The Juvenilization of American Christianity

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The Juvenilization of American Christianity - Thomas E Bergler : Eerdmans

The Juvenilization of American Christianity by Thomas Bergler stands in this tradition by covering informative and unique content, as well as offering a biting critique of American Christianity that youth worker and senior pastor alike must wrestle with. Beginning his discussion of modern youth ministry in the fallout of the Great Depression and buildup to WWII in America, Bergler charts the development of the field in a number of denominations and movements across America, including the Roman Catholic Church, mainline Protestant denominations, the widely successful Youth for Christ movement, and various African-American denominations.

Instead, The Juvenilization of American Christianity emerges in its final chapter as a polemic work. Many cite the explosion over the past decade of young, trendy churches filled with late adolescents who failed to find a place in older, historic churches as evidence that instead of helping American teens mature in their faith, be active in their present churches, and prepare to serve churches following their teenage and collegiate experiences, youth ministries have essentially rewired teens to be unable to worship, experience community, and listen to teaching outside of the high-octane, culturally-saturated youth experience.

At the same time, readers must be careful to not allow an accurate critique become a battle cry for the elimination of age-specific, developmentally sensitive ministries as a whole, but rather for the re-evaluation and intentionality the field desperately needs.

Key Features

There is so much at stake when we think about the very essence of the American church as being adolescent. The Juvenilization of American Christianity is one of the best book titles that I have known. It is best because it is so clever, but also because it is so accurate about the problem that is addressed so well by the book.

It may be difficult for some to think about American Christianity as juvenile because of the role of Christianity in the founding of America and the enormous role that America has played in the global expansion of Christianity.

However, advanced age is not necessarily the same as maturity. Bergler explains how he understands American Christianity going from maturity to immaturity. In From Here to Maturity another great book title , Bergler explains how he thinks we can overcome the juvenilization of American Christianity. The significance of the issue is made very clear at the end of the introduction.

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The Juvenilization of American Christianity

Bergler explores in-depth the problem of the juvenilization of American Christianity primarily through four case studies that are interwoven through the book. The four case studies are:. The bulk of the book is a somewhat historical progression of the juvenilization of American Christianity with evidence drawn from these case studies, but with an emphasis on each of the case studies one-at-a-time.

Who could worry about the long-term impact of youth work on the church when the fate of civilization hung in the balance? But even more of them began to see the institutional church as an impediment to personal fulfillment. First, the faith has become overly identified with emotional comfort.

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And it is only a short step from a personalized, emotionally comforting faith to a self-centered one. Second, far too many Christians are inarticulate, indifferent, or confused about their theological beliefs.

They view theology as an optional extra to faith, and assume that religious beliefs are a matter of personal preference. Many would be uncomfortable with the idea of believing something just because the Bible, the church, or some other religious authority teaches it.

Thomas Bergler Explains Juvenilization

And they are particularly resistant to church teachings that impose behavior restrictions. He wrote another volume to support implementation of the solution. There are many important things for which to praise the tremendous contributions of Bergler in these books.

Beware the juvenilization of American Christianity

For instance, the titles themselves are catchy and provocative. It is much more than a mere preoccupation with Baby Boomers. It is so refreshing to find someone who deals straightforwardly with the concept of spiritual maturity. Bergler treats it as something normal in biblical teaching, not some unattainable goal or process of continuous development.

Spiritual formation gets lots of attention, but often without corresponding attention to spiritual maturity. Paul often writes about building up of the church to maturity, but most dismiss it in terms of any practical definition. The inability of the American church to have clear definitions of spiritual maturity have left even the sincere to flounder and not really know whether they are truly progressing. Bergler roots his analysis is serious lessons from history.

His books are not mere opinion pieces.


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