Skip to comments.Young people turn against their parents' 'church lite'
Posted on 05/17/2004 7:06:39 AM PDT by qam1
VIEW MEGACHURCHES AS SLICK, IMPERSONAL
For evidence of generational upheaval these days, you might skip over the usual suspects -- sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll -- and consider instead Christianity.
Two decades after baby boomers invented the suburban megachurch, which removed crosses or stained-glass images of Jesus in favor of neutral environments, their children are now wearing "Jesus Is My Homeboy" T-shirts.
As mainline churches scramble to retain young people, these worshippers have gained attention by-creating alternative churches in coffee bars and warehouses and publishing new magazines and Bibles that come on as anything but church.
But does a T-shirt really serve the faith? And if religion is our link to the timeless, what does it mean that young Christians replace their parents' practices?
The movement "has a noble side," said Michael Novak, the conservative theologian at the American Enterprise Institute. He remembers how much he enjoyed the Christian comic books of his youth. He compared the alt-evangelicals to missionaries, who "feel they've learned something valuable from their faith and want to share it" using the native language.
For many in this generation, the worship style of their parents feels impersonal: not bigger than their daily, media-intensified lives, but smaller. Their search is for unfiltered religious ex-perience.
"My generation is discontented with dead religion," said Cameron Strang, 28, founder of Relevant Media, which produces Christian books, a Web site and Relevant magazine, a stylish 70,000-circulation bimonthly that addresses topics like body piercing, celibacy, extreme prayer, punk rock and God.
Strang, a graduate of Oral Roberts University, is in some ways a model alt-evangelical, with two earrings, a shaved head and beard. He left a megachurch, he said, because he felt no community at the slick services. Now he attends an alternative church in a school gym, with intimate groups and basketball after services.
This stylistic shift is critical, said Lee Rabe, pastor at Threads, an alternative, or "emerging," church in Kalamazoo, Mich. Where megachurches reached out to baby boomers turned off by church, the younger generation often has no experience with religion. They need to be beguiled, not assuaged, Rabe said.
"The deity-free 'church lite' of the megachurches, that's the last thing these people want," he said. "They want to talk about God. It's hard-core, not in a fire and brimstone way, but it has to be raw, real."
The changes are often more stylistic than doctrinal. Many alt-evangelicals espouse conservative theology, but reject the censure of some churches. Strang sees this as a blueprint for an evangelical left.
"We're all sinners," he said. "Your sin isn't any worse than my sin. We don't say, 'Stop the horrible gays.' You want to reach them, you don't want to protest them. If we looked like goody-two-shoes, clean cut, we couldn't have a conversation with our lesbian friend at the coffee shop, because she couldn't relate."
Increasingly, this conversation borrows from pop culture, in the same way that hip secular culture borrows the cabala and the cross.
Critics say this engagement comes at a price. Timothy Williams, 48, a pastor at Sound Doctrine Ministries, a non-denominational church in Enumclaw, Wash., sees flirtation with pop culture as a capitulation to sin. "More and more, the church is seeking to be like the world around it," said Williams, who has written a pamphlet denouncing Christian rock. "But the Bible says that anyone who becomes a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. If we're going to be relevant or on the world's level to draw people, we might as well give free beer in the parking lot."
But evangelicals have long used pop culture and new technology to spread their gospel, said Stephen Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University.
Christian tracts handed out in the 19th century were one of the first mass media. In the 1930s, the evangelist Charles Fuller used the new medium of radio to broadcast his sermons. Four decades later, the Jesus movement of the 1970s adopted the vibe of the 1960s counterculture.
The actor Stephen Baldwin, a born-again Christian, has just directed a DVD called Livin' It, pairing extreme sports with faith testimony, from which he hopes to spin skate Bibles, clothing, CDs and Bible-study guides, all tied to a non-profit youth ministry.
"This could be the first get-down rock 'n' roll, cool Christian brand," he said.
The underlying romance is familiar from any Nirvana video: the Christian as rebel or outsider, misunderstood, struggling against a world of conformity, commercialism and manufactured pleasures.
"It's a countercultural thing," said Tim Lucas, 33, pastor of an emerging ministry called Liquid in Basking Ridge, N.J. On a recent Sunday, Lucas wore a Hawaiian shirt and used images from The Lord of the Rings movies and a clip from Amadeus in a sermon about the book of First Samuel.
"They identify with being an underground movement, which is what Christianity was in the beginning," Lucas said of his congregation. "Living out a life with Christ at the center draws a lot of flak. Not a lot of people will celebrate that."
The movement away from middle-of-the-road theology and worship mirrors a trend on college campuses, where growing numbers of students claim either no religion or strong religious affiliation, with the middle ground shrinking, said Alexander Astin, director of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, which last year completed a national study of students' beliefs.
In the survey, more than 70 percent of students said they prayed, discussed religion or spirituality with friends, found religion personally helpful and gained spiritual strength by trusting in a higher power.
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social aspects that directly effects Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations (i.e. The Baby Boomers) are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details.
These guys are telling us that faith and hearing come by being cool enough to relate to today's youth.
People who adopt christinaity because it's cool are missing the boat. John would say when they leave eventually that they never knew us.
And I guess John's robe and sandals weren't the style in those days?
Try and find a youth group not obsessed with Hollywood these days. Check out HollywoodJesus (com or org???). It's embarrassing.
While this is a sloppy way of saying it, and I don't entirely agree with the application, I have to admit this comment reminded me of I Corinthians 5:9-10 "I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world."
I can understand the need for people to relate to a younger crowd in order to get them interested in Christianity, but this "Jesus is my homeboy" stuff is blasphemous, IMO. It's clearly a mockery of Christianity, considering the works and deeds of people like Madonna and Ashton Kutcher, who are the ones wearing the gear and leading the pop-marketing trend. It's sick.
I'm the Youth Advisor for our Church, and I see no need to use these silly t-shirts to reach out to the youth. The Word of God is, and should always be, enough. Bending the word of God by creating slogans in order to "get" to youth is the wrong approach. I've found that being able to RELATE the word of God to situations they're dealing with, and in turn giving them heros to look up to, to be the most effective method.
The Revival will not be televised...
Mainline churches = weak, Godless, men-pleasing, spiritually dead, mausoleums with emptying pews.
In most "mainline churches" Christ is not preached, repentence not mentioned, holiness not spoken of, the Bible is never referenced, and Christ's return is considered a scary fairy tale believed only by those icky fundamentalists who believe what the Bible says.
And of course, the "word" should be spoken in 16th century King James English and sung in 300 year old hymnals.
I agree 100%. If you listen to a sermon and don't hear the words "sin", "Jesus", "salvation", or "blood of Christ" you are in the wrong church.
What is a mainline church exactly??? That term is confusing because to me it implies on the straight path?
Making a witness that works is not missing the boat. People who adopt Christianity because they love the lord and are truly believers are pleasing to God.
Jesus didn't belong to a church, he was a jew, and taught that there was a new way. (himself)
Different people need to be reached in different ways. It's what's in your heart that matters.
And being a Christian is cool.
Funny, but you just can't find anywhere that John teaches us to dress like the world so that the world will think we're cool and then want to accept Jesus. Or to model our christiaity after styles that are acceptable to the world.
I mean you can't find that anywhere. The closest you can get is Paul saying that he is "all things to all men"... but if you read the context he's talking about the issue of "the law".
I don't see that at all."I have become all things to all people"Paul wrote and showed by his actions that he would adapt himself and his way of preaching the gospel to the audience so that they could see it and grasp it. The book of Acts gives specific example of how Paul spoke differently to pagan Gentiles (as at Mars Hill in Athens) than he did to Jews.
1 Corinthians 9.22
I don't see anything different from what Paul did and these folks are doing. Jesus meets us where we are -- shouldn't we meet others where they are?
When the gospel gets spread to Africa, for instance, would you think it "unbiblical" if the gopsel songs use African lyrics and native tunes?
That's like the old joke... right? The guy who grows up in a church. When he's 19 he moves off and lives a sorted life with all kinds of sorted people. A few years later he runs into his old preacher in the supermarket and the preacher asks him what he's doing. He replies... "oh the work of the Lord.....I'm developing a testimony".
I entered the Kingdom of God one dark night in 1985 after reading a Jack Chick comic about two Christian dudes going around the world in bell bottoms doing good. The one on the end times literally scared the Hell out of me.
Pretty much any church with a denomiation. Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, etc.
If you can call yourself anything other than "Christian" and have people recognize what you mean, chances are it's a mainline church. (ie, "I'm a Pentecostal", etc.)
See my post 14... the one right in front of yours that I probably did while you were typing.
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