MTD – Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. I believe this article, the second of four about the current state of youth ministry today, is right on target. (click here for the full article at Gospel Coalition) Brian Cosby recognizes that the Bible is not to be taught as a guide for being more moral in our society, but the redemptive hope for our souls found in the Gospel!
“That a youth ministry “teaches the Bible” does not necessarily mean it teaches the gospel. Many mistake the gospel with moralism—being a good person, reading your Bible, or opening the door for the elderly in order to earn God’s favor. But the gospel is altogether different.”
Most teenagers are skipping (sometimes fumbling) through life without deeply thinking about their worldview framework through which they make assumptions about reality. With an ambiguous and often contradiction laden framework, many teens can still coast through Student Ministry without challenging these beliefs!
“According to sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, most American teenagers believe in something dubbed “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” (MTD). Within this MTD “religion,” God is a cosmic therapist and divine butler, ready to help out when needed. He exists but really isn’t a part of our lives. We are supposed to be “good people,” but each person must find what’s right for him or her. Good people will go to heaven, and we shouldn’t be stifled by organized religion where somebody tells us what we should do or what we should believe.”
And this problem is not just in the realm of our student ministries, but it filters into the church at large!
“Moralistic Therapeutic Deism has little to do with God or a sense of divine mission in the world. It offers comfort, bolsters self-esteem, helps solve problems, and lubricates interpersonal relationships by encouraging people to do good, feel good, and keep God at arm’s length. When this self-help theology is combined with a sola-boot-strapia sermon from TBN, we start having teens singing, “God Is Watching Us from a Distance” while—at the same time—wondering why Jesus isn’t fixing their parents’ marriage or their problems with cutting. MTD isn’t just the problem of youth ministry; it’s the problem of the church. And American Christianity has become a “generous host” to this low-commitment, entertainment-driven model of youth ministry.”
I love this quote. It hammers home that our theology should drive our methodology! Not the other way around! Always keep this in mind student pastors.
“While our theology of the gospel should inform our method, the American church—to a large extent—has practiced just the reverse. The question on many youth leaders’ minds is, “How do we get bored teenagers into the church?” The question should be, “How are we to faithfully plant and water the gospel of Jesus Christ for his glory and our joy in him?”
This article ends with hope for the church. That hope rests in Jesus Himself. Jesus will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it! So we trust Him. We seek Him. We focus our ministries on Him!
I applaud Brian Cosby in this informative and challenging reminder of the dangers this generation and our churches are facing. May we stand in the gap with a tenacious focus on the Gospel!
Your fellow worker in the field, Adam