I was listening to a sermon recently from Dr. John MacArthur, and in the message he spoke to the fact that the modern church is perpetuating adolescence. This really got me to thinking, do I perpetuate adolescence? In my children and in the church I lead do I promote irresponsibility and narcissism? Sadly, I believe the church and our culture today do promote immaturity amongst our young people and often we don’t even realize it. How do we do it?
CONSUMER DRIVEN MINISTRY
In some cases the church has turned simply into a buffet of programmatic choices and consumer oriented messages instead of Christ centered discipleship. We preach messages that don’t offend, sing music that promotes self, and offer programs for children and teenagers that merely cause them to look inward and outward instead of upward. The modern relevant church movement is much akin to a fast food franchise model that says just offer a tasty menu, make getting the food as convenient as possible, provide quick and easy ways to pay, and send them away happy with a discount coupon for the next meal. Once one location starts growing let’s open another one on the other side of town and offer drive thru faith there as well. Where is making disciples in all this? Where is Christ’s call to die to self and take up our cross daily? Where is genuine worship? How is Christ being formed in those who receive such a ministry, or is He being formed in anyone at all? This type of ministry leaves young people, and all people for that matter, thinking the Christian life is all about me and not about God and others.
We promote a form of militant individualism in our society today. Our culture applauds and celebrates those who go against the grain, attack the status quo, and reject authority. “This is me and I don’t care what you think about it” is the new motto. This sounds like my 4 year old when he doesn’t get his way, but sadly it’s the language of many grown adults both in society and in the church. The language in the church is Jesus died for me, Jesus loves me, Jesus cares for me, Jesus can do great things for me, which on the surface sounds wonderful, but behind this constant barrage of anthropocentric worship is a subtle form of idolatry that says God only exists to meet my needs. The truth is He is the holy and righteous Creator of the Universe who both deserves and demands our complete and utter submission to Him. There is no insufficiency in God at all, only complete depravity in us, and His sovereign will is not merely to make sure I “have all I need.” He is most interested in His own sovereign plan of redemption and in the salvation of those who will repent of their sinfulness and confess Christ as Lord. One of the first words that must be addressed in the life of a child is the word “mine” but sadly that’s the very word the church and our culture seem to be promoting. In order to build gospel maturity into the next generation we must teach a revolutionary form of service and sacrifice not rebellion and entitlement. The kind of service and sacrifice displayed through Christ’s incarnation, life, and death on an old rugged cross.
Biblical language is us, we, church, body, and family kind of language. When we trust in Christ we become a part of a new community of faith through whom we learn much and to whom we are to give much. We are called to love, to worship, to serve, and to give, not just take and receive. Salvation may be free but sanctification is not. We do nothing to earn our salvation, but we do much to grow in it. Paul said we are to “work out” our own salvation with fear and trembling and to discipline ourselves to godliness. Peter said in the Scripture that we each have a gift of the Spirit of God and we are expected to “employ it” in service to God and others. It’s clear that we are saved not to sit and soak but to share and to serve. When young people are not taught and expected to do these things from the time they are able we cripple them spiritually and stunt there growth.
Also, Paul said to the church at Thessalonica when word had gotten to him of some who were merely drawing assistance from the church instead of working, “if you don’t work you should not eat.” Today, many just want a free lunch. Free education, free health care, free government assistance. First of all, it’s not free, somebody has to pay for that and it’s typically the successful tax paying middle and upper class people in this country who end up footing the bill. Secondly, all this does is create a generation of young people who never work for anything. We want our children to have all the things we never had, the problem is we and our parents (and especially our grandparents!) have worked our tails off to get where we are today. What our children need from us is responsibility, work ethic, and a bold and unashamed faith, not a free ride. We must stop doing everything for our children and giving them everything we had to work for. In Proverbs it says an inheritance gained hastily will dissipate. We must stop pandering to the adolescence of the next generation and start teaching them to be responsible, hard-working, Christ honoring adults.