Are we slitting the wrists of our faith?

Kara Powell | Jan 15, 2014

Photo by lauren rushing.

It’s a provocative question asked by my friend, Chuck Bomar, in his new book, Losing Your Religion. As Chuck explains,

I have a growing concern that more and more people who call themselves Christians are unintentionally slitting the wrist of their faith. In a pursuit to be faithful, they try to will themselves into embracing habits and routines and disciplines they believe will cause them to be a “better Christian”. Although this seems like the right thing to do and seems to be the norm for our culture, it’s actually suicidal.

Yikes. Strong language, to be sure. I’ll excerpt from Chuck’s book so he can explain what he means:

“Far too many people think Christianity is simply about agreeing with a certain set of doctrinal points and modifying their behavior or managing their sin to be a better person.”

“This creates a religion God never intended. I usually refer to this as ‘Churchianity,’ and I believe this is precisely what happens in far too many church contexts.”

Speaking more directly to youth leaders, Chuck writes:

For example, youth leaders teach kids that they shouldn’t have sex before marriage, or they shouldn’t lie or steal; and they point to Scripture that speaks of these things. These are great lessons to teach kids, but we cannot miss a critical distinction…

The Scriptures never put these types of behavior standards out from a place of sin management like we tend to teach them. Rather, the Scriptures always speak of such things as an authentic expression of a transformed identity in Christ. God-honoring conduct is always the result of an inward faith working itself out. Not vice versa.

“Not vice versa”.

That’s a phrase Chuck uses a lot. He also writes, “The good news Jesus offered was that He invites us into His life. Not vice versa”.

Chuck points out one of the themes in our Sticky Faith research: we’ve made faith about what WE do, not what God DOES.

Chuck points out that even by inviting students to “pray” to be a Christian, we are making their first step of faith an action that they do. (I’m not sure I agree with him, but it’s an interesting illustration of how we unwittingly invite students into behaviors that shape their view of faith.)

So how do we get out of this trap? We’ll look at Chuck’s insights in our next blog post. Here’s a bit of foreshadowing: I was reminded while reading Chuck’s book about how I blew it with my two daughters yesterday.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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