Monthly Archives: October 2019

Possible cause of generation-wide anxiety

I’m taking Brad Lomenick’s observation seriously. Lomenick is one of America’s most influential among young evangelical pastors. He was asked, based upon what he was hearing from his interaction with pastors across the country, the needs and opportunities for the local church. He answered:

  1. Anxiety, depression, suicide, mental health,
  2. Retail religion
  3. Loneliness

Those are multi-generational needs. As with all ministries we must be tuned in to the next generation. The Millennials and GenZ are called the most anxious, depressed and lonely in history. If we are to connect with them, we will have to understand their bruised emotional health and the loneliness. The above list makes me a bit nervous. Given my own experiences and life-journey and interaction with the two younger generations, I do not want to trivialize pain or simplify solutions. There are several reasons we are anxious or depressed. Anxiety is our go-to when there is something missing in us.

The day after hearing Lomenick I contemplated making a down payment on a mall and I read the next chapter in Self-Renewal by John W. Gardner (1963).  Gardner’s “next chapter” spoke to what I had been mulling over. It seemed like a God-word about generations living in a culture where religious liberty is at stake and two generations have grown up watching faith, institutions, belief systems and religion moved out of the public square and is denigrated from several quarters. What is the collateral damage? Consider…

“Man(kind) is in his very nature a seeker of meaning. He cannot help being so any more than he can help breathing or maintaining a certain body temperature. It is the way his central nervous systems works.

“In most societies and most ages, however primitive they may have been technologically, man’s hunger for meaning was amply served. Though the religions, mythologies, and tribal superstitions with which the hunger for meaning was fed were crude and impoverished, they did purport to describe a larger framework in terms of which events might be interpreted.

“With the arrival of the modern age many misguided souls conceived the notion that man(kind) could do without such nourishment. Under the beneficial of a benevolent modernity, the individual was to have security, money, power, sensual gratification and status…. He would be a solvent and eupeptic Walter Mitty in a rich and meaningless world.

“But even (or especially) those who came close to achieving the dream never got over the nagging hunger for meaning.

“(We) have throughout history shown a compelling need to arrive at conceptions of the universe in terms of which (we can) regard our own lives as meaningful. (He and she) want to know where they fit in the scheme of things…how to understand how the great facts of the objective world relate to him/her and what they imply for his/her behavior. A number of philosophers and scientists have told him/her sternly they must not expect answers to that sort of questions, but he/she pay no heed. He/she want, in the words of Kierkegaard, ‘a truth which is true for me.’ (Man and women, boys and girls) seek conceptions of the universe that give dignity, purpose and sense to their existence.

“When he/she fails in this effort, they exhibit what Tillich describes as the anxiety of meaninglessness—‘anxiety about the loss of an ultimate concern, of a meaning which gives meaning to all meanings.’ As Erickson has pointed out, the young person’s search for identity is in some respects this sort of search for meaning.

John W. Gardner was a teacher, social scientist, a member of the President’s Cabinet as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, and other posts. He concludes the fruit of the search is Meaning, Purpose and Commitment. To fail to have the personal and social tools to grasp personal meaning and purpose to have found nothing worthy of commitment alerts the mind “to anxiety, to depress,” to quake in the fear the core of our being is missing an essential moving part.

The Founding Fathers as a group and in individual statements say that a free society depends upon religion, virtue and morality. When they speak of the necessity of religion, even the atheists and secularists were talking about finding meaning, purpose and making steadfast commitments.

Ethan Allen told the story of his friend meeting President Thomas Jefferson on his way to church.

“Which way are you walking, Mr. Jefferson?”

“To church, Sir, “the president replied.”

“You going to church, Mr. J. You do not believe a word in it.”

“Sir,” said Mr. Jefferson, “no nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has ever been given to man and I as Chief Magistrate of this nation am bound to give it the sanction of my example. Good morning, Sir.”

For Jefferson it may have been a utilitarian activity, while for others they were acts of worship, penance and spiritual practices of hearts occupied by God.

Could it be the denuding our culture of religion has produced inevitable anxiety, depression, and a sense of cosmic loneliness? True for all, but most pronounced among the young. Is the nihilism and emotional upheaval of our age the result of having tools of discerning purpose and life meaning carved away?

If we talk about one person’s anxiety or depression we can consider individual personal assault. But talking about an entire generations’ malady calls for different causes and considerations.

And if you have one conspiratorial nerve in your body, you can see the godless enemies have done a good job. That is why the current battles about religious liberty are so heated and why they matter.

Anxious about meaninglessness and lack of adequate tools? Tillich is onto something.

©2019 D. Dean Benton—a wonderer: Want to buy a mall? Start something? Ask questions?

I listen to several podcasts that may benefit you. I have no agenda—these interest me and feed my soul. Go to my website: and link to “Ricochet” on the home page.

Upgrading the Mall

We were invited to do a multi-day meeting at a football field. Concerts, testimonies, preaching. When word spread that a shopping mall was doing its grand opening that same week, we were contracted to work three days in the mall commons area with music and banter. We did 3-4 sets each day before heading for the football field.

We were the only gospel group to ever have a streaker. I heard the slap of bare feet on the concrete floor. She ran past the stage, past the guys buying snow cones and out the main door into the parking lot. (I didn’t look, Ethel.) That broadened my vision for retail ministries.

Brad Lomenick may not be a name you recognize. He is one of the leaders and influencers of young pastors and ministry leaders. He has worked with John Maxwell, started with Andy Stanley and for a decade was head visionary for the para-church resource group Catalyst.

He was asked during an interview what he was hearing pastors and ministry leaders talking about. Where do they see the great needs the Gospel of the Kingdom should be focusing on?

  1. Mental and soul care: Anxiety, depression, suicide, loneliness.
  2. Retail ministries.

Mall-located churches. With the death of mall shopping, there are many empty malls. I’ve been thinking strip-mall ministries (not to be confused with streakers) for a long time. But larger plants are found around the country. Churches are buying entire former mall structures with varied applications. Most use a former anchor store as auditorium and the store fronts for classrooms, health-care facilities/clinics and adult education.

I am attracted to a church anchor with commercial retail facilities. Lomenick points out the church facilities are paid for by rentals.

Besides coffee shops and restaurants, boutiques and general retail, counselor’s offices and walk-in ministries for mental and soul care issues would be a draw for the church ministries. Possibilities are limited only calling, imagination and needs. Mall management experience would be a big issue. I read about one church-mall renting to 24 congregations that could not afford their own building.

This excites me. This church model puts Kingdom ministries at a natural gathering center.

If you’ve got some money looking for a place to invest, I’ve got some ideas. For examples of where this is working,  write  “Church in mall” in your computer search engine.

(Streakers need not apply.)

©2019 D. Dean Benton

Trees and Streams

“The water I give will be an artesian well within gushing fountains of endless life.” Jesus

(John 4:14).

“A lot of things that used to fire me up just don’t anymore.”  

If you are paying attention, there is a lot of talk about a stress/anxiety epidemic in our country. Much of the Opioid crisis can be traced to stress/anxiety triggers. In the 1980s we visited and ministered in a lot of rural communities. More than once people told me of driving down country roads where farmers had given up and taken their lives. Stress-anxiety is not a new problem!

We sponsor a 13 year old in Honduras. She doesn’t say anything about the unrest or madness in her country, but she doesn’t live in a cave. She must be affected. This is a brutal time to be a human.

The noise level is high. Tension and threat is high. Adrenalin is high. There are few safe places and we don’t know who to trust; we don’t know who to believe. You don’t have to be a news junkie or a raging politico to notice that due process is under severe attack. The very thing that motivated Pilgrims to seek a new nation is ignored. No due process before the law=no freedom.

This is a hard time in history to be human. I heard that an orangutan has been moved into a Fort Worth zoo and has been given the status of a human. We’ve never had an orangutan for a pet so I don’t know. I do know they should absolutely be treated humanely, but to give it the rights of a human is borderline…something.

Portland, Oregon has banned urinals in public bathrooms as “too masculine for gender neutral toilets.” Wait ‘til the ladies experience the wet seats! A church we pastored built a new fellowship hall. The carpet layers were starting on the bathrooms and asked me if I wanted to have carpet wall to wall. I didn’t even think about it. Of course! Our custodian was a friend—a nice classy lady. She explained to me how seriously deranged I was to allow carpet to be put under the urinals. (Well, now that you ‘splain it to me in those words….) I think there is a vast ocean of derangement that has taken the national mind. All the markers are being torn down or moved.

I didn’t intend to, but I’ve started talking about Psalm 1. A friend said, “It is the Living Water. I want to get close to the stream you talk about.”

It seems our “artesian well” is somewhat dependent upon being close to the streams and those who are “planted there.”

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water…” (Psalm 1:3).

There are counties in Iowa still trying to recover from the spring floods. Only in a few places is being planted by streams of water a safe place. A tree can get taken out by those swirling, rushing, roiling waters, and replanted in another county or vomited onto an island. Turmoil, tempest, raging emotions and atmosphere.

Where are the streams to be planted next to?

I want to get this right—if we are to maintain and sustain “fruit in his season, non-withering leaves, everything he does prospers’ (Ps 1:3) there are flood walls. And those sea walls are usually people and groups of people who shape our thinking and encourage our souls.

  1. Know agendas of those you “walk” with and share their counsel. (Ps 1:1)
  2. Don’t stand (hang) around with “sinners”—those who oppose God and His plans, instructions.
  3. Don’t sit around with mockers. Cynicism has become a second national language especially, it seems to me, in the worlds of social media and TV. Like flood waters lapping at sandbags and levees the vicious chatter and screaming undermines those elements that give us protection and guidance. Guard, therefore,  your sense of reality, realm of peace, wholeheartedness and ability to hear/discern God’s voice.

The streams equate to energy, peace, clarity and direction.

Who in your world is “planted by the stream?” Where are they? How do we access them? Who has God raised up equipped with wisdom, authority and anointing? Who can you ask to help you understand what is going on in your personal world and in Western Civilization? God has a reputation of “doing nothing without telling the prophet(s)” (Amos 7:11).

We need those “streams”—restorative resources—to inform us how to fit into the creative plans God has to “heal your land”?

An acquaintance had a national TV platform and is one of my favorite speakers/singers. Things have changed for them due to illness and changing styles. I asked him the other day how he and his wife were doing. He responded, “We are busy living life.” In a murky and destructive cultural tornado,  living life demands preparing our minds for action and paying attention. (1 Peter 1:3)

Who do you know who is planted by streams—restorative resources?

©2019 D. Dean Benton,  Wonderer & Writer


Further resources on stress/anxiety—a fresh look:

Rebecca Lyons—StoryBrand podcast #159