The butterfly effect is a term used in Chaos Theory to describe how tiny variations can affect giant systems, and complex systems, like weather patterns. For example, it is said that a butterfly flapping its wings in a jungle in Brazil can cause a tornado in Texas.
A couple of years ago we leavened up the unleavened bread of Christianity. A little nip here and a tuck there. We created a brand of Hip and Cool Christianity not only smooth but market savvy. Relevant. We used reproducible and successful entrepreneurial church growth models to bring as many people into the church complexes as possible.
However, if the recent trend of events is anything to go by, it seems God has gone on a hiatus and left the youths playing peekaboo in the night. Recent statistics show that there is an increasing exodus of young people from churches, especially after they leave home and live on their own. In a 2007 study, Lifeway Research determined that 70% of young Protestant adults between 18-22 stop attending church regularly. Some critics have attributed this yo-yo effect to the perils of hipster Christianity. In our bid to make Christianity cool and relevant, could we have tampered with a vital ingredient and created our own ‘butterfly effect’?
The blame game seems to be going in a vicious cycle. The pastors blame the parents for being lazy and not supportive enough of the programmes, while the parents blame the pastors not being relevant and engaging enough. What the two groups don’t realise is that youth pastors have actually been working overtime like hamsters on steroids running a never ending entertainment tread mill.
“Bye-bye church. We’re busy.” That’s the message teens are giving churches today.
Only about one in four teens now participate in church youth groups, considered the hallmark of involvement; numbers have been flat since 1999. Other measures of religiosity — prayer, Bible reading and going to church — lag as well, according to Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif., evangelical research company. This all has churches canceling their summer teen camps and youth pastors looking worriedly toward the fall, when school-year youth groups kick in.
“I started to question if it was something I always wanted to do or if I just went because my friends did,” says Atkeson, now 18. “It just wasn’t really something I wanted to continue to do. My beliefs changed. I wouldn’t consider myself a Christian anymore.” –USA Today
In the name of style and finesse we have abandoned substance. In a bid to become relevant and hip we have diluted the gospel. A diluted gospel is a different gospel. No wonder we have hundreds of thousands of deluded young people like Atkeson who are innoculated against the gospel. They feel they have been there, tried that and it didn’t work out. Did they ever know the Lord? Or hear about sin, righteousness and judgement? How could they if they were busy running around the church complex playing endless games and having pizza parties?
Isn’t it a moral and spiritual impossibility for a person to come to Christ apart from the Father’s drawing? It’s time to forget the pizza parties and return to teaching sound doctrine and theology on God’s sovereignty and grace. Back to preaching sin, righteousness and judgement. If we want to see a genuine hunger for things of God in the young people again, we must preach the gospel in truth and boldness. And who knows, God might just visit us again -and start a butterfly effect. A revival.