Our recent post discussing the trend in youth ministry to fuse elements of consumer culture with the Church encouraged some interesting conversation. While several readers suggested that there is likely a happy medium to be found here (many youth ministries, for example, make use of popular music and films as teaching aids) there is a temptation to go to extremes (designing youth rooms to look like mini malls) all in the name of doing whatever it takes to make our ministries look cool and get teens "in the door." A few comments from our readers:
One reader suggested we check out a particularly disturbing example of culture clashing with Church highlighted in a New York Times article entitled "Flock Is Now a Fight Team in Some Ministries." The article describes a trend in some churches to offer kick boxing ministries as a way to attract young males: "The goal, these pastors say, is to inject some machismo into their ministries — and into the image of Jesus — in the hope of making Christianity more appealing." The article suggests that these sorts of efforts are an attempt to counteract the way in which "churches have become too feminized, promoting kindness and compassion at the expense of strength and responsibility."I'm reminded every week that it doesn't matter that our couches are falling apart, our media computer's internet rarely works and there's popcorn embedded in the carpet. Our teens don't see that. All they know is that someone wants to hear about their week.
Our space communicates how we think about God and faith. If all our energy is put toward cool decor that makes people ooh and aah, then we're really just distracting them from the issues underneath. I love leaders who put a little bit of attention into room atmosphere but then let the rest go and are present with teens where they are.
I hate it when youth pastors think their main job is making God/Jesus/Holy Spirit cool/cutting edge/relevant. Because if you truly believe this, then you don't truly believe that God/Jesus/Holy Spirit are relevant, and therefore have fallen into consumerist Christianity...which leaves no room for relationship.
I often wonder if in addition to the temptation to make God "cool," there is also a tragic identity crisis for those churches. I think there are a lot of ministries out there that lost the Gospel and are floating ambiguously in between the Kingdom and the dominant culture.
As if the blatant sexism in that attitude weren't troubling enough, consider the issue of whether fighting as entertainment and recreation is an appropriate way to initiate young people into the faith. While some pastors in the article argue that they are simply using kick boxing as a metaphor for teaching young men to "fight the good fight" for the gospel, clearly it is not just a metaphor. They are both viewing and engaging in actual fighting. How does this square with the image of Jesus we find in the gospel? As one pastor adds:
What you attract people to Christ with is also what you need to get people to stay. I don’t live for the Jesus who eats red meat, drinks beer and beats on other men.Your thoughts? Does the idea of Christian "Fight Clubs" go too far in an attempt to make the Church relevant to young men? Or is this trend simply a way to get youth in door?