What’s Wrong With the Selfie Culture?

skyscapperIt turns out our brains like ‘likes’. When someone likes our photos, videos, or blogs, the reward center in our brain get a boost. Serotonin levels go up; we feel good; and then, we begin to engage in patterns and start doing things that keep those likes coming.

Viki Odintcova is no exception. The Russian model has gained approximately 3.3 million followers on Instagram by posting a whole host of provocative photos. And her desire to continue to amass followers and approval continues to drive decisions and  her lifestyle. They are pushing to her crazier and crazier  heights. Her most recent photo and video posts crossed a line, earning a strong rebuke from the nation of Dubai (the location of her latest stunt).

Yet the line she crossed was not the one of decency. She did not accidentally reveal the swimsuit parts of her body. No, she hung out of a window located on the 73 floor of a Dubai skyscraper. And what makes the pictures even more crazy and like worthy is that Viki was supported only by her assistant. She had no harness, ropes, or safety lines. She was suspended over 500 feet by a single hand. A slip or a missed step, and Viki would have lost everything. And still she proceeded to dangle her life in an effort to win the approval of millions of people whose only connection was a insignificant click.

And I fear that Viki is not alone. Over 25% of millennials, (our current college students and young adults) expect to be famous by the time they are 30. They believe that they are noteworthy, smart, and full of good ideas. In short, the problem with our young people and the problem that drove Niki to hang off of a skyscraper are not ultimately technological. They are theological. Increasingly, our culture as Barna notes is being revolutionized by the worship of self.

Young people are increasingly seeing themselves as the best judge of the world and others. They have also decided that they are sufficient. They can find the answers to their greatest needs, problems, and challenges from within. They have the power to keep the reward center in their brain humming along. Consequently, Viki hung off the side of the building because she concluded this was the best way to find joy, fulfillment, and happiness. And, she was willing to rick everything, her beauty, her human dignity, and her very life to get it.

3d4009e400000578-4227818-image-m-4_1487172760459The way to prevent future Viki’s is not to fight back against the smart phone. Rather, we need to challenge the theological framework that is driving the culture of self.  We need to share the beauty of Christ. We need to help our youth to see that a life motivated from within leads not to happiness but to misery, enslavement, and death. And in some cases as Viki has shown that death may not be far away.

And then, we need to highlight the glories of Christ. We need to teach that the truest life is found outside ourselves. It is found in a relationship with the God of the universe that is possible because his son has already died for all our sin.

As John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Jesus is the solution to the millennial quest for greatness. And if our young people do not grasp this, we can expect that Viki will not be alone. For the false religion of self, that dominates pop culture will do just what Jesus said it would do. It “will kill and destroy.”

What’s Our Kids’ Ministry Looking At?

Every painting, pencil sketch, and sculpture is a representation of something else. Even the most abstract painting composed of crazy shapes is still bound by the definitions of colors and the reality of lines, angles, and weight. Art always represents some aspect of the tangible world. And the meaning of that art work is derived through the artists from the object. The subject of the paintingpainting has a great bearing on the final result.

In much the same way, the subject of our kids’ ministry will determine what our kids’ ministry will look like. If we begin with kids, our ministry will be kid focused. We will have amazing games, crazy worship times, and adventurous summer camps. We will do anything and everything to get more kids into our church. You can almost hear the chant now, “Kids, kids, kids!”

And while I desperately want families to be returned to their place of biblical prominence within the church, I think focusing on kids will actually harm the church. If we focus on kids, we most likely will win many of them to our church. But will we win many of them to our Lord Jesus Christ?

In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul says that, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,” Later on, Paul says that unregenerate people see the gospel as a ‘stumbling block’ and ‘foolishness'(v.23). Unredeemed kids are not going to like church. They are going to find it boring. They are going to think that the gospel is an imposition to their T.V. schedule, to their social media life, and to their sports’ career.  I have had kids tell me that, “I don’t like church” and complain that church is “lame.” And I do not think these little guys and gals are the worst sinners ever. I too preferred football and toy soldiers over Sunday school and congregational hymns.

To create a ministry that is focused on these kids, we have to reflecting their attitudes in our ministry. We have to agree that the gospel is boring and begin implementing games and music that lessen the pressures of the gospel conviction. We have to make the ministry about acceptance. We must offer grace without repentance and entertainment without conviction. If we want our kids’ ministry to represent our kids, we will have to embrace a sinners worldview.  

And if we do, we will win over our kids. We will discover that kids prefer a worship service featuring pool noodles over the one where they have sit in the pews with their parents. But we have not won these kids to Jesus. If anything, we have connected with them by saying that, “Jesus is not everything; your self-centered happiness is.”

Instead of focusing on kids, I think kids’ ministries should be focus on Christ. We need to seek to replicate the gospel in our ministries. We do this by simply proclaiming the gospel. We declare with Paul that we want our kids to only know, “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” We teach children the gospel.

Now, I am not saying that best kids’ ministry is a boring kids’ ministry.  Nor do I think we should have our children’s choir members wear robes. (Yes some churches still do that.) We can use newer songs, employ great illustrations, and lead fun crafts. Anything and everything that makes the gospel clearer should be employed. We should become all things to all people, especially our kids. But our ultimate goal is not to make our kids like church. Our ultimate goal is present the gospel, “in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (I Cor. 4b-5).

At the end of the day, we cannot save anyone. I do not care how creative or gifted you or your team is, none of us can open a child’s eyes. Only God can grant repentance that “lead to life” (Acts 11:18). And if we want God to work if we want to see children redeemed while in our kids’ ministries, we must avoid the temptation to employ worldly strategies that appeals to our kids’ sinful desires. We must preach the gospel, trusting God to penetrate the hearts of our kids with the light of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:6).

As with the great painters, our kids’ ministry must have a subject. What is the subject of your kids’ ministry?