What’s so uncool about cool churches?
Unintended Consequences: How the “relevant” church and segregating youth is killing Christianity.
by Matt Marino, September 23, 2012
* * *
Matt Marino is an Episcopal priest, the Director of Youth and Young Adults for the Diocese of Arizona, who recently did ministry as a hospice chaplain. He has worked a lot with youth, spending 17 years on Young Life staff. Matt wrote a post on his blog The Gospel Side, sounding yet another (well written) alarm about the decline of the church in the U.S.
The church may look healthy on the outside, but it has swallowed the fatal pills. The evidence is stacking up: the church is dying and, for the most part, we are refusing the diagnosis.
Here is some of the evidence that gets Marino’s attention:
- 20-30 year olds attend church at 1/2 the rate of their parents and ¼ the rate of their grandparents.
- 61% of churched high school students graduate and never go back! (Time Magazine, 2009) Even worse: 78% to 88% of those in youth programs today will leave church, most to never return. (Lifeway, 2010)
We look at our youth group now and we feel good. But the youth group of today is the church of tomorrow, and study after study after study suggests that what we are building for the future is…
- We emphasize decisions not discipleship.
- We have embraced the concept of “market-driven” youth ministry, giving people what they prefer (a road that has no end).
- We bought into the idea that youth should be segregated from the family and the rest of the church.
- We believe that big = effective, and we believe that more programs attended = stronger disciples.
- We’ve created the perfect Christian bubble (that is bound to burst eventually), then we invite people into our Christian subculture, where professionals are responsible to Christianize them.
- We imitated our culture’s most successful gathering places in an effort to be “relevant,” forgetting that none of those are places of transformation.
- We’ve embrace attractional models over missional ones, filling the church and giving us “Sunday experiences” that bear little relation to real life.
In short, Matt Marino reiterates important principles:
- Methods are not neutral and cannot be separated from the message.
- Methods become the message.
- The method-formed message shapes those who receive it into its image.
UPDATE: In conjunction with this post today, readers might want to look at yesterday’s post by Pete Enns: Outgrowing Evangelicalism, in which a Christian musician describes how, as he grew up, evangelicalism didn’t grow with him.