“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” (Hebrews 5:12–13)
If someone were to call you or your youth age son or daughter a “child,” you would be understandably insulted. Yet, since the 1930’s, the age of adolescence has steadily increased. Young adults are waiting longer than ever for marriage and continue to delay their entry into the workforce. Researchers discovered that these factors and others have resulted in the juvenilization of America even Christianity.
Thomas Bergler in his book, The Juvenilization of American Christianity- We Are All Adolescents Now, is perhaps one of the first to sort through and communicate much of the research on the topic within the church. To summarize: Changes in the labor market (increase in white collar and industrial jobs) during the 1930’s resulted in the establishment of public high schools to educate a growing number of teens, who were no longer employed in agriculture and family business, as a way to prepare them for new vocations. As this happened, there was great concern about how to reach and mobilize the group that became known as “teenagers” or “youth.” The American church sought to entertain them and appeal to their self-esteem, hoping to attract them to Christianity. It met with initial numerical success, but eventually resulted in spiritual immaturity, consumerism and self-centeredness. An even greater problem resulted when this population, and those that followed in their footsteps, aged. Much of the church in America today, not surprisingly, has become conditioned to a church model that seems more like youth group or campus ministry.
Thankfully, it appears that the tide is turning, and it’s our youth and young adults who are leading the way. Newer research indicates that youth and college students are tired of being entertained (they find entertainment everywhere) and are becoming bored with postmodern culture. They are beginning to search for something more significant and real. All of this bodes well for American Christianity, and perhaps our country as a whole. 19 year old twins, Brett and Alex Harris, wrote the book, Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations. They and many others are combatting the idea that adolescence is a vacation from responsibility and see the teen and college years as a unique time to equip themselves for navigating life and making a difference in world. That sounds a lot like Hebrews 5:12-13.
Let’s not live like spiritual children, continuing to drink milk when we should be eating solid food. Let’s strive on, do hard things, and turn back the tide in our own lives, the lives of our children and the lives of others within our church. Our church is offering over a dozen Christian education classes this fall. There is literally a class for everyone, no matter the age or level of spiritual maturity. Each of these classes may not necessarily be entertaining, but they will challenge you and help to grow you into the full measure of Christ. Please pray and consider not if, but how you will make such a commitment in the next couple of weeks. I promise you it will be well worth the investment.