Mary Adamski

View from the Pew
A look inside Hawaii's houses of worship

By Mary Adamski

The Gen X Church

Isle churches take lessons from
a California preacher who takes examples
of the Gospel from TV and films

A church that tries to attract the young adults of "Gen X" needs to be true to itself in its marketing, a young California preacher told Honolulu church volunteers last Saturday.

"We don't reach them by being more hip, more cool," said the Rev. Mark Feldmeir.

"There is a growing suspicion of organized church," and if the church outreach to outsiders is not grounded in sincere beliefs and practices, "they'll sniff it out and run," he said.

The Orange County pastor uses modern movies to get the attention of his generation and convey messages that link with biblical teaching.

A California preacher uses clips from shows such as "The X-Files" and "Patch Adams" to illustrate biblical lessons.

It was the Gospel according to "Patch Adams," and selected chapter and verse from "Pay It Forward," "X-Files" and "Meet the Parents" that Feldmeir used in his lectures at the 2003 Leadership Development Workshops for United Methodist Church members in Hawaii.

With film clips from 10 movies as sound-bite sermons, he demonstrated the method he uses in his Santa Margarita United Methodist Church to reach the people likely to bolt when it gets too "churchy."

"Gen X grew up outside the church altogether. They are church illiterate," he told the weekend audience, most of whom were of an age to be parents, if not grandparents, of the generation born between 1964 and 1980.

"That induced me to use innovative ways -- you may only have one shot to reach them," he said.

A theological discussion about despair, doubt and hope was launched by a scene from "Patch Adams," in which actor Robin Williams berates God over the death of a friend, saying: "You rested on the seventh day. Maybe you should have spent that day on compassion."

One watcher found the message to be, "It's OK to doubt."

"Yes, and it's OK to ask the questions," Feldmeir said.

"Traditional churches are uncomfortable when we ask questions, making public our doubts," he said. "Jesus didn't say, 'When you get all the answers, then you can go out and preach.'"

"How does that make you feel? What do you see in that?" the pastor asked as he led folks to look past the entertainment for a deeper meaning in the choices that "X-Files" agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder faced on a road in the middle of nowhere. The road went left or right, but Mulder drove straight ahead through a grassy field.

"There may be many different roads we can take to get to the same truth," was one woman's interpretation.

"He just took a risk to get at the truth," said Wahiawa pastor Piula Ala'ilima.

"Gen X feels it's important to be passionate in seeking, to be willing to make mistakes," said Feldmeir, who has written about his evangelizing method in a book, "Testimony to the Exiles," to be published in March.

He told the longtime church members that their own stories may not have the dramatic scripting of a movie, but they are a way to reach the younger generation. "Learn to tell your story in a way that tells the story of Jesus, how my struggle, my journey mirrors the story of Jesus.

"Today's culture demands we tell stories," he said. "Narrative is more important than point-making."


Mary Adamski covers religion for the Star-Bulletin.
Email her at

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Calendars]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --