should the church try to reach out to other denominations or religions? Only time will tell.