New Blog Post: “The Juvenilization of American Christianity”

I just read and re-read an article in the June issue of Christianity Today that I’ve found insightful.  One of my reasons for writing a blog is to share what I’m learning with you.  Accordingly, please allow me to reflect briefly on “The Juvenilization of American Christianity,” by Thomas E. Bergler.  He argues in this article that the American (including Canadian) church has for the past number of decades embraced a “juvenile” version of Christianity, that has had major implications on our faith.  This juvenilization of the faith began with pure motives: to reach the younger generation for Christ.  And it was and often continues to be very successful.  As Bergler explains: “This feel-good faith works because it appeals to teenage desires for fun and belonging” (24).  I’m sure we can all agree that there are many positive aspects to this sort of faith that many of our churches promote and practice.  It’s raw and heartfelt.  It’s fun and lively.  But according to Bergler, it’s not all positive, as it has led to a “self-centered, emotionally driven, and intellectually empty faith” (23).  “Today many Americans of all ages not only accept a Christianized version of adolescent narcissism, they often celebrate it as authentic spirituality.  God, faith, and the church all exist to help me with my problems.  Religious institutions are bad; only my personal relationship with Jesus matters” (24).  Does this sound familiar?  Actually, it was some of these concerns that led me to study theology in Bible College and seminary, because I was concerned with what I observed: a shallow, self-centred faith–in myself and in others.  The more I read Scripture, the more convinced I am that we are to aim for spiritual depth–in ourselves and others.  So how do we get there?  Happily, Bergler ends his article by suggesting that local churches can help raise deep adolescent Christians by encouraging an intergenerational way of life.  For starters, “pastors and youth leaders can begin by teaching what the Bible says about spiritual maturity. . . . Church leaders also need to ask the hard questions about the music they sing, the curriculum materials they use, and the ways they structure activities. . . . I believe one key is to renew our commitment to the church as an intergenerational family, in which each person has a unique role in helping others toward our shared goal of maturity in Christ (Titus 2:1-15; Eph. 5:21-6:4; Col. 3:18-4:1; 1 John 2:12-14)” (24).  In reflecting on this article, I’m certainly not minimizing the faith of our youth.  I know with certainty that many of them have a genuine faith in Christ.  But I’m grateful for the reminder that our aim is to grow deep Christians of all ages, which, frankly, takes a lot of work, and isn’t always a lot of fun.  But it is the meaningful, joyful work that we are called to do.  So who’s with me in this mission?

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2 thoughts on “New Blog Post: “The Juvenilization of American Christianity”

  1. You can count me in……
    I believe that the lack of spiritual maturity leaves many of us ill-equipped to deal with the attacks we undergo. Further to that we do not feel enabled to go out and make disciples of the world as we are children trying to guide the lost.
    I equate this spiritual immaturity to trying to be nourished on pop tarts, candy bars and potato chips. I guess you might be able to function to some degree but you will not live a healthy life and be able to resist diseases. It would appear that the immature Christian walk offers not much more than a realization of salvation yet does not fully prepare us to function as the Lord leads. This may be one of the symptoms that result in the Christian resisting the leading of the Holy Spirit.
    To be clear I don’t speak from a spirit of being judgemental but I speak from experience noting that when I reach plateaus in my spiritual walk, when I reflect I see that I have been feeding myself spiritual junk food.
    I encourage you to be Bold in Love. What is not popular is probably the same thing that is needed to be heard.

    • Hi Brother Kirk:
      Thank you for sharing these insightful comments relative my June 14 blog post. It is an honor and privilege for me to partner with you to help people grow to spiritual maturity. Let’s keep walking the Emmaus Road together!
      Brother Leon

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