Is the Church too focused on the youth?

As much as modern day philosophers may try to dispel postmodernism as a rational and coherent worldview, postmodernism has yet to pass from the realm of cultural acceptance.  Perhaps the greatest evidence for postmodernism as a socially acceptable philosophy in America can be identified through purveying our religious landscape.  Some may define America’s general religious beliefs as being “Pluralistic”, but sociologist Christian Smith interprets this phenomenon as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”.( Smith, Soul Searching, 162)  The aim here is to provide analysis for the church regarding this religious perspective which is so pervasive in our culture, and offer some ways to combat it.

Author’s Christian Smith and Barna Group President David Kinnaman, have written and done extensive research on the religious views of today’s youth.  Smith’s book Soul Searching, launched in 2005, targeted the Millennial’s (ages 13-17), also known as Generation Y.  Two years later Kinnaman’s book UnChristian was released.  His research covered those, who in 2007, were between the ages of 16-29, whom he refers to as “Mosaics and Busters”. (Kinnaman, UnChristian, 18)

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Confessions of a Worldwide Spiritual Mutt

Recently, someone asked me to outline my faith journey. In a sense, I am grateful for the question because usually it’s asked in a static manner such as ‘when did you ask Jesus in your heart?’ to which I don’t honestly remember (which disappoints those anticipating a time and date).  The idea of an outline, though, smacks of highlights and turning points and those are things I do actually remember. Yet, as I reflected on my own outline, I kind of smiled at how this was also going to be a bit difficult for some to swallow. But, I took a deep breath anyway and said something akin to the following:

Growing up outside the church, I was sort of turned on to the sacred elements prior to knowing what they meant. I loved reading the Bible, but I also devoured Greek mythology, poetry, and all kinds of stories with a point.

A Room With A Worldview

When we say the term a Biblical worldview, do we truly mean a view of the entire world? In other words, does our ‘worldview’ stand up to the test of being more universal than cultural; more global than local?

While in Nicaragua a few years ago, I recall giving a presentation to some Christian leaders and the word ‘worldview’ didn’t translate directly. Instead, my Latin American brothers rendered it, ‘cosmo view’ and in a very real way, that made more sense than what I was trying to convey. Our worldview and in particular a Biblical one, should consist not simply of truths from our own local contexts, but truths that make sense universally. Michael Horton, in his book the Gospel-Driven Life, makes the following comment that is relevant to this discussion:

Michael HortonThe gospel is unintelligible to most people today, especially in the West, because their own particular stories are remote from the story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation that is narrated in the Bible. Our focus is introspective and narrow, confided to our own immediate knowledge, experience, and intuition…
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Four Universal Questions Answered with a Biblical Worldview of Mission

I’ve mentioned in previous posts I spent the summer of 2005 in the tiny Eastern European country of Moldova. I was there on a solo mission partly to earn credit for my masters degree in missions and partly to lead a high school short-term missions trip for the church I was working for at the time. During the 2 weeks the high school students from Boston, MA were with me in Moldova, we spent most of our time living at an orphanage in the middle of the beautiful countryside.  

By the time I was in Moldova, I had been on similar short-term missions trips to Mexico a handful of times and had been to Congo, Kinshasa in Sub-Saharan Africa. Needless to say I had seen poverty before.  However, spending those 6 or 7 days in that remote Moldovan orphanage opened my eyes to a new level of poverty I had not yet experienced. I’ve thought a lot about why there was a noticeable difference between the places I had been and the place I was in Moldova. I’ve come to believe the difference to be that while in Mexico and in Congo, Kinshasa, I was a bystander. I was an onlooker to the poverty. I was a spectator to the mess and not part of it.

But in Moldova, at this orphanage, I lived among them, in their subhuman conditions for that week. Rather than arrive, shake some kids hands, give others hugs, snap a few photos and leave, the Boston high school students and myself stayed.

Moldova has a high number of orphans due to the countries poverty. The simple fact is parents do not make enough money to support their own children. They have no other choice but to send them to an orphanage. The government pours very little resources into these orphanages leaving hundreds of children in the care of 2 of 3 adults who don’t know what its like to have a day off.

This particular orphanage was over crowded with some of the neediest children I’ve ever met. Due to a high rate of alcoholism among Moldovans, deformities and mental disabilities run rapid among the children. The first child I shook hands with when we arrived was missing 2 fingers on his right hand. Others had severe mental handicaps and needs that were unmet.

The warn-out, thin mattress I laid my head on every night was soaked in urine. The facility turned the water tower on for showers once a week. And even then, it was a light trickle of pure cold. The single course for the day was potato soup (simply boiled potatoes in water) on days when the potato farm had enough potatoes.

During my 2 month stay in Moldova, I was hosted by a group of girls who had grown up together in an orphanage. They were all teenagers and had lived together in an orphanage in the city for most of their lives (This orphanage was funded by an American organization and the conditions were much more civilized). These girls remain close friends of mine and we keep in touch often. Five of them are now in the US between North Carolina and Georgia while 2 remain in Moldova.

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Patrick Dodson: God Is Not In Control

Patrick is a father first, then teacher/writer/cook/photographer and sometimes prophet. He lives and works with Heather in New Zealand and has four beautiful game designing (Josiah), film directing (Jordan), artistic (Jasmine), and acting (Levi) children. You can check them out at www.patrickdodson.net .

 

God Is Not In Control
Q: Why do the innocent suffer?
A: Because we don't take care of them.

Q: Why are there so many poor in the world?
A: We're selfish and don't share wealth or resources properly.
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