Monday, January 3, 2011

Almost Christian: What Teens are Telling the American Church

One of the messages that we constantly trumpet here at CPYU is this: like it or not, we MUST listen to cultural trends. And like them or not, cultural trends give us deep insights into who we are, along with who we are becoming. Then, when viewed in light of who we’re supposed to be, cultural trends help us to answer our responsibility to respond in ways that bring honor and glory to God by promoting His Kingdom values. When it comes to our kids and who they are, listening to their culture shows us what we’ve failed to do, along with what we must do. And so it is with the message of Kenda Creasy Dean’s fabulous and challenging book, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church (Oxford University Press, 2010).

The cultural trend Dean reminds us of is the saddening mutation of Christian faith that is embraced and lived by our kids, a faith that’s been labeled as “moralistic, therapeutic, deism” by Christian Smith and others involved with the National Study of Youth and Religion. While Smith described this disturbing cultural trend in his book Soul Searching, Dean goes a step further to offer analysis on who’s to blame, along with who needs to step up and do something – including suggestions on what to do – to remedy the decline of faith among our kids. Not surprisingly, the blame is placed first and foremost at the feet of families who have forfeited their God-given responsibility to nurture their children in the faith of the Old and New Testament. Also to blame is a church that hasn’t equipped parents to do their job. And now we are reaping the fruit in what Dean calls a “Church of Benign Whatever-ism.”

Almost Christian takes readers on a journey into what it means to promote a “consequential faith” through a variety of faith-building strategies including passing on the faith legacy through the rediscovery of the process of “catechesis,” something that’s been lost in the age of the market-driven mega-church. Readers are prompted to consider what it means and what it will take to move kids beyond embracing a self-serving spirituality to a faith that reflects the God-centeredness and other-centeredness of the Gospel.

This is a book highly recommended for youth workers and parents, but it’s also a necessary read for pastors, church boards, and whoever else is pondering what it means to be the church in today’s rapidly changing culture.

--Walt Mueller

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