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Wednesday, January 09, 2008 

Emerging Without A Mirror

Dan Kimball, emergent church leader extraordinaire spoke a few days ago to those who want to wish lead our youth at a "Symposium" entitled "Emerging from what?: Exploring Ministry With Young Adults". (before anyone jumps down my throat, symposium is in quotation marks because that is how Dan Kimball described it, not me!) Kimball was invited by Terry Dittmer, who heads youth ministry for the LCMS, to help us understand why so many of our children leave the church the first chance they get to.

So, we turn to Kimball, the author of They Like Jesus But Not The Church, to help us maybe understand how we can look to the emergent church so as to become more attractive by being culturally relevant in today’s society and thereby retain youth. Of course, we don’t ask ourselves why, with mega churches like Willow Creek admitting that they are losing members after only three or so years because of spiritual starvation due to vapid preaching, would we chase after those who by their own admission, don’t like church.

Instead, we should be asking ourselves this; are we, just like the good folks up at Willow Creek, the ones to blame? I would say absolutely yes.

We run around and repeat to everyone the one verse everybody already knows John 3:16 “For god so love the world that He gave His only begotten son”, and then we stop. We ramble on about the great commission and the priesthood of all believers all the while failing to follow our Lord’s command “and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” We are so afraid to teach our children and our youth because we think they either they can’t understand or we think that they might actually have real faith and believe that which God has laid out in Scripture without challenging it like we learned to do in philosophy 101. We water down our theology to the point it’s barely recognizable as spiritual milk much less spiritual food. Why do we scratch our heads and wonder why youth leave when we treat them (and adults) as if they should always be spoon fed the theological equivalent of baby food?

We are afraid to teach them that we are all miserable sinful creatures that by ourselves have no hope of coming to any understanding of God. We are afraid to teach them that we deserve to die by Divine wrath, every one of us. And we are afraid to look at the cross as it shows us what we deserve, to be hung on the cursed tree. We remove Jesus from the cross of Good Friday to repress our own guilt and move right on to Easter and yell out “he is risen indeed” just loud enough for our neighbor to hear but not wanting to say why He was on the cross in the first place.

We make sure that we are “hip” enough to let these youth go off and discover for themselves what Christianity is. We give them song books that are so shallow and vapid even a Buddhist could sing the ditties. Why would we do this? It’s simple, because we tell ourselves real hymnody is just too hard to learn. We listen with heads in nodding agreement to parents who complain when we say Buddhist or atheists will not go to heaven because we don’t want lose an important member of the congregation over such a minor issue.

The reason we lose our youth is that we fail to properly catechize them, that is to say we fail to teach the catholic faith. That is why they leave. When we go out of our way to make ourselves no different than the culture, no matter what the reason (and I’ll hold my tongue here so I can get all you trolls who think that the mission is more important than the message, to stay on message) why would our youth stay? We go so far out of our way to make sure we reach and please everyone, we become a culture that is, by our own design and doing, separate from Christ’s Church. Why would anyone stay for that? They wouldn’t, and they don’t.

And what is our beloved Synod’s solution to retaining young people? We seek out people who don’t like church, and who want to culturally relevant. Well ain’t that just peachy. Lets not teach our youth, let’s follow Willow Creek and their newest mistake, and teach our youth to be self feeders who meditate on deep ponderings like the desert fathers, looking inward to their feelings like modern day Schwärmerei. We don’t need to look the emergent church, we need to take a long look in a mirror.

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the bottom feeders want to teach the youth to be self feeders. The self feeders will starve and die, more food for the bottom feeders.

See, it does make sense!

"...We are afraid to teach them that we are all miserable sinful creatures that by ourselves have no hope of coming to any understanding of God. ..."

You couldn't have said a bigger mouthful. As a Lutheran, I was affirmed right out of the Lutheran church.

Give them just part of the story so that they feel good about themselves - and about us. THAT'S what's important - right.

Lord, have mercy.

Thank you for this post.

thank you -C for the kind words. what do you mean when you say you were "affirmed right out of the Lutheran church" I think I know what you mean but I dont like making assumptions...

What I meant to say was that after half a lifetime as a Lutheran, I had finally come to realize that there’s more to the Christian life than “Jesus loves me, this I know.” This, in and of itself, while true, is simply only part of the story.

Jesus (God) loves me, indeed, but to be in the church means more than just basking in all of the wonderful things about me that there is for God to love, and concentrating on how wonderfully and uniquely made I am - celebrating myself! (or other individual humans or groups of humans). Our baptisms were the beginning of a covenantal relationship with God, and covenant means more than us just sitting back and receiving all of the blessings God can find to give us because we are so wonderful. It also requires certain crucifixions for us, too. Being a baptized Christian does not give us God’s automatic “stamp of approval” on everything we like or think or want. Nor does it give us any sort of “rights.” Somewhere someone has to tell us that it’s just really not about us.

But of course, this is not a message that sells or pays the bills.

But Bonhoeffer understood it (and we see where it got him, don’t we?) Yet this is the life - and death - to which all Christians are called … I just never heard this as a Lutheran. (Actually I did hear some of this is my own particular parish setting, but it certainly is not the message my church body was sending).

That’s all I’m saying.

Thanks again for the post.

-C, there is still some good news out there for Lutherans even though it often seems bleak. My first exposure to Lutherans was back in the LCA days before the big merge into what became ELCA. When I came back to the faith, I immediately recognized why I left the LCA, the Gospel wasn’t being preached so there reason for me to stay. I remember a lot of what sounded like self help, much of which mirrors what is still out there today in spades.

This is WHY I get so frustrated with what’s going on, because I know what the end result is for vapid preaching that proclaims only self and not Christ. I continually thank God for finding my wife a church home that, when I did come back to the faith, would put up with an enthusiast who didn’t know what to do with his newly given faith.

Good to here from ya, and I sure hope you stop back by for a visit.

I'll be back. I added you to my list of regular visits :-)

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