Monday, April 6, 2009

Underwhelming Christianity

For a number of reasons; the reasonably anti-establishment attitude of our postmodern world, the busyness and burnout of our fast past culture, the nature of the mega church (1000 plus people), a fresh appreciation by church leaders in regards to what a Sunday service can and cannot achieve in the life of a believer, and so on, the 21st Century Church, (at least the Australasian Charismatic/Pentecostal churches I am most familiar with), has pulled back a lot on the expectation it has for its church members. Where members were once encouraged and expected to attend two services on a Sunday, attending one is now OK. Where members were often serving in multiple departments or areas of the church, one area of service is a more healthy expectation. All sorts of things have changed. I'm all for most of them. Without losing the fact that the church is central and essential to God's plan for redemption in the world; a de-institutionalisation of some aspects of our spiritual walk is a healthy thing.

What is unhealthy is a distortion of what it means to follow Christ. We cannot afford to reduce Christianity to a prayer asking for forgiveness and then leave it at that. To do this is to promote and underwhelming Christianity. A version, if it can be called that, of Christianity which is most likely not Christianity at all.

To follow Christ, to be a disciple of Christ, means a whole new way of life. It means a whole new worldview and approach to everything we do. New goals, new priorities, new purpose, new standards, new ways of measuring success, new paradigms, new attitudes, new hope; a whole new life.

An underwhelming Christianity will not draw a new generation to the things of God, it will push them away. The Millennial Generation (Gen Y) live in a world where upgrades, expansions, modifications, extra additions, add ons, and so fourth are available in every area of life from their iPods, to their facebook page, to their cars, to their own bodies. Following Christ is not an addition to ones life it is a whole new way of life. And that is the very thing about Christianity that will attract the next generation. This is the thing that I love about my faith, about following Christ, yet after living my whole life as a Christian, I think I am only just beginning to get it.

The next generation has to get it from the start.

I haven't read the book yet, but I think these guys are getting it.


Samantha said...

Hey Joseph,
This is great.. love it.
Please say hi to all the family for me - Samantha W

Joseph McAuley said...

Will do.

John said...

Your comment "Following Christ is not an addition to ones life it is a whole new way of life." sums it up. From my perspective - being familiar with the church cultures you outline, and part of them (kind of) since early 80s - I agree that those changes and expectation aspects in church culture are real. What I REALLY wonder about is how the overall structure and way of doing church is still SO strongly rooted in the 70s renewal (without the charisma I hasten to add), and how so many churches still seem to be operating like 'small businesses' or clubs. That freaks me out almost as much as the "low expectation" breeze in breeze out message of the more alt-church movements i've seen up close an personal. Where does holiness and abandonment fit in all this? (a la Keith Green & The Jesus Movement) And who is interested in the power gifts (a la John Wimber, Derek Prince, Kenneth Hagin et al) in these movements, and amongst teh trendsetters? It's criminal to post such a huge blurb as a comment on your blog, sorry! :) Keep posting Joseph.

Braden Matson said...

Good thoughts Joseph. I think, also, we have equated committed Christianity to the number of meetings people attend. The result of this is that busyness and activity are seen as the pinnacle of commitment to Jesus, when in reality often the opposite is more often true. This may be way many of us compartmentalise our lives instead of seeing our faith as a completely different way of living.

Then, because of the model of church that we have had, we often spoon feed people at these meetings, and then wonder why people are unable to express their faith in everyday life. We can teach people what to think, but unless we teach them how to think there will always be a gap between belief and practice.

Perhaps we ‘scaffold’ peoples’ lives so much with church activity that they rely on this rather than a relationship with Christ.

Joseph McAuley said...

Great thoughts. We have to teach people how to think. Long term that will a far more effective strategy to Christian mission than just teaching people what to think and what to believe. Its a real and essential challenge to all in Christian ministry.

I agree as well about scaffolding people's lives. It's not about either/or though, it has to be and/both. It's just the emphasis may have shifted too far one way.