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About the Theme of the Week
Each week on Colson, BreakPoint Radio and, and other channels we publish a great deal of new content around a vital theme. The ReSeries, John Stonestreet's video commentary, is often (but not always) the cornerstone of the weekly theme.

Theme of the Week: Teenage Christianity


We have traded liturgy for lattes, hymns for "praise music," sacraments for pizza parties and catechisms for concerts. Innovations completely alien to historic Christianity like short-term missions trips, church-hopping, seeker-sensitive outreach, age-segregation, entertainment-centered services and even clergy in casual attire, have become commonplace and held as spiritually ideal for all ages. The phenomenon spans nearly all denominations and communions across the Catholic and Protestant spectrums, and threatens to turn what once served as creative outreach efforts to youth into integral practices for the entire Church.

What happened? As John Stonestreet explains in this week's "ReEngage" video commentary, these trends represent the normalization of an "adolescent" version of Christianity which emphasizes consumerism, cultural and stylistic "relevance," and doctrinal shallowness as essential to winning converts and filling pews. But citing the work of Thomas Bergler, author of "The Juvenilization of American Christianity," John contends that these efforts have done indescribable damage to American Christianity, allowing teenage culture to reshape the Faith in its image and turning out a generation of spiritually immature, consumer-minded Christians whose belief depends on an emotional experiences.

But this kind of foundation cannot stand. Christianity is not entertainment, and it does not rely on clever advertizing or trendy outreaches to make converts. It relies on the work of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel. And as John Stonestreet discussed recently with author, speaker and pastor, Skye Jethani on "BreakPoint This Week," nothing hurts the Church more than taking the posture of a marketing firm, or resorting to cheap ploys and kitschy imitations of the world's social trends in order to appear "contemporary" and "relevant."

As one Christian blogger bluntly writes:

"Our kids meet the real world and our 'look, we’re cool like you' posing is mocked. In our effort to be 'like them' we’ve become less of who we actually are. The middle-aged pastor trying to look like his 20-something audience isn’t relevant. Dress him up in skinny jeans and hand him a latte, it doesn’t matter. It’s not relevant, It’s comically cliché. The minute you aim to be 'authentic,' you’re no longer authentic! From a Noah’s Ark themed nursery, to jumbotron summer-campish kids church, to pizza parties and rock concerts, many evangelical youth have been coddled in a not-quite-church, but not-quite-world hothouse. They’ve never sat on a pew between a set of new parents with a fussy baby and a senior citizen on an oxygen tank. They don’t see the full timeline of the gospel for every season of life. Instead, we’ve dumbed down the message, pumped up the volume and act surprised when they get smart."

Are entertainment and emotion wrong? Of course not. Are cappuccino shops and contemporary music the problem? Not at all. As John is careful to point out, these things have their place. But the passing whims of youth culture must never be allowed to alter the timeless Faith and foundation of Christ's Church. They cannot substitute for true conversion, or robust discipleship. And no matter how much shallow appeal or elegance they may have, they can never replace the "foolishness" of the Gospel message.

We hope you'll take advantage of some of the resources below, and stay tuned as John leads us on a week-by-week tour of the days leading up to Resurrection Sunday, and the worldview of Holy Week.

Explore This Week's Theme

ReEngage_Icon_small Do you know adult Christians who think God owes them something? Well, they might be suffering from something called the Peter Pan syndrome. John Stonestreet explores this phenomena in this week’s ReEngage. >>Watch now.
TalkingPoints In his most recent Talking Points, T. M. Moore challenges the way we often think about the Lordship of Christ. If Jesus is really the King of all creation, do we make Him King by our consent? >>Read more.
BreakPoint_Daily_Commentary_Generic In Thursday's BreakPoint commentary, John Stonestreet shares some shocking news from overseas: an entire country has decided to ban internet pornography. What can we learn from this? >>Read more
the_point In Thursday's Point Commentary, John Stonestreet reminds us that Christians who winsomely advocate the Christian worldview aren't open to the charge of arrogance. Why? Because we don't hold the Truth. The Truth holds us. >>Read more.
BPTW_icon_small John Stonestreet interviews theologian T. M. Moore and Colson Center Chair Timothy George about what Pope Benedict XVI's resignation means for evangelicals. >>Read more.


Need for Nuance
I agree with Kris' last comment that we must be careful not to confuse personal taste for lack of substance. While I agree with the thrust of the argument that the Church must be careful about catering to trends to the point where we lose the message of the Gospel, I think the piece could have elaborated on how "these things have a place." In fact, when "these things" are implemented at the prompting of the Holy Spirit for the sake of the Gospel, they can and do produce authentic conversions of the lost (people who may not have been ministered to through a traditional church) and robust discipleship. The church I attend is a prime example:

I also would have liked to hear a balanced warning. Churches that are too tied to traditional style sometimes fail to consider the Spirit's prompting to make changes that will provide more room for the lost to hear the "foolishness" of the Gospel.
I often read breakpoint articles and find them to be enlightening and encouraging. I regret to comment that I find the article "Teenage Christianity" neither of these. What was the purpose of this piece? Is it really true that if a church looks young or hip that it must be spiritually immature and lacking in doctrinal depth? It seems a dangerous thing (to me) to paint these churches with this very broad stroke. Careful not to confuse personal taste for lack of substance.