A Cheap Gospel

I just started a new book that already has me thinking. I’m reading Almost Christian by Kenda Creasy Dean. This book continues the conversations started by the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) and Christian Smith in Soul Searching (also a great read).

Almost Christian has been on the “to-read” portion of my bookshelf, but it quickly moved up the list when I saw Mark Oestreicher’s high praise in a recent post:

“difficult and long read, but definitely one of the most important YM books in the last 5 years.”

Let me also admit…I’m only one chapter in, so I’m in no position to back this claim. BUT, the first chapter already has me questioning the content of my ministry. Under a section entitled “Does Church Still Matter?” Dean offers this nugget:

“…churches seem to have offered teenagers a kind of “diner theology”: a bargain religion, cheap but satisfying, whose gods require little in the way of fidelity or sacrifice. Never mind that centuries of Christians have read Jesus’ call to lay down one’s life for others as the signature feature of Christian love, or that God’s self-giving enables us to share the grace of Christ when ours is pitifully insufficient.”

Ask yourself this question: Are you offering bargain religion? A bargain youth ministry? Does your calendar and the programs that fill it point students toward selfless abandon in favor of a worthy creator, or does is point students toward pointless fun and self-gratification?

Now don’t get me wrong…there is a HUGE place for fun in youth ministry. I’m not knocking fun, but rather a calendar of fun at the expense of anything challenging. Have we become the helicopter parents who are fearful to give any meaningful responsibility or experience for fear it won’t be fun or well attended?

Are we selling students a cheap gospel?

The longer I stare at my calendar the more I question how I am integrating the following concepts into teaching and programming:

  1. God Created
  2. Man Fell
  3. Christ Reconciled
  4. Our Response
  5. Consummation of History

What would happen if we ran EVERYTHING we planned, programmed, and taught through this filter? What would stick and what would be eliminated? We currently do this (to a degree) with our student ministry mission statement that reads as follows:

Fusion exists to see students KNOW (Phil. 3:10), LOVE (Ephesians 5:1-2), and WORSHIP (Psalm 96) God through a TRANSFORMING (Romans 12:2) relationship with Jesus Christ. 

We do our best to ensure that what we plan, program, and teach moves students toward this desired goal. Are we bullet proof? Probably not. It’s amazing how many events youth pastors try to pass off as “community development.”

I can just see me answering to God one day:

God: Do your students KNOW, LOVE, and WORSHIP me?
Me: Nope, but they are a TIGHT community!

It’s getting late (10:19pm…I have kids), and I’m starting to get sarcastic, so I’ll end with this:

How do you decide what goes on the calendar? How do you prevent the student ministry from selling youth a cheap gospel? Comment below!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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