“I was quite shocked…that most people thought the reason for Christianity is to make you happy. I shared that with the youth worker at my congregation…as I told him about that I invited him to bring the high school students to my class because I was expressing things about the faith and that particular Sunday I was going to talk about the Creed. So the youth came and they participated a little bit…when they went back to their own class they voted whether to come to my class anymore, and they voted not to, because they didn’t want to learn the substance of faith.
I was very disappointed, and I asked about what they were doing in their junior high class to prepare them for high school class. There they were doing “How Christianity helps us grow up.” But it was matters of “I need comfort when I break up with my boyfriend.” There’s more to Christianity than how its going to make you happy… Young people have very little doctrinal content. And that’s dangerous because, if it’s just feelings that hold them to Christianity, when their feelings aren’t there…they’ll move away .” – Dr. Marva Dawn from The White Horse Inn, 8-24-08
Thanks to Charles St-Onge for the quote.
This issue has been plaguing me for some time now. One of the issues that gave rise to the Reformation was the theological and Biblical ignorance of the Roman Church, including the leaders. Many of the local priests didn’t even understand the Latin that they recited daily from memory. Today, as “educated” as we are, with an amazing plethora of resources available for free on the internet, the contemporary evangelical church is largely ignorant. And, they apparently want to stay that way, even many of the leaders. I’ve heard from more than one pastor that they don’t have time to read or study (aside from what they have to do to prepare sermons, etc.). More and more sermons are on the level expressed above, “where do I find comfort when I break up with my boyfriend?”
It’s embarrassing, and it’s frightening. I’m putting my son, who’s a high school senior, though a self-study theology program (called “The Theology Program“), so at least he’s got some kind of foundation. He’s not getting it in the youth group. Fortunately, my wife and I taught 3 years of Jr High and High School classes (my wife has taught for longer) where we provided basic theology, but still, it was nothing like the education I had growing up. As a Lutheran in Confirmation class, I learned church history as well as basic theology, including the meaning of the creeds, and so on. It takes a church, not just one person.
Who cares, today? I don’t think the church we’ve been attending does. Churches today are offering more practical, “meaningful” topics to attract people to their classes. It’s not about education, it’s about marketing, experience and entertainment. It’s time for a new Western evangelical reformation, and the emerging movement isn’t it. Cultural relevance isn’t it.
The church needs to rediscover the Gospel, that Jesus is Lord (king) and that he’s got a plan. We’re not just here wasting time waiting to be taken away to some Heaven-Nirvana. We’re called (remember “calling?”) to a purpose, to start working for the Kingdom here and now.
To those waiting to hear the next “feel-good” sermon about what’s in it for you, this is what I have to say: “Suck it up. Wake up. Get over it.” Certainly there are benefits for you in the process; Christianity is a religion of “enlightened self-interest.” But recall the Bible talks about working out your salvation. That’s not working for your salvation, that’s putting your salvation to work.
Welcome to the New Reformation.