The church is in a really weird place right now. We’ve officially had 30 years of a short lived phenomenon- where entertainment value has been lifted up in church, and honesty diminished. This movement has been called the “seeker sensitive” movement. Willow Creek Community Church recently conducted a major survey that shows heavy involvement in “seeker sensitive” programs and activities contributed to church growth, but did not translate into spiritual growth and maturity. Church leaders have stood up and admitted, “We made a mistake.” (taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Growth) This movement seems to have produced three groups of “Christians” in America;
1. The group that holds on tightly to the “slickness”, “entertainment value”, and “marketing potential” of the church in America. Within this group are often individuals that work for and in the church, and have convinced themselves that they’re reaching out to people outside of the church and doing God’s work. But the funny thing is- they often don’t have any friends that believe differently than they. They don’t often reach out to the poor or cynic, but likely the “comfortable American”. They seem to think that they’re doing their job of reaching out to the world by putting together slick, entertaining worship services on Sunday. But may often spend the rest of their time holed up in an office or doing family activities.
2. There is an increasing population of people in their 20’s and 30’s that grew up in this “seeker-sensitive” movement of churches. I know a good amount of people that were either forced to go to an evangelical, Catholic, or Protestant church as a kid, and simply got turned off. I know a real good amount of people that went to a mega church of some sort and amidst all the flash and glam of programming and spectacle, still went into adulthood void of the desire and calling to follow Jesus with their entire lives.
3. The group I find myself in- young maniacs who love Jesus but are often weirded out by the church. I think we see that we’re going through a major shift- where discipleship and reckless faith in following Jesus is being raised up and the consumerism of the church in the past 30 years is being rejected. We’re a group that is either going to try and change the church as it is, start new churches, or hopefully if all goes well, both…
It seems clear to me that the type of life that Jesus called us to is one where we “take up our cross daily”, and “die to ourselves”. The Kingdom of Heaven is described in the Bible as a buried treasure that a person sold everything they had to obtain. It seems that the life Jesus calls us to is one of reckless abandonment. In America, we’ve reduced faith in Jesus to a shallow cultural phenomenon. We’ve made it accessible for our culture, but haven’t accurately communicated what a high cost it is to actually live out the life of faith described in scripture. That may be why we still have a society that is utterly confused about what the scriptures are really saying, because they’ve had their understanding colored by really strange religiosity.
Barna conducted some great research that shows us that many people in America even consider themselves to be followers of and believers in Jesus. But some are turned off by the religious institutions we have. Others in America call themselves Christian but it seems only to be a cultural label- and this group is actually in the majority. I encourage you to check this article out:
So what should we do about it? Is it really possible to both believe in Jesus as the once for all sacrifice for our sins, and also follow and live out the radical teachings that he purported? Or should we just continue to Americanize Christian religion and make it accessible enough for our society to get into?
May I add that when we’re people of grace, we will befriend anyone from any walk of life, and invite them to experience the gospel and the Kingdom of God. I’m talking about the way a follower of Jesus should live here.