Date: Friday, March 15, 2013
Lecture: Reversing the Juvenilization of American Christianity: Fostering Spiritual Maturity in Congregations
Also enjoy this slide show of the event!
Thomas Bergler, author of The Juvenilization of American Christianity, lectures reversing the juvenilization of American Christianity.
Bergler described the changes that led to the juvenilization of Christianity in America primarily finding its roots in the 1940s. Post World War II teenagers ceased desiring adulthood a national "Peter Pan Syndrome" ensued. Of course, this syndrome existed prior to the 1940's as early as the late 1700's. However, it was in the 1940's that culture encouraged this "syndrome" on a wide scale. As a result, there was a lowered expectation for adulthood and even a disdain for it.
Christianity was not immune to this shift concerning adulthood. Out of a good desire to reach unbelievers, Christianity began taking on the form of culture, indirectly encouraging adolescence in one's faith, an over emphasis on emotionalism, and reducing Jesus to a romantic lover. All of this change birthed an entire generation that tended to not regard spiritual maturity as something obtainable and fostered theological naivety.
Juvenillization will always be here, but Bergler gave us some helpful tips on how to reverse it. Firstly, the goal of the Church must be to foster spiritual maturity. The Church is to strip away programs and ideals that do not contribute to this goal. Secondly, because the goal of the Church is to teach spiritual maturity, the church must be careful in its language of God and spirituality. If there is not congruence between the Church's goal and its informal teaching, confusion will continue.
Sound interesting? Please listen to our lecture above for more info on what Bergler taught us!
Thomas E. Bergler is Professor of Ministry and Missions at Huntington University where he has been equipping youth ministers for twelve years. He serves as Senior Associate Editor of The Journal of Youth Ministry and is the author of The Juvenilization of American Christianity (Eerdmans, 2012). He earned a Ph.D in American Religious History from the University of Notre Dame. Prior to his academic career, he served as a staff worker for University Christian Outreach, an ecumenical Christian student ministry.