Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The role of youth groups in the seeker-sensitive and emerging church movement
Coming from the age group then known as Generation X, these postmodernized youth were mostly products of a ministry style that kept young people sequestered in youth ministry, away from adults. They and their peers had learned to "do church" in settings where the focus was mostly on games and activities. Their music was a whole generation newer than the supposedly contemporary stylings their parents favored. They sported fashions that were even more cutting edge than the slickest seeker-sensitive church would ever think to feature. And the attitudes of youth and youth leader alike were shaped to fit the postmodern style: deeply cynical.
The main problem for those young people was that their parents' churches were indeed pathologically shallow and worldly. The students had grown up being entertained far more than they were spiritually fed. When they began to move out of the youth group into the adult world, they were turned off by churches that simply could not keep up with the changing styles. In reality, even the trendiest seeker-sensitive churches were still wedded to the tastes and convictions of a modern, not a postmodern, generation.
That is inevitably what happens when churches abandon biblical ministry in favor of worldly trends.
The discovery of postmodernism by Gen-Xers in seeker-sensitive youth groups culminated in precisely the kind of disaster this book foretold (he means when originally published in 1993). It was a recipe for the perfect apostasy: thousands of young people had been indoctrinated with pragmatism as a way of life, raised with the idea that worship must be tailored to please "Unchurched Harry" in order to be relevant, and taught to regard truth as unattainable. Now they were embracing all those errors at once and attempting to blend them all into A New Kind of Christianity.
I've written previously about the sinking ship of youth ministry, so I won't repeat that here. I will however add as a disclamimer that while in college I was a member of John MacArthur's church and attended the College and Career class there. He's not saying all youth ministry is bad, he has a youth ministry in his own church. Each week I was encouraged by two sermons, one from Dr. MacArthur during church and the other from Scott Ardavanis, an excellent expositor of the Word in his own right. Certainly, we can fill a room with young adults and feed them the Word of God and call it youth ministry. No one is arguing against that. The problem is very few churches are doing that. MacArthur goes on to explain that postmodernism combined with the age of the internet has left people with shorter attention spans who are more interested in sound bites than the truth. "Our culture has simply lost patience with reasoned discourse and careful exposition." (MacArthur in Ashamed of the Gospel p. 20) Furthermore, it has "lost the ability to distinguish between what's trivial and what's profound." (p. 20)
What does all of this mean to me? It helps my husband and I to understand why our church will probably always be small. It also reaffirms to us the significance of homeschooling in an effort to combat the postmodern mentality in our children. And finally, it encourages us to stay the course in our church and not go the way of the world even though we understand it will limit the size of our church. Yes, I've been told the Wednesday night Scripture memory class that I teach is boring (not by a homeschooled child by the way). We do play games occassionally, but mostly we just memorize the Bible. It's because we understand that only the Word of God will nourish and mature our children into a godly generation that will hopefully bring about Reformation in the evangelical church. Our cry is the same as that of the Reformers. Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda. The church reformed, and always to be reformed. Because we are morally corrupt and live in a fallen world, we must constantly endeavor to keep our churches and doctrine in line with the perfect standard of God's Word. In the words of MacArthur's title, we must do whatever it takes to NOT become Ashamed of the Gospel so that the church will NOT become like the world.
- I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.