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.
And YOUR opinion of blasphemy is merely your opinion.
Missing a soul because of lack of imagination on how a particular person might be given the good news is a shame.
You do it your way and I wish you sucess, and I won't call it blasphemy. You should do the same to other true Christians who are trying new ways to reach people.
Dang good post Skooz.
I'm proud to be an "icky fundamentalist" who believes in those "scary fairy tales"!
People may think they can meet in a "gym" and discuss the Bible but in the end you have people who don't know what they're talking about. Is it any wonder these people say homosexuality is just another sin and we're all sinners?
The church is losing it doctrinal integrity by pastors and priests who spend more time thinking up social programs to do and by people who don't actually study the Bible outside the context of Lord of the Rings or the DaVinci Codes.
Your example is more similar to asking me if I think making wholesome, Christian movies and entertainment is wrong. I don't. But "worshipping" with trashy, godless movies is wrong. God is holy. He is not honored by inviting some anti-Christian movie actor into His church to help give the sermon.
"Mainline" is a term coined by the media to reference non-Evangelical, non-Fundamentalist and non-Catholic denominations.
Mainline Protestant denominations include Presbyterian, United Methodist and the Episcopal Church. The leadership of these bodies is almost completely liberal, far moreso than the people in the pews.
That is not to say that everyone who attends these churches agrees with the leadership. I have a friend who is a Prebyterian minister who is deeply devout and is quite conservative.
You have hit the problem nail on the head, without knowing it. The fact is that nobody goes to hell because you and I weren't creative enough to persuade them. If that were true then people in hell would rightly be saying that they were there simply because of yours and mine shortcomings. Which simply is not true if you read the bible.
Salvation is not up to us. It's between God and the individual. Our task is to tell. What we're talking about is how we tell the good news.
However, if some do stay, that is to their and our good.
If youth are put off by Christianity because it seems irrelevant to their lives or 'uncool', it harms no one to speak to them in language they understand and to address issues as the kids find themn, not as we would like them to find them. Does not the farmer prepare the soil for planting the seed? No farmer simply scatters seed over rough, unplowed ground, hoping it will grow. Simply preaching to alienated youth in terms that reflect a well-behaved adult's perceptions of the world is the same think as just tossing seeds on the ground. We must work with youth and gain trust, prepare them to hear the word so that it may take root.
ok, that makes sense kind of I think mainline is to mislead people i suppose.
Yet Christ says that the seed is sowed in all sorts of soil. We are the sowers. We are not the soil preparers. God does that part.
This whole idea that if we're creative enough then people will get saved is a false doctrine. And if we aren't creative then they won't get saved is a false doctrine. Period.
Yeah, I think you're right about that.
The media started using the "Mainline" term in the 1980s to differentiate between the exploding evangelical/Pentecostal movement (full of conservatives) and the far more liberal denominations.
Using the term "mainline" presumes a more thoughtful, less radical form of Christianity which is more acceptable.
Unfortunately, many won't even hear if it is not cool.
Different tastes for different people. I've been to mega-churches and I now go to a very small, intimate church. Both served their needs at the time.
When I was single, I went to the big church in Silicon Valley. It had a great single adult group with tons of activities. It was great to have a group of Christians to do fun activities. We went canoing in the wine country of California, skiing in the winter, and even a dinner/dance at Christmas. I didn't meet my husband, but I did make great friends with a group of ladies from a wonderful womens Bible Study I joined.
Now that I have kids, I like the small church. I can help out. I know lots of the members. If something happens to us, I know who to call for help. I also like knowing my minister. My brother has terminal cancer, and the whole church has been praying for him. This wouldn't happen in the large church.
Why not? I can't talk to folks from different walks of life because I don't look like them? I surf with Christians, I hunt with Christians, I break bread with pastors, pray with firemen, and hold the hand of small children. They all look different, dress different, act different. No judgement on their appearance.
I'm afraid these folks might be too focused on "glossies" instead of the content. I'll take fire and brimstone, son - that's about as real as it gets.
I reject that notion completely. God has preordained those that would hear it. It's not up to you and me who is saved. (who hears it)
Nonsense, I know precisely what I'm saying.
The fact is that nobody goes to hell because you and I weren't creative enough to persuade them. If that were true then people in hell would rightly be saying that they were there simply because of yours and mine shortcomings. Which simply is not true if you read the bible.
You seem to have a stranglehold on the obvious and a compulsion to share it with people who already know.
Our task is to tell. What we're talking about is how we tell the good news.
And you can't tell a deaf Chinaman anything by whispering in French.
Criticizing people for how they reach the ones some others can't reach by using their own methods is wrongheaded.
The message must never change, but the vessel that presents that message MUST always change and adapt. Otherwise, we'd still be doing our services in people's homes, in Aramaic or Greek.
Packaging Christ in a Nirvana style package is what is wrongheaded. We are called to set apart from the world. You can justify it however you want to... but it all comes down to the idea that "they might not be saved if we don't find a way to reach them". And that simply isn't true, according to scripture.
Precisely WHY I haven't been inside a church for years; and I am in the so-called 'Bible Belt'. I learn more on my own or from a small group of believers than I EVER did from a sermon in a church, which are primarily social clubs.
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