American Christianity and the crash and burn style of exalting youthful leaders far too early

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast series took a week away from the Mars Hill story and focused on another aspect of what has happened in the last few decades in white American evangelicalism through the story of Joshua Harris. If you are not familiar with I Kissed Dating Goodbye and that saga, it gets explained in the podcast.

The host also has an interview on the podcast with Joshua Harris and it is a good interaction.

I was glad to keep with it, not knowing why this was a bonus episode, because the host is reinforcing a key thought: white American evangelicalism has a celebrity problem. Joshua Harris was 18 when he published I Kissed Dating Goodbye and it sold a million copies. He was immediately embraced in the evangelical culture as a rock stare because that’s what we do. He was folded into a megachurch ministry immediately and mentored through. He was given leadership of a new church plant that itself became large. He was in his 20s with no formal theological education.

Because that is what we do.

We exalt youthful leaders far too early, give them far too much leverage and “voice” and not enough experience, thought, formation, education, or covering. “How can he be wrong when he sells so many books?”

It never occurred to us that answer might be, “Because we’re all suckers!

We are all in need of deep spiritual formation in our lives. We need a journey that is with God and with others and we’re not afraid of long obedience in the same direction. We’re not afraid of the hard moments or seasons. We learn to wait. We learn to trust. We learn to grow.

Why take all that time when we can listen to a podcast series and be done?

As Israel is making the journey away from Egypt in the Book of Exodus, they are given an entirely new paradigm. They have no road map. All they’ve had for more than four centuries is a pagan culture where everyone went to a fixed temple to worship fixed gods who were made by human hands. They were to grovel for favor.

Now, they are being led by a God who grants them HIS presence. He gives them HIS supply. It’s a new call to trust and obedience. So, the Lord leads them by stages. He doesn’t put them in the express lane back to Canaan. He leads them deliberately from one spot in the desert to the next by his actual presence with them and sees of they are learning to trust along the way.

They fight. They complain. They try to stretch the rules. All because it’s just not what they’ve known. They need training. The desert will give it to them.

We need training. We need the desert. We need the formation of the Spirit. We need to be led by stages and quit expecting the express lane service.

Photo by Sébastien Marchand on Unsplash

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