Earlier today I wrote, “Evangelical Christianity has a problem.”
Just now, I returned from attending the second half of the youth service that my wife and step-son’s preferred church puts on. I missed the games and whatever they do for the first hour. This means I arrived when the sermon began. Then it was small group time.
Twenty minutes is all they allot for the smaller groups time.
I’ve been to this church several times, and have been to a few of its members homes. And we sent A- to the youth camp two years ago etc.
I would never join the church, however, because it’s a “one church, many campuses” place that makes you watch a screen for the pre-recorded sermon.
Think of it. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. Visual Illusion.
One of these things isn’t like the others.
During small group time, the two adults (one is a paid, full-time youth pastor who I’ve spoken with at length and texted and talked to occasionally) were teaching the 7th and 8th graders (one of whom was dressed in full Spiderman costume, gloves and all) about not drawing lines when it comes to lust/pornography. As in, do not say, “I’ll go this far—and no farther.” Instead, the lesson was, “whatever is pure…think on these things”.
No problem with the lesson.
But the boys were not getting it.
The way the leaders, sermon guy and two in my group, spoke, barely anyone could’ve discerned what the heck they were saying. They were so general in their vocabulary that it was hard even for me to know what was going on. I wondered, “Were they instructed to never get specific? If so, that’s odd. But it fits these type of churches. Never actually offensive.”
Anyhow, the point is, the boys were saying things that didn’t fit at all and the adults were never correcting the boys or even seeming to care that the lesson was failing.
Finally, after 17 min, I said, “I’m not sure you guys get the line thing. Will one of you explain it? Can someone give me a specific example?”
Peter Parker spoke up, “It’s like you shouldn’t drink alcohol or do drugs.”
Before anyone could respond, the unpaid teacher actually answered me.
I was shocked. Not only did I not doubt that he knew the answer, I clearly didn’t ask him. And the protectionism he demonstrated was wholly inappropriate. I obviously was trying to help teach the boys what they, the teachers, wanted to teach the boys.
I repeated the question, albeit more specific, “What’s like a rule you have in your life right now?”
A boy spoke up, “Don’t watch bad tv.”
“Good,” I said. “Now what’s the very easiest way to make sure that you never, I mean never ever, see bad tv?”
“Read a book,” he answered.
“Perfect. That’s perfect. The line would be ‘watch only good tv’ but the better thing, if you never wanted to watch bad tv, would be to never watch tv period.”
Then the boys took over with other examples and the paid guy fed off the improved mood and everything came to a close.
Skip to the end…
The paid guy approached me and said, “Hey, so I just want to honor our leadership here and let you know that you need to wear a guest badge next time. You know, just so folks know you’re a parent.”
“And,” he continued, “This comes from the heart, but we want parents to come and see what we’re teaching the kids, but you can’t talk. I mean, I loved what you said tonight and how it helped the conversation, but, again, I need to honor our leadership too and so you just need to know that you can’t talk next time.”
Boy Scouts really ruined me, I think.
In Boy Scouts, the adults taught skills. Like lighting a fire. We learned fire needed three things, blah blah blah.
All the adults either helped teach or were too embarrassed to help as they didn’t know what they were doing and not helping light a fire would result in no fire, so they just sat back and watched rather than shame themselves.
Can you imagine it? Many adults helping towards one goal?
Tonight, if the youth leaders wanted to teach the boys to light a fire, the analogy would work out as follows.
“Boys, here’s a match box. Take it. That’s right, there’s enough that every one gets one. Everyone have theirs? Good. Now you take a match and then strike it on the side and the match grows a flame. Your turn. Try it.”
And then one boy says, “This box sounds cool when you shake it.”
And another rejoins, “Yeah. Like moccasins.”
The teacher corrects, “You mean maracas.”
“That’s what I said. Maracas.”
All the while, the boys are all shaking a box of matches. But no fire is lit. No matches leave the boxes. No boys strikes up a match into a flame.
And the teachers just keep gently “handling” the ignorance.
Then I say, “Boys. Will one of you take out a match from your box?”
“I’ll do it!”
“Thank you. Now will you strike it on the side of the box and make a flame?”
(Shhhh sparkle flame)!!
The boys say, “Oooo. Ahhh. Can I try?”
Then, after the dismissal, the leader says to me, “Silence!!”
Tracking, dear reader?
Maybe I’m too old. Maybe I’m too eccentric. Maybe I have too much baggage.
I just have never been to so many organizations which have such lousy teachers as the Evangelical churches I have attended of late.
It’s not like I taught something different. I merely helped focus the lesson they wanted the boys to learn. In my opinion, I should get a medal for what I did tonight.
Evangelical Christianity has a problem.