If I were to define my theory on church it would be that I am a simplest or a naturalist. In evangelism, I do not think that weekly visitation program is needed when the body truly understands what God has done in their lives and they share it naturally with those closest to them. In discipleship, to me it is much less a class and much more believers spurring one another along in life. In fellowship, as we live the Christian life we should lean on each other for support. I know I’m an idealist, but if you can’t shoot for God’s perfect intention for the church, why even meet?
All of this said, my theory about the natural working of a church is greatly in question when we as churches naturally turn out class after class of teenagers who drop out of church by their sophomore year of college. What must we do to fix this problem… we are living in a time when most churches have youth ministries, youth programs and large youth budgets. One might say that even with all of that we are poorly educating our kids in what/why we believe.
I think the problem is not that we are poorly educating our kids, but instead that we are naturally educating our kids excellently. In “Almost Christian” Kendra Dean makes the point that most of our kids believe exactly what we believe, and have the courage to live it out. She believes that a new religion has crept into the sanctuaries of the Christian Church and taken over. What is this new religion you ask? Therapeutic Moralistic Deism.
What is therapeutic moralistic deism? It is a belief system that holds that God exists to make us feel better about ourselves. Its end is in getting us to live happier more moral lives. To it, God simply stands back letting us live the lives we want, yet available to give us a few encouraging words when we need them.
In this new religion, the chief end of man is not the glory of God or even the holiness of oneself; it is the happiness of his life. You come to church when you need it, leave happier than when you got there, and maybe hear about how you can be nicer while your there.
So as young people have heard from pulpits and teachers, they become the new evangelists of TMD. As they see the example of moralism and self help from their parents, they drop out of church, knowing that this god is waiting for them when they need him.
How do we right the ship? The calling of the church is not to make good moral happy people. It is to share the good news of the gospel, call people to leave everything and surrender to a God who demands them to take up their crosses and follow Him, and to settle for nothing less. What our kids need first is to see that in their parents. They need to know that church is more than just a civic club or a badly done Oprah show. As we adults show the genuine work of the gospel in our lives, they will naturally show it in their own lives.
*this post is a reflection of the book “Almost Christian” by Kendra Dean, if you are interested in learning more here is the amazon link