What Would Judas Do? Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and You

The youth ministry world is wrestling through the ramifications of what Christian Smith coined as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

What is MTD?

After interviewing 3,000 teenagers, the authors found that many young people believed in several moral statutes not exclusive to any of the major world religions:

  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Link

Since the original study came out about five years ago, youth workers have been scratching their heads, more research has been done, many books/articles have been written, and essentially we are all just trying to figure out both how we got to this point and how we can rebuild our ministries in ways that combat this.

As a simplest- I have often wondered if MTD in our students may be related to MTD in their youth pastor? In other words, are we even willing to consider that our own relationship with Jesus  (or lack thereof) may be leading students to follow our lead into MTD?

As I look in the mirror I am left to ask myself and my fellow youth workers some difficult questions.

  • Is youth ministry my vocation or is it my calling? (The latter isn’t an independent evaluation)
  • Am I still passionate about my relationship with Jesus?
  • Do I still love and chose to be faithful the Bride of Jesus? (His church, all of it.)
  • Are my actions reflective of my first love? (personalize Revelation 2:1-6)
  • Am I setting expectations in my teaching that are realistic for my students walk with Jesus? (Am I teaching Scripture in a way that is approachable and personal?)
  • Do I consider myself a manager of a program or a minister of the Gospel?
  • Do I still have the passion for lost teenagers that I had when I dedicated my life to this cause in 1993?

Let us look at ourselves with sober judgment and search our hearts; making adjustments and repentance a necessary part of that self-appraisal.

As I minister to students it is always my heart that they pick up my faith.

My fear is that in too many cases they are picking up a faith that is vastly different than the faith we want them to pick up.

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Adam McLane
Adam McLane has served as a full-time or volunteer youth worker since 1996. A resident of San Diego, Adam now manages the online presence for Youth Specialties. Adam blogs about all sorts of technology, missions, and church leadership topics at www.AdamMcLane.com

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