In my latest sermon I quoted Kenda Creasy Dean‘s new book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church. I’ll be writing a review of this book for the Worldview Church Website soon, and a series of articles related to this sermon will also be published there soon.
Research shows that the fire of biblical faith, hope, and love is failing to light in many of the next generation. Here’s the news you and I don’t want to hear, but need to: we’re to blame for the missing flame. In her excellent new book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, youth ministry guru and professor Kenda Creasy Dean admits that
“the problem does not seem to be that churches are teaching young people badly, but that we are doing an exceedingly good job of teaching youth what we really believe: namely, that Christianity is not a big deal, that God requires little, and the church is a helpful social institution filled with nice people focused primarily on ‘folks like us’ – which, of course, begs the question of whether we are really the church at all.
What if the blasé religiosity of most American teenagers is not the result of poor communication but the result of excellent communication of a watered-down gospel so devoid of God’s self-giving love in Jesus Christ, so immune to the sending love of the Holy Spirit that it might not be Christianity at all? What if the church models a way of life that asks, not passionate surrender but ho-hum assent? What if we are preaching moral affirmation, a feel-better faith, and a hands-off God instead of the decisively involved, impossibly loving, radically sending God of Abraham and Mary, who desired us enough to enter creation in Jesus Christ and whose Spirit is active in the church and in the world today? If this is the case—if theological malpractice explains teenagers’ half-hearted religious identities—then perhaps most young people practice Moralistic Therapeutic Deism not because they reject Christianity, but because this is the only ‘Christianity’ they know” (pages 11-12).