The Perils of Never-Satisfied Christianity

In a recent Wall Street Journal Op-Ed entitled “The Perils of Hipster Christianity,” Brett McCraken explains why churches attempting to be culturally relevant are wrong and gives concrete ideas at exactly how the church can keep young adults from exiting in mass.

Wait, no. Actually, McCraken spends the Op-Ed railing against out-of-context examples of churches doing things to be relevant in order to keep the young members. But at least he gives some honest solution to what he sees as the problem, right? Nope. His solution boils down to “be real.”

McCraken in his dismissal of Hipster Christianity has embraced what too many younger evangelicals, myself included, have found “Never-Satisfied Christianity.”

The Church in America has problems. It is not difficult to see that. McCraken rightly points to the numerous statistics that paint a bleak picture of the effectiveness of the Church in reaching on our young adults, much less those outside.

Where McCraken fails, as I often do, is to simply lament the bad and ignore the good. It is so easy to find faults and so difficult to find the good. It is true of people and it’s true of churches. Lots of churches mess up in trying to be culturally relevant. The video I posted on Monday is a prime example. However, most churches do somethings right as well.

Sure, many of the churches McCraken references may spend too much time talking about sex in order to attract a younger audience, but the culture needs to see a biblical model of sex presented – one that presents it as a wonderful gift from God for our enjoyment within the limitations He placed on it for our benefit.

Does it raise issues when churches meet in clubs and bars? Obviously it does, but perhaps the same could be said of early churches that met in homes. Not to mention the fact that many people have open hostility toward churches and may be more likely to visit a church (and hear the Gospel) if it met in a different location.

I’m not saying that all of what McCraken is arguing is wrong. In much of it, I can find agreement. However, he speaks of all of these attempts at cultural relevance being exactly what young adults don’t want, yet most, if not all, of the churches he references are led by fairly young adults. Most of them also have fairly large congregations of people who were previously unchurched. So somewhere they are doing something right.

If McCraken really wanted to make a positive difference for the church, he could show ways that churches can “be real” or give examples of churches who are doing it right. One of the easiest things to do is sit back and criticize. It takes no real effort and you can pat yourself on the back for “speaking the truth.” Never-satisfied Christianity often becomes lazy Christianity and only very rarely moves to On-mission Christianity. That’s where we all need to be.

2 Comments

  1. There can be some good things about cultural relativism in the church, but I think at it’s core there are any problems. My church growth teacher said this, “Whatever you do to get people into church, you have to continue to keep them there.” My personal opinion is that individuals do not take their faith seriously (which leads me to doubt the sincerity of their faith) and do not live it out. The fact that we have churches doing things like you posted Monday kind of proves my point. Christ pointed to loving each other and the world as the best method for reaching people. There is so much to be said here, but I will leave it at this.

  2. I love what Ed Stetzer said. Cultural relevance is a tool, not the goal. The goal is the Gospel. Communicate in an effective manner for your culture. But make the Gospel the centerpiece, not your communication.

    I think this is a problem both for trendy and traditional churches. Both are too obsessed with the methodology instead of the Message. Traditional churches can elevate an older method. Trendy churches can elevate a new method.

    You are definitely right that loving each other, loving the lost and loving Jesus is the real key to the whole thing. Somehow it’s always about love. 😉 The question just becomes how exactly do we do that in our situation. It will look differently in Blacksburg, than it does in New York, than it does in London, than it does in the African safari, than it does in the Indonesia jungles. None of them are right or wrong, as long as the Bible is the foundation, Christ is the focus and love is the action.

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Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.