Friday, August 2, 2013

The Importance of Teaching Discipleship in Christ

Two recent articles spotlighted the rise of atheism among young adults.The Fixed Point Foundation conducted a study of college students who identified as atheists, seeking to determine what had caused that decision. Interestingly the majority grew up with exposure the Christianity and church. Common to their explanations was that the message of their church and of Christianity was vague, not convicting, and certainly not life-changing:

“These students heard plenty of messages encouraging ‘social justice,’ community involvement, and ‘being good,’ but they seldom saw the relationship between that message, Jesus Christ, and the Bible. Listen to Stephanie, a student at Northwestern: ‘The connection between Jesus and a person’s life was not clear.’ This is an incisive critique. She seems to have intuitively understood that the church does not exist simply to address social ills, but to proclaim the teachings of its founder, Jesus Christ, and their relevance to the world. Since Stephanie did not see that connection, she saw little incentive to stay. We would hear this again.   -From:  Listening to Young Atheists by Leroy Huizenga  See the full article here:

In other words, their churches failed to equip and provide the opportunity to become engaged and alive disciples of Christ in His Church. Contrast the above sentiment with the following quote from “Holiness Revolution” by Dan Dematte. Dan had a similar experience growing up, but by God’s Grace,experienced a dramatic conversion to Christ and His Church as a young adult. That call included a profound call to discipleship.

“When you think of Jesus, are you floored?  Are you amazed like the early disciples?  Is he the kind of guy you would drop everything for and follow?  Probably not…..I learned that Jesus was a person who teaches us to be nice and to share our toys with our friends.  As I grew up, the misconceptions continued. It seemed like the only doctrines I ever learned were that God wants people to be good, tolerant, and fair to each other and that the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.  God was needed in one’s life only when there were problems to be fixed….Ultimately, my ideas of Christ was that of a happy, smiley man who went around telling us to be nice to people.  While of course Jesus calls us to love others, he does more than tell us to be nice.  Nice people often are too afraid to defend truth.  Nice people are too afraid to stick up when injustice is being done.  Jesus calls us to love, but love is not always nice. “ –pp. 53-54 Holiness Revolution by Dan Dematte

Cardinal Timothy Dolan once said, “young people will follow a person, they will not follow a question mark.”When the message is vague or weak, is it any wonder our young adults are not inspired to follow? Contrast that to the person of Christ and the radical discipleship He calls us too, which involves the total laying down of our lives in His service and friendship, and watch the young people respond. Let’s imagine via the Pastoral Letter and envision what this can look like in our parishes: “What if our youth and young adult ministries were true ‘schools of training in discipleship?’ What if youth and young adults are the leaven of the Lord challenging all of us to live lives of authentic faith and heroic virtue? What if youth and young adults are so filled with zeal for the Lord that they become primary evangelizers…? ”Parishes: Called to be Holy, Fully Engaged, Fully Alive.

This is the goal, this is the opportunity, this is what must happen. 

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