I recently read an article from Christianity Today called “When Are We Going To Grow Up: The Juvenilization of American Christianity.” Here is the link to the article that I want to discuss here today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/june/when-are-we-going-to-grow-up.html?order=&start=1
Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with everything in the above article, but it does raise some really good questions.
This article is of interest to me and to this blog because it does relate to how we are being discipled and how we are discipling people in our churches. The question this article raises is, do the methods that we have used and are using to attract and keep people interested in church, especially younger people, lead to self-centered, immature disciples who are only looking for an emotional, feel-good experience from church? Have our attractional methods led to Christians who are shallow in their faith and do not desire to continue to mature and to grow, but only want to continue to “consume” what the Church has to offer because it makes them feel good?
I do see a kind of Peter Pan-like mentality (never grow up!) in the American Church today and I think it has a direct correlation to our culture and the culture we’ve created in the Church. We seem to want to be spoon-fed everything and never want to grow up and become mature Christians who make disciples. It is difficult to read and to learn to interpret Scripture and it is easier to just be told what we need to know. People in general and even clergy themselves have a hard time understanding that the job of the clergy is to teach them how to do those things for themselves so that they can, in turn, teach and disciple others.
It is easy in this feel good culture to not want to hear things that challenge us to think or challenge our beliefs. We want an easy, feel-good, syrupy, kind of sweet, easy to swallow Christianity that leaves us emotionally happy but gives us little challenge in the difficult task of growing in Christ-likeness. All of this despite the fact that the life and the message of the Jesus we claim to follow clearly communicated that to be a follower of Christ meant a difficult road. Anything difficult though is easily dismissed, ignored and discarded for an easier road. Do not get me wrong, there is a time and place for feel-good, but there has to be balance.
All of that said, while I see the issue in the Church today I’m not so sure what I think of this article in Christianity Today. The article boils the problem down to the methods we have used to evangelize youth. The methods we have used have been light on content and heavy on culture and fun. The article contends that we have raised several generations of Christians who have taken this Christianity lite mentality into their adulthood and that’s why we have so many Christians in our churches today who know nothing about their faith and are only consumers of religious goods.
I think that you can’t escape culture. Even the Scriptures that we read and believe in used culture to communicate message. Culture is the lens through which we look at things and you can’t disconnect completely from the culture that you live in. It can be a useful vehicle for making the truths of Scripture come to life for people in this culture and this period in time.
But does the article have a point that we’ve used too much of the culture and have erred on the side of trying to be too feel good and attractional that we’ve created our own problem within the Church of disciples who don’t really want to be truly discipled? How do we transcend this issue in our churches today? How do we create a culture where people truly desire, not just to feel good, but to be challenged to grow more and more mature in Christ and deal with the hard things they need to deal with to get there?
What are your thoughts? Please share them in the comments section.