This book caught my attention today: Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church (Dean). The title is a theme I’ve heard a lot about in the past years of the ministry I’ve been in. And a book like this is like a scream in the marketplace of “how-to” books in youth ministry. My curiosity: is anyone hearing the scream?
The essence of the book (and I suggest you check out the Amazon link above and read about the book there) is that we’re not helping our youth out much when it comes to raising them in the faith. Now, we seem to be able to encourage some youth to be “nice” and to consider “church” an alright extracurricular event in their over-packed schedules, but are we passing on the faith and the faith lifestyle?
First, what is the lifestyle we’re missing? Mostly, it’s a centrality of Jesus in all of who we are. Instead, we’ve arrived at church as extracurricular and for the purpose of passing on some kind of morality – in essence, we’ve been making “nice” kids (a lot of the time) but haven’t been making disciples of Jesus.
I see a line drawn from our post-World War II churches to where we are today. After the war, we can see a mindset in America, that pursuit of happiness in full stride, and a desire for normalcy, niceness, and any other word we might use to alternatively describe today’s suburbia. We saw a rise in church attendance then. Why? I think there are many reasons, but I think there was a lot of social-norming going on too, with a push for niceness, American morality, etc. Look at Leave it to Beaver, and things like that — those are what became the ideal and the goal for any organization. In a way, it was like some kind of pursuit of utopia. …in a way.
I don’t mean to be too generalized with this. I know there were disciples made then, just as there are now. But my question is what is the primary, general focus and goal of the church, then and today? Niceness or Disciples? Morality or Walking with Jesus?