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.
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.
No offense, but unless you're twelve years old, you're old enough to know that the media never, never ever gets it right about religion, especially Christianity.
The reporter is playing up the cool angle rather than dealing with the substance of belief. Note how he goes out and gets a poor misled soul from the anti-Christian rock crowd to get a balancing quote. This poor reporter twit thinks these guys are all going to be a major force of leftists because they don't look like conservatives, so that's how he wrote his story. It's wishful thinking on his part. Just because somebody is a little less interested in fighting the gay agenda doesn't mean they're going to go become a leftist. How many people who really care about Christianity would read Indymedia or even Ellen Goodman or Maureen Dowd and says to themselves, "Now that's what Jesus would write!"
Whether these alt-churches are good churches depends totally on what is being taught in the services, not on what these people are wearing. The stuff my church does would have been looked down on in the same way if we'd been doing it fifty years ago, and we are a hard-core Bible-believing church.
But it is up to us to spread the word.
No one would hear it if we all just sat on our butts and did nothing.
I'm not a big fan of the movie "Passion of the Christ", but many people are, and I am very pleased that it has touched so many lives. It seems like God has used that movie. Like I said, different tastes for different people.
I am moved by things like Handel's Messiah, and some people are moved by a Michael Smith song. Both are Christian songs, just different. I'm pleased that God can use both.
My regular parish does not offer a Latin Mass, but I try to enjoy the beautiful Latin language at least once a month at another church.
Yes, the Bible studies and other informal meetings are great, but I crave the formality and reverence of the Mass.
As the article points out, the fact that I can connect with ancient Christians via religious rites is important to me.
I agree with that completely.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that you are a pretty staunch Calvinist.
Packaging Christ in a way that leads people to love him is never wrongheaded.
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.
And that's the gospel, according to KJAM.
So,, don't go tell anyone the good news because it doesn't matter.
That's scriptural. < /sarcasm>
Everything else is not 'mainline': Assembly of God, Disciples of Christ, Covenant Church, Pentacostals, etc., etc.
The attitude that as long as we're growing in numbers we're doing something right......right?
Let us act like David and serve our own generation. In Heaven we will hear those words, " Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!"