(CT) Thomas Bergler–When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity

The house lights go down. Spinning, multicolored lights sweep the auditorium. A rock band launches into a rousing opening song. “Ignore everyone else, this time is just about you and Jesus,” proclaims the lead singer. The music changes to a slow dance tune, and the people sing about falling in love with Jesus. A guitarist sporting skinny jeans and a soul patch closes the worship set with a prayer, beginning, “Hey God ”¦” The spotlight then falls on the speaker, who tells entertaining stories, cracks a few jokes, and assures everyone that “God is not mad at you. He loves you unconditionally.”

After worship, some members of the church sign up for the next mission trip, while others decide to join a small group where they can receive support on their faith journey. If you ask the people here why they go to church or what they value about their faith, they’ll say something like, “Having faith helps me deal with my problems.”

Fifty or sixty years ago, these now-commonplace elements of American church life were regularly found in youth groups but rarely in worship services and adult activities. What happened? Beginning in the 1930s and ’40s, Christian teenagers and youth leaders staged a quiet revolution in American church life that led to what can properly be called the juvenilization of American Christianity. Juvenilization is the process by which the religious beliefs, practices, and developmental characteristics of adolescents become accepted as appropriate for adults. It began with the praiseworthy goal of adapting the faith to appeal to the young, which in fact revitalized American Christianity. But it has sometimes ended with both youth and adults embracing immature versions of the faith. In any case, white evangelicals led the way.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Adult Education, Evangelicals, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Teens / Youth, Youth Ministry

4 comments on “(CT) Thomas Bergler–When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity

  1. Emerson Champion says:

    In a way, the Rev. Dr. Ed Stetzer spoke to this during his first plenary session at the Provincial Assembly when he “[C]alled attendees to ensure ‘the Church is the engine of disciple-making and sending that God intends it to be,’ not a ‘store that provides consumer religious goods and services.’” Source: [url=http://www.anglicanchurch.net/?/main/page/435] Keynote Speaker Ed Stetzer Discusses the Local Congregation, Our Engine of Discipleship [/url]

  2. David Keller says:

    Wow. People who love a living Jesus. They just need to sit down and shut up. Frankly, if you aren’t miserable, how can you possibly be happy? Sarcasm aside, the issue really shouldn’t be someone’s opinion about worship style. At my former TEC church everything is completely liturgically correct. I suspect the author of this piece would adore the formality and solemnity of the services. You just won’t hear a sermon or any teaching that is remotely orthodox Christian. The church webpage has picnics, basketball camps, dancing to lose weight, dinners, museum trips, photography class…It would be really great for a country club. Form over substance is much worse than people enjoying going to church.

  3. magnolia says:

    yes, no. 2 i agree with you but i also happen to think the service itself means a lot. i’ve been to so many churches that dumb down the language and modernize the music and it leaves me quite flat.

  4. Teatime2 says:

    The problem here is that it`s mostly about feeling good and having fun, not worshiping God. The story spells it out — tune out everyone else, it says. Um, isn`t the reason we go to church is to worship God as part of a Christian community? Otherwise, I could just queue up some praise music at home and dance myself into a Jesus frenzy without investing a thing.

    This is straight-up “me and Thee” theology that offers a buddy Jesus who paid the price with no response required from us. The Prosperity Gospel flows from this.
    These folks often have a difficult time when life throws them curve balls.