I opened up my Bible this morning, spending a little time in God’s Word and prayer before I started my day. Honestly it felt dry and monotonous. I was not struck by some amazing nugget of Biblical truth, I didn’t hear the voice of God crash into my bedroom, and I wasn’t moved to tears by the music I was listening to as I got ready to start my day.
When mornings like this happen, I am caught off guard by how prone I am to feeling like something is wrong since it was an uneventful morning in God’s Word. It causes me to question why in the world I would feel disappointed after a morning in intimacy with the Lord.
It all comes back in my opinion to the sensationalism that is blowing up in the Southern Baptist world.
I have seen firsthand a church that did a series through the sermon on the mount entitled “That’s What He Said”. I was aghast only to discover that they had just concluded a series through the life of David entitled “Game of Thrones” with the very graphics used to advertise the show being used to advertise the sermon series. Separate the fact that GOT is horrendously pornographic (just check out VidAngel filters for how much this is shown in seemingly every episode), and this is still an attempt to make the Scriptures exciting for people.
I have seen a church that had a Star Wars themed Christmas series, complete with dancing stormtroopers on stage on Christmas Day. I have seen a church with youth group announcements that say literally nothing about Jesus, God, Scripture, or discipleship when advertising for Sunday morning activities. I’ve seen churches that advertise their youth camp on their church website with all of the above topics being absent. Youth camp being spoken about without discipleship, Jesus, or Scripture being mentioned. I have seen a church that sought to draw people in with a big Super Bowl Sunday service complete with crotch-grabs and obscene jokes.
Again, I totally understand that we should make our church programming appealing to those who don’t have a walk with Christ, but I think there’s a completely different way to do that.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16 
It is not via our advertisements or our hip cultural connections that people are going to find lasting faith. They will find it in churches that live out their commitment to God, each other, and the community they find themselves in. We are woefully bad at this in some ways, and due to this, churches are having to sensationalize their activities every week in order to make up for the fact that the church isn’t committed to holiness or service.
Right now I’ve been taking the youth group I shepherd through the book of 1 Thessalonians, verse by verse. One thing that has become clear to me in my studies and that I’ve desired to communicate to my students is that the Thessalonian church was known everywhere throughout that region for their faith, hope, and love. They were known not for their hip cultural references, but for their faith. They were known not for having the fanciest church service in town that keeps you on the edge of your seat, but for their hope. They were known not for amazing emotional services, but instead for their love.
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. – 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 
The church was known for its commitment to the gospel message and for turning from idols. Man that gets my heart racing.
There is a better way. My heart hurts when I come to this realization that because we as the church aren’t being the church that we instead have to sensationalize everything because we think that’s the only way people will come.
Here’s what is dangerous about this. People come to our churches and experience sensationalized services, but then their devotional experiences are dry. They doubt their faith and then as adults even leave their faith because in our entertainment-saturated world they can’t find a church community that does just that. If they remain in church, they have church backwards. They go to be served and entertained instead of to serve. You know what is generally missing in this case, confession and repentance. There is not room for these historic Christian practices because there’s nothing less entertaining then admitting our sin to our small group, etc.
I grew up in a church that had dozens of high school students involved, and I can count on two hands the number of them that are still walking faithfully with the Lord. We’ve got to be pushing for something deeper than the sensationalism that characterizes the Southern Baptist church.
I see a generation rising up now that is abandoning the historic beliefs of the Christian faith. Instead they are wanting to do Christianity without any of the dying to yourself, church without the commitment, relationship with God without the call to holiness. The sensationalism of their youth has led them to want to be ‘authentic’ Christians who play around with sin instead of killing it. We need changes in the Southern Baptist church.
Two things bring me great encouragement however.
One, I have been tempted to play the sensationalism game. There are times I wish my youth ministry was more ‘relevant’. We have pop-sockets and fun games, but it’s not the most exciting place in the world. I’ve doubted the passion for the gospel that God has placed in me, I’ve wanted to downplay it. Yet I have felt like I must remain committed to what God has called me to, and it has been amazing to see how God has moved. Through the teaching of God’s Word and the care of volunteers, three students have put their faith in Jesus and five more have asked to be baptized in just the last six weeks alone.
Two, I have watched as former spiritual leaders of mine have planted a church in SLC where the gospel is proclaimed and people are coming to know the Lord via a church community that is fulfilling the call of Scripture. My heart is overwhelmingly encouraged that God is moving in such a way.
I am passionate about this because I’ve seen its affects in me. There is nothing sinful about being hip and relevant, I just caution us against it and question its ability to make lasting disciples of Jesus.
Thank you for hearing my ramblings.
You can find my personal blog at nathanpatrickroach.blog.com 
In His Name,
Nate Roach