This post originally appeared at auministry.com.
As the father of two boys (14 and 10), a recent article at CNN.com caught my attention. In it, author Kenda Creasy Dean argues that most teenagers in American churches have a case of “fake” Christianity. Some excerpts:
“Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls ‘moralistic therapeutic deism.’ Translation: It’s a watered-down faith that portrays God as a ‘divine therapist’ whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem.”
“Though three out of four American teenagers claim to be Christian, fewer than half practice their faith, only half deem it important, and most can’t talk coherently about their beliefs, the study found. Many teenagers thought that God simply wanted them to feel good and do good . . .”
“No matter their background, Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.”
“The Christian call to take risks, witness and sacrifice for others is muted, she says. ‘If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation,’ wrote Dean, a professor of youth and church culture at Princeton Theological Seminary.”
This is a challenge to parents, pastors, youth pastors and other leaders – we can’t assume that our kids are getting it when it comes to committed Christian faith. We need to make sure they hear the Gospel and see it lived out in our lives.
It is also a reminder of how vital Christian higher education is in today’s culture. It is the last bulwark for many young people in connecting them with a vital, dynamic faith.
At Anderson University, every student must take two courses in Christian studies: an Introduction to the Bible, and a course in the Teachings of Jesus. In the first course, we seek to draw students into the beauty of scripture and help them fall in love with the Bible. In the second course, we expose students to what Jesus said, and how that impacts our thought (Christian worldview) and behavior (ethics). Beyond that, students will be exposed to many faculty who help them see connections between various disciplines and Christ-centered thought and values.
Given the pressing need in the lives of the next generation, there may be few things churches do that are more vital than encouraging their young people to attend a Christ-centered college or university.