Friday, January 28, 2011

Almost Christian Review Part 1: 3 Actions which challenge Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

'Apart from 'being nice,' teenagers do not think religion influences their decisions, choice of friends, or behaviors. it does not help them obey god, work toward a common good, compose an identity, or belong to a distinctive community. Teenagers do value religion as being personally useful: in addition to helping people be nicer and feel better about themselves, religion can provide comfort amid turmoil, and support for decisions that (by and large) teenagers want to make anyway....Why do teenagers practice Moralistic Therapeutic Deism? Not because they have misunderstood what we have taught them in church. They practice it because this is what we have taught them in church

Once again I am behind the 8 ball in writing reviews on books that I'm reading, although I am a bit closer with 'Almost Christian'

What is most challenging about this book in my opinion is summarized in the phrase quoted above; 'Teenagers do value religion as being personally useful' Although it would be really fun to take a poke at Joel Osteen in my experience this is shockingly just as true a statement for the shrinking mainline (of which I am a part) as it is the burgeoning mega-church culture. Instead of the gospel challenging it is comforting, instead of the gospel calling us to action, it is warm thoughts to get us through our day, instead of re-orienting our lives to living in the kingdom, the kingdom is shoe-horned into cracks and small places between everything else we already do, prioritize and believe. And lets face it, there are much more effective sources of self-help and emotional bolstering than than church; such as Oprah and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. So it seems ingenuous to me to preach the Gospel as being good for our self-esteem and our productivity and our happiness, when the core of the Gospel is a cross and its sacrifice.

So I've done three things to start to challenge Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. It has begun with the language I use.

1. Instead of talking about 'getting new members' I have started talking more about gathering and nurturing new disciples. We aren't here to feel better about the membership list, we are called to fish for Christ-followers.

2. Instead of talking about 'joining committees' I have started talking about igniting a passion for ministry. We don't just need people to fill a slot on a committee. We need to facilitate experiences where people can serve and make sacrifice for others and in that experience both share the love of Christ and gain experiences that challenge their world-view, assumptions, and personal idols.

3. Challenged people to stop talking about 'what church does for me' and begin to talk about what 'church has taught me about serving and sacrificing for others' and what opportunities the church has provided for me to serve and sacrifice.'

Do you think MTD is as dangerous as Dean suggests?
What needs to change in mainline church to shock us out of our self-centered faith?

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