Grown-up Church

ranch-1983If everything I know about church was learned in youth group, I’d be inclined to think that:

  • Church should be a good mix of games, singing, a short devotion, and pizza.
  • Accountability is meeting with a “grownup” who asks me if I’ve been reading my Bible.
  • Socially, it’s easier to be a big fish in the “small pond” of church.
  • All the hype is to get me in the door. This all happens for me.
  • Discipleship happens through events and programs- Camp, Mission Trip, Lock-ins, Disciple Now Weekends.
  • Spiritual maturity is measured in terms of event attendance.
  • The space in which we meet is very important.
  • Evangelism means inviting my unbelieving “friends” to church.
  • Missions is backyard Bible clubs with poor kids one week every summer.

I’m not against youth ministry. But I suspect a generation (or two!) of pastors and church leaders who are products of youth group have heavily influenced the way church is done. So we’ve traded “pizza, games, singing and a short devotion” with, well, “donuts, drama, singing and a slightly longer devotion.” But the idea is the same- events, programs, attraction, and t-shirts are not what church is about.

We need to grow up.

Grown up doesn’t mean boring. It’s not the opposite of attractive. Grown-up church is unabashedly intrusive. It’s boldly personal. It’s radically Christ-centric. It fills in the gaps between “mountaintop experiences.” It replaces accountability groups with discipling relationships. It moves beyond “lend a helping hand” mission trips to entire churches taking spiritual accountability for unbelieving people groups. Grown-up church survives economic recession, moral failure on the part of the leadership, tragedy, marginalization, and persecution.

Is your church growing? Is it growing up?

About E. Goodman

Ernest Goodman is a missiologist, writer, teacher, and communications strategist.