Last week, the Wall Street Journal had an interesting article titled "The Perils of 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity". The author, Brett McCracken, has done some careful reflection on the current dilemma of the Baby Boomers who have witnessed the "increasing exodus of young people from their churches", and for the past two decades have been scrambling to overhaul their churches to keep "young members engaged in the life of the church." The boomers thought their kids would like the praise bands, the new hip storytelling approach from the stage, the big buildings, the nice parking lots, the youth church barn and all, but it just didn’t work, they couldn’t buy the souls of their children. Slowly they watched them leave. What have evangelicals done to remedy the problem, according to McCracken? "Hipster Christianity"and the shock tactic.
This new, wannabe cool Christianity offers you cutting edge technology, hip pastors with a metrosexual makeover, along with the coolest of relevant messages. "What better way to appeal to younger generations than to push the envelope and go where no fundamentalist has gone before", says McCracken. The article mentions Rob Bell's book Sex God, and Lauren Winner's Real Sex, along with one of coolest hipsters on the scene, Mark Driscoll who "delivers sermons with titles like 'Biblical Oral Sex', and 'Pleasuring Your Spouse'--the first pastor ever to use the word "vulva" during his sermon."
McCracken is writing in the same vein as many others like David Wells, who have done extensive work in critiquing evangelical stagnation and the marketing mega-church attempt to package its message as something appealing to the consumer. McCracken's exposure offers nothing new to the assessments of Wells and others, but he does represent something that should be viewed as an encouragement to those who share his concerns, namely, a louder, clearer, aggravated voice among many Gen-Xers and Millennials who have finally come to the point where they have had enough. We should hear the voice getting louder--do you hear it? McCracken correctly observes that what is needed is something real beyond the perversity we are "drenched" with daily. What is needed is not some temporal, ephemeral fix to the mere consequences of the misery we have chosen, but (forgive my interspersment) a heavenly solution to the tragedy of a human race dead in trespasses and sins, a real savior who has descended to sinners to give them life.
McCracken is correct in his assessment. The question, of course, is whether there is something out there for young, restless, "reforming" evangelicals that provides the "realness" they are seeking for. Years ago, I would have told people to try a Reformed church. Today, such a recommendation has to be qualified. Does the Reformed church in question actually believe and practice the confession that at one time was the basis for its formation as a church? From my perspective, I seem to be witnessing the same wholesale abandonment of the very thing McCracken is calling for, and this among many Reformed churches which were, at one time, unwavering in the "real" doctrine they confessed.
I hope Reformed people listen to McCracken's plea here and realize the opportunity that is presented to them. Evangelicals are crying for...a God. Do we have confidence in the means God has chosen to make himself known? What are we offering that really is an "alternative" to the mass of evangelicals groping in this sea of chaos? Offer the alternative with confidence! How do we do that, you ask? We begin by knowing and appreciating the very thing we advertise on our church sign: REFORMED.
Here are two articles on this very subject that I wrote last year:
The GREAT SEX CONTROVERSY
Our Faddy American Church Mess
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