I’ve been reading a book called Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon. Co-authors David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock spend quite a bit of time describing the “digital Babylon” we currently live in. Our new reality is one in which transformative experiences have been replaced with “brand experiences.”
In this world, algorithms often define our faith, versus a reality not long ago where experiences such as rallies, conventions, and large gatherings provided the potential for faith-forming transformation. Our identities are interlinked with our “personal brand.”
Those of us who lived in the pre-digital era often refer to it as the “good old days.” We ask, “Why can’t we just do that again?”
Times have changed. The world has changed. So then we are tasked with wondering “How do we adapt, since we can’t go back?”
One line from the book has been especially percolating in my head and heart: “The church has responded to the identity pressures of our culture by offering young people a Jesus ‘brand experience’ rather than facilitating a transformational experience to find their identity in the person and work of Jesus Christ.”
That leads me to wonder whether the church has defaulted to expecting too little of Christian believers. The church can be one of the least demanding environments for young people especially. We are happy if they just show up to the Sunday service or youth group. But what if Christian youth are more willing to be challenged than the church is willing to challenge them?
In the Growing Young research from Fuller Youth Institute, the third essential strategy to help young people discover and love your church is to take the message of Jesus seriously.
In Growing Young, Adam (age 26) says, “Yeah, I think the goal for our church is not really effectiveness with young people but serving and following Jesus. And young people like me are attracted to churches that want to do that.”
But that’s hard work, isn’t it? Luke 9:23 says, “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’”
What? If what Adam and Jesus are saying is the truth, what needs to change?
Is denying ourselves and following Jesus the model we teach and lead with in our contexts?
If not, what model are we using? What are you seeing in your digital Babylon world?