Leprechauns, Unicorns, and “Good Kids” : My Angry Rant!!!

Before I get all “ranty” let’s consider the following:

What would things look  like if Satan really took control of a city? Over half a century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio.  Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia (the city where Barnhouse pastored), all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and the pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other.  There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sit” and “no ma’am,”and the churches would be full every Sunday…where Christ is not preached. [see note]

Now wait a minute Joel! You mean to tell me that if Satan was in control of a city, people would be nice to each other, and maybe even uphold good moral practices?

It’s completely possible Mr./Mrs. hypothetical blog reader!  And how is this possible you might ask?  Because “good behavior” can side track us away from the gospel or worse yet, make us indifferent to the gospel!  Satan doesn’t experience defeat when people do “good” things in and of themselves.  His defeat was accomplished in the  death and resurrection of Jesus and is reconfirmed whenever that death and resurrection truth takes hold of a person’s heart leading to one putting their trust in Christ and not in their own good works. THAT’S GOOD NEWS!

Enter the Rant:

I am convinced that good behavior preaching and teaching is winning out in many of our American churches which includes the ministries many of our children are a part of.  Our children’s and youth ministry programs often focus on turning out “nice Christian kids,” but fewer and fewer of them focus on clear proclamation of the gospel, or on equipping  children and teens to understand how the gospel speaks to all facets of their life (vocation, family, education, etc.).  Far too many of our young people are coming out of youth groups after years of church involvement biblically illiterate, and lacking what I will call “gospel fluency.” Moreover, as recent studies have concluded, the majority of kids exiting evangelical youth programs are Moralistic Therapeutic Deists (MTD hereafter).  The MTD understanding of the Christian faith basically asserts that: 1) God wants me to be a good person. 2) God wants me to be happy. 3) God isn’t ever present in the daily affairs of people.  He is conveniently distant.

What is lacking here (among other things) is any sense of the Christian faith being a call to die to self (Mt. 10:38-39) and be reborn in Jesus Christ (Jn 3:3; 2Cor 5:17).  Furthermore, there is little understanding of a Christ who is imminent or all consumingly  near us.  And with a lackluster MTD faith, no wonder so many of our young people are compelled to simply drift away from a faith community once they set out on their own.  Teaching kids to simply be good won’t keep them growing in their faith.  The gospel, once planted in the heart of a child or teen, stands to bring them before God, to put their trust in Christ, and THEN through the sacrifice of a changed heart, live lives that demonstrate holy and sanctified living.


Does any of this MTD conversation resonate with you either as a parent or young person?  What is the focus of the teaching and discipleship training your children receive?  Are you worried that your kids or friends will walk away from the faith as they enter adulthood?

NOTE: Taken from Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008), 15.


3 thoughts on “Leprechauns, Unicorns, and “Good Kids” : My Angry Rant!!!

  1. Your 7/2 blog hit home. As a father of 4 young “good” kids, I struggle with the concern that am I giving them the scriptural guidance to help mold them into great christians. As I send them to Awanas, VBS and sunday school; I ask myself – am I leaving it all up to the “teachers” and not a primary source of their knowledge? I would compare to our modern day education, parents drop them at the school doors and expect scholars to walk out of them without parental involvement. But here is my true question: How do I instruct my children (ages 3,5,7 & 9) through scripture and intrigue their interest and involvement? The children Bible editions tend to be “fluffy” which lead to questiona of validity later and possible doubt (personal experience).

    • My concerns mirror yours closely. There’s a lot of “spiritual outsourcing” going on when it comes to raising our kids, but I think a lot of it has to do with parents not having confidence in their own ability to communicate a truly biblical faith to their family. At the risk of sounding simplistic, the key to proper instruction of our children is the ability proclaim the gospel in almost any life situation i.e “gospel fluency”. A quick example of this might include a situation similar to what my friend Matt experienced last week with his four year old son. He took is son to swimming lessons with the instructions that if he was a good listener and did was the instructor told him to do there would be a strawberry smoothie waiting for him at Starbucks. Swimming lessons didn’t go so well and so Matt told his son there would be no smoothie. Matt goes to Starbucks to get a coffee and as he’s checking out what should slide across the counter but a free smoothie from the well-intentioned barista. Matt is ticked at his kids behavior and he’s sort of strangely ticked at the barista, but then he hears this small voice inside tell him, “Matt, I give you what you don’t deserve all the time.” So he sits down with his son and explains the notion of grace or getting that which we do not deserve. He explained the gospel to his son in the midst of an everyday situation and will continue to do so in the coming years. This is the sort of “skill” I’m looking to develop in my own life and in the lives of others as a bible teacher.

      • I could not have received a better answer; simplistic and straight to the point. Gospel Fluency – I am going to work at this. Thank you for your quick reply. I will be following your blog closely as I have already found it enriching. God bless.

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