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Turning the tide: As traditional churches see interest wane, upstarts draw in young people

Velocity Church Pastor Justin Jenkins, right, and his wife, Marissa, discuss relationships during a Velocity Church service Sunday, March 10, 2013, at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.

Velocity Church Pastor Justin Jenkins, right, and his wife, Marissa, discuss relationships during a Velocity Church service Sunday, March 10, 2013, at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.

March 18, 2013

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From left, Heather Johnson sings while Jackson Swain and Andrew Shaw, all of Lawrence, play during a Velocity Church service March 10, 2013, at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.

From left, Heather Johnson sings while Jackson Swain and Andrew Shaw, all of Lawrence, play during a Velocity Church service March 10, 2013, at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.

The Rev. Justin Jenkins, right, pastor of Velocity Church, visits with Derock Swaggert, left, and Brysson Rockwell, both of Tampa, Fla., following a Velocity Church service March 10 at Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.

The Rev. Justin Jenkins, right, pastor of Velocity Church, visits with Derock Swaggert, left, and Brysson Rockwell, both of Tampa, Fla., following a Velocity Church service March 10 at Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.

Bars aren’t the only venue downtown where patrons can find dim lights, loud music and 20-somethings swaying rhythmically.

Visit Velocity Church, Greenhouse Culture or Vintage Church on any given Sunday morning and you likely will see a similar scene. These churches offer the Gospel of Christ in what some might call a hipster-friendly setting.

Justin Jenkins, 30, is pastor of Velocity Church, which meets at Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.

Jenkins launched the church with $25,000 from the Association of Related Churches in 2011. He said he hopes to lead people closer to God.

The association provides funds to ministers who want to plant a church in the form of an interest-free loan, association spokesman Guy Walker said. When the new church pays back the loan, the association invests that money into planting another church.

At Velocity, Jenkins is the only paid staff member. He said this keeps costs down and enables the church to give more back to the community.

Last year, on the Sunday before Christmas, Jenkins didn’t collect an offering. Instead, he passed out envelopes filled with $50 bills and told the congregation to take the money and use it to help someone in need.

Jenkins said the church gave away $3,500 that Sunday, about 40 percent of its monthly offering intake at the time.

“The whole point was we want generosity for people. We don’t want generosity from people,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins would not disclose how much the church brings in each month, but he said giving has jumped dramatically in 2013.

‘A church that cares’

Jenkins trained for his ministry career at Rhema Bible Training College, a nonaccredited school in Broken Arrow, Okla.

The Association of Related Churches doesn’t require the pastors it supports to be ordained by a denomination or trained in an accredited seminary.

“There are actually studies today that show that the most successful churches are run by guys who have business degrees instead of seminary degrees,” Walker said.

Like Jenkins, pastors Jared Scholz, 33, and Deacon Godsey, 38, do not have seminary degrees.

Scholz started Greenhouse Culture, which meets in the former Masonic Temple at 10th and Massachusetts Streets, last March.

Godsey became pastor at Vintage Church in 2011. Vintage Church launched eight years ago and meets at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School at 15th and Massachusetts streets.

These three churches located within a mile of each other share a similar style of worship.

Congregants don’t have to wear their Sunday best for services. Jeans, T-shirts and hoodies are welcome. Hymnals and choirs have been replaced by overhead projector screens and praise bands.

Kansas University senior Hunter Finch, 22, said he likes that Vintage has so many people his age at various stages in their faith.

“That’s what attracted me the most to Vintage,” Finch said.

Finch plans to stay in Lawrence after graduation to work with the college ministry at Vintage.

“I’m very fortunate to have found a church that cares so much about me and cares so much about other people,” he said.

Young people in the church

While downtown’s new nondenominational churches have shown growth over the last few years, churches with ties to traditional denominations don’t show as much growth among young adults. 

According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 31 percent of people in the United States who do not affiliate with any religion are age 18 to 29. The study said 40 percent of those who do not affiliate with any religion are age 30 to 49.

“We are all in a decline mode,” said Jay Henderson, pastor at Central United Methodist Church, 1501 Massachusetts St.

The pastors at Velocity, Vintage and Greenhouse Culture said they want to present the Gospel in a way that is relevant to young adults to help curb those trends.

“We are not stereotypical,” Jenkins said.

These pastors said their style of worship sets them apart, while their message of preaching the biblical teachings of Jesus falls in line with many traditional evangelical Protestant churches.

This come-as-you-are approach attracts 20-somethings who otherwise may not attend church services.

Recent KU graduate Carlynn Castle, 22, attended a service at Velocity a few weeks ago. Castle said that she has never been a regular church attender but that she liked the upbeat feel at Velocity.

“I would always dread going to other churches,” Castle said.

Henderson said he wants to learn about the style these churches are using to attract young adults, but he said he believes a more progressive theology is necessary to keep young adults in the church for the long haul.

“Young adults are going to say, ‘I have gay friends and gay family. It doesn’t seem relevant to me, or possible for me, to be a part of a group that says they are going to hell,’” Henderson said. “Ultimately, they are not really being relevant to where young people are today.”

But pastors at Velocity, Vintage and Greenhouse Culture don’t focus on hot-button issues such as homosexuality. 

“At our church, we want to be known for what we are for, not what we are against,” Jenkins said.

Relevant message

Jenkins demonstrated his unorthodox style on March 3 when he challenged the married couples of his congregation to have sex with their spouse once a day for seven consecutive days. He called it the “sexperiment challenge.”

Jenkins preached the sermon with his wife, Marissa. As the overhead projector lifted after praise and worship, a bed surrounded by an entrance gate came out onto the stage.

Jenkins and his wife talked about the areas of a couple’s lives that could keep them from intimacy. As they addressed each “sexcuse,” they pulled back a section from the gate. When all the sections were removed, the couple sat on the bed together and delivered the rest of the sermon.

Father of five Chad Bowen, 47, said he appreciated the message behind the “sexperiment challenge.” “(Sex is) addressed in the media and advertisements,” Bowen said.

Bowen said he likes that Jenkins addresses issues that are relevant to the congregation, such as sex.

“We should not be ashamed to talk about something that God was not ashamed to create,” Jenkins said.

Comments

KansasLiberal 1 year, 4 months ago

It's too bad that people who are smart enough to turn away from traditional churches still aren't smart enough to realize that religion is nothing but a silly superstition.

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fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

The whole problem is the kids still crave the ritual and fellowship, and these horrifically callow pastors capitalize on it with new-agey house bands and feel-good navel-gazing sermons. I'm not religious, but I'd rather be caught in a stodgy old church where you can practically hear the pacemakers than be seen falling for this repackaged snake oil.

And LJW, do you have to lazily drop the h-word for every article written about 20-somethings? Do you really think that all hipsters require to be lured to church is a pro-denim dress code, a house band, and a "hip" pastor? No, these aren't hipsters showing up; these are just young followers of generic fashion trends.

And fashion is exactly what these churches are about-- "Vintage Church"? I had to laugh when I first saw their logo, with the "t" in vintage as a Christian cross -- who falls for this idiotic branding? And then there are the hideous ads in our mailbox. These places couldn't be more obvious in their lack of substance and pandering to average-minded young people, presumably not quite informed enough to become proud freethinkers, agnostics or, if they feel the need to go somewhere on Sunday morning, Unitarians. It's just sad to watch these kids blindly wander back towards the same old dogma of their upbringings, thinking they're breaking new ground but only in the most superficial ways.

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ThePilgrim 1 year, 4 months ago

Actually, it is not "fellowship". Having a church where you go in and the lights go down and you are like in a concert underscores an attitude of "consumerism". Go listen to the music, hear the message, leave. No strings attached.

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fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

Point taken about the consumerism inherent to the immersive experience they attempt to create, but as with any church, I'm sure part of what draws many is the friendly inane chatter of coffee time...ritual and fellowship are the common denominators of most religious groups.

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fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

"sitting in your mom's house with the lights down low looking at porn is a better way to live"

I won't accuse you of projecting, but such sickening mud slings are obviously far more grotesque and off-base than anything I've written...

To answer your main question of "what do you care," I usually wouldn't, except that the born-again evangelical theology shared by these organizations is particularly rigid, fundamentalist, exclusive, and destructive. The fact that they seduce young people in the downtown area by coyly de-emphasizing their condemning belief structure, all the while pretending to possess cultural cache, only adds insult to injury. I won't deny that they're doing good works with some of their money, but their biblical literalism and antiquated conceptions about sin and damnation are a myopic scourge totally incompatible with a pluralist society.

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eugunieum 1 year, 4 months ago

Sir or Ms, You are entitled to your belief, why can't I have mine, without a put down?

Thanks & have a good day.

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Romans832 1 year, 4 months ago

"Jenkins demonstrated his unorthodox style on March 3 when he challenged the married couples of his congregation to have sex with their spouse once a day for seven consecutive days. He called it the 'sexperiment challenge.'"

Is he willing to challenge the unmarried couples to refrain from sexual activity (secondary virginity) until marriage?

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Gareth 1 year, 4 months ago

Depressing that LJW gives this much coverage to these unsupervised, unregulated, non-denomenational cults.

At least with traditional churches there's a national or world-wide hierarchy, training in ministry, and some degree of accountability.

When these "upstarts" start passing out the Kool-aid, I won't be a bit surprised.

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mothergoat 1 year, 4 months ago

Gareth, it's this type of judgment without doing one lick of research that has current generations who have honest questions and doubts about God leaving the faith in droves. Gareth, you should ask for forgiveness.

Salvation is found in Jesus alone, not a "hierarchy" that makes you feel safe and more justified in whatever doctrine you obviously worship.

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Gareth 1 year, 4 months ago

mothergoat -- Churches are comprised of people, and people need accountability. Without it -- well, I point you to Jim Jones, the Branch Davidians, etc.

This country is littered with the bodies of people who placed their faith in fly-by-night "salvation" con artists.

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mothergoat 1 year, 4 months ago

Gareth, I refer back to the judgment comment. You assume they don't have accountability because they don't have a denomination? That's pretty silly - and wholly inaccurate.

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Gareth 1 year, 4 months ago

Then tell me: To whom are they accountable? What keeps them from introducing their own "unique" take on doctrines?

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fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

Oh, mothergoat.

I guess the other few billion who don't believe in Christ or never even heard of the guy are automatically headed to the lake of fire then? Some benevolent God you've got yourself there...

Have you ever wondered if your peace of mind is actually just a cudgel of religious exclusivity and intolerance? As far as accepting other faiths, have you ever heard of "multiple paths to the same God?"

By the way, regarding your name: sheep go to heaven; goats go to hell. These sacred words were spoken unto me by the band Cake. Perhaps one of these "hip" pastors has heard of them...

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mothergoat 1 year, 4 months ago

lol you edited your comment before I could call out the Cake reference! Saw them at Jayhawk Music Fest in '97.

You're assuming a lot about me without knowing me outside of an anonymous forum. I find it ironic the judgment and intolerance stereotype you're accusing me of is exactly what you're doing to me - judging and not tolerating even an explanation of what I believe.

That said, I don't blame you for being so passionately against the stereotype that DOES exist for a reason.

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fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

I'm judging you based on this: "Salvation is found in Jesus alone" Unless you have some qualifiers for that statement to share, me calling your theology a "cudgel of exclusivity and intolerance" is about as nice as I can be about it. You're right; I'm intolerant of intolerance. Shame on me...

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mothergoat 1 year, 4 months ago

Justin, Deacon and Jared are three quality guys with great hearts for this city. No matter your church style, you should be grateful to have these guys playing on your team, clearing the way for the current generation to learn about Jesus without having to feel like they have to lose their mind or sense of humor just to show up!

Thanks for the article Arley!

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mothergoat 1 year, 4 months ago

You're assuming that all Christians are republicans. :) It's a stereotype I'm sure these guys are trying to shake. I've met intelligent humans that are pro-education and believe in a rational world where faith can co-exist.

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Ken Miller 1 year, 4 months ago

You can help people and be nice to people because it's the right thing to do. You don't need a church to tell you that in order to facilitate the action.

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Armstrong 1 year, 4 months ago

I see the liberal posters are hard at it practicing the tolerance and acceptance montra -not

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fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

Again, we see the guy who said he would stop posting if Romney lost hard at it....

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Bob Forer 1 year, 4 months ago

There are actually studies today that show that the most successful churches are run by guys who have business degrees instead of seminary degrees,” Walker said.

Well, of course. Selling God has become big business.

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voevoda 1 year, 4 months ago

If these churches teach their members to emulate Christ-- to welcome outcasts without judging them, to share their worldly goods unstintingly with the poor, to be forgiving to those who wrong them, to eschew all forms of violence--then they are good for our community. I hope that is the case, but it's not entirely clear from the article.

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mcontrary 1 year, 4 months ago

As an atheist and a humanist, I'd like to see all donations going to charities. 60% is a steep adminstrative charge. It's indeed scary that an MBA is the best preparation for beginning a ministry, but it's indicative of the personal objectives of many ministers and most religions.

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Lathrup 1 year, 4 months ago

I am not one of the 20 somethings referred to earlier. First time I went to Velocity I was in a 3pc suit as is usual for my more formal church. Boy was I overdressed. Now I go in jeans and a shirt. So does everyone else and the message is the same one I get from the Main Line churches. Justin does good work there and I support him.

1

pea 1 year, 4 months ago

Went to a "service" at some rock and roll church a few months ago (not in Lawrence, but nearby). No sense of ceremony or occasion. People on their phones, walking in and out to get coffee and donuts, rock band members on stage in t-shirts. No sense of gravity at all. Booming bass through the PA. Fashionable, handsome young man in a flannel delivering the main talk. The people that took me probably assumed I would really just love it since I'm young, musical, possibly "edgy", but gah, I was just really grossed out. I grew up Catholic and abandoned it as soon as I could but would still much prefer going to Catholic mass where there is at least, a sense of awe and earnestness.

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Bob Forer 1 year, 4 months ago

Since you invited it, I will. it's hocus pocus nonsense.

4

fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

"These pastors said their style of worship sets them apart, while their message of preaching the biblical teachings of Jesus falls in line with many traditional evangelical Protestant churches."

No, it doesn't set them apart, as many evangelical churches and especially mega-churches use this exact same strategy-- make a harshly dichotomized and inhumane theology more palatable with the trappings of a rock concert.

As "mothergoat" illustrated above, the underlying tenet of their faith is a "members-only" condemnation of the majority of the world's population to hell. That the word "evangelical" isn't more synonymous with hateful spiritual arrogance is a testament to the success of their "be known for what we are for" Pollyannish spin. Disgusting that so many of what I would call "Tacit Damnation Stations" could gain such momentum in Lawrence.

4

nocrybabies 1 year, 4 months ago

A micro brew/church would be a winning combo. A few stout beers might loosen me up enough to swallow the religion.

4

Irenaku 1 year, 4 months ago

These "hey-we're-hip-it's-all-good" churches are no different from the in-your-face xenophobic churches, EXCEPT that these churches attempt to veil their exclusiveness and bigotry under the guise of a pastor with an intentional five o'clock shadow, an earring, a faded American Eagle jeans and an Ed Hardy hoodie in an attempt to attract followers. Makes me sick. Bottom line: if you are LGBT or Q and you walk into one of these churches with your significant other, they may be nice to you, they may give you "Christian" hugs and invite you to sing and have coffee and donuts, but eventually, if you express an interest in joining said church in any capacity, you will be told that you have to change. They prey on the core need of most people, particularly those who have been marginalized: the need to belong. It always comes down to that, it is always the same. I would rather have hate be obvious and detectable, rather than veiled under ostensible kindness.

9

fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

You mean the person directly above who was scared of being told to pray the gay away? Yeah, that actually does sound worth being afraid of.

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fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

And who's to say we don't volunteer, muser?

Sorry but you can't shut down criticisms of destructive theology with a simple, "if only you did half as much charity work..." bragging nonsense. You used the same tactic in your defense of the Catholic Church: "the media could point out at every opportunity that crimes have been committed by haters. They could point out all the molestation and deviance by haters of Christianity."

For someone whose name suggests contemplation, these comparisons are presumptuous and facile. How about actually addressing a criticism of your faith head-on rather than deflect with passive and lazy claims to that faith's moral superiority?

6

Gareth 1 year, 4 months ago

No, the non-superstitious will continue to channel energy into science, and do good by developing cures for diseases, technological advances to better your lives, etc. --- while ignorant fools like you chant and mumble and appeal to your imaginary Sky-Fairy.

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Gareth 1 year, 4 months ago

That's only because donations to churches are classified as "charitable", even if the church in question does no charity.

4

verity 1 year, 4 months ago

"The numbers do not lie."

But people certainly use numbers to lie, our current state administration a case in point.

2

fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

I remember this article and how it was more careful not to smear with such a broad and sloppy brush as you're intent on using:

"It’s true that religion is the essential reason conservatives give more, and religious liberals are as generous as religious conservatives. Among the stingiest of the stingy are secular conservatives. According to Google’s figures, if donations to all religious organizations are excluded, liberals give slightly more to charity than conservatives do."

6

Gareth 1 year, 4 months ago

That's only because he counts donations to CHURCHES as charity.

Liberals give to actual charities -- and to some churches. Close-minded conservatives give to their church, and Brooks counts that as "giving to charity."

3

verity 1 year, 4 months ago

I'm puzzled. Why would I go to church to listen to a person with a business degree?

7

bearded_gnome 1 year, 4 months ago

for an alternative, "hipsters" ... ahem ...

www.wretched.tv

0

phoggyjay 1 year, 4 months ago

"Jenkins would not disclose how much the church brings in each month, but he said giving has jumped dramatically in 2013."

GOD = MONEY = GOD = MONEY = GOD = MONEY

3

wallace222 1 year, 4 months ago

Phoggyjay, please dont make personal statements about people based on loose generalizations. I have gone to velocity for a while now. They are incredibly generous with their money. They give a really huge portion of their income to others; charities, other small churches, community organizations, etc. Mr. Jenkins is also a humble guy, Im not sure if he still is but he was working another job outside of velocity to help pay bills, and the jenkins dont live in any sort of mansion by any means. where else do you think all this money would be going, if not to the jenkins?? No one else is paid staff. The musicians seem to bring all of their own gear, minus the PA which comes with the art center. The church provides coffee and breakfast for its volunteers every week, but thats not a huge expense. I really dont think you can make such a harsh judgment when youve clearly never met justin or been to velocity.

1

Irenaku 1 year, 4 months ago

wallace222: If hipster pastor Justin will be quoted in an LJWorld article stating clearly that his church is open and affirming, i.e., that individual sexual orientation and gender expression do not inhibit one from joining and serving, and are nobody's business except that individual, then perhaps I would be inclined to visit. Until then, thanks but no thanks. One of the best things I learned in college was how to think critically, and I find it insulting that these kinds of pastors and church members would insult my intelligence so fiercely as to assume that I can be persuaded by Christian rock music, guys with long hair and crappy Brass Buckle styles. It will take more than coffee, donuts and loud PA's to bring me in the door: how about authenticity? I would rather see Fred Phelps standing on the corner spouting his hate and insanity than listen to any of these "hipster" churches...at least Fred is honest.

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verity 1 year, 4 months ago

Yes, authenticity is exactly the word I was searching for---and what I see lacking in so many churches.

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wallace222 1 year, 4 months ago

great job addressing something very different than the topic of greed or generosity of a church?? I wasnt making any comments on the image of the church. That being said, justin is one of the most sincere guys i know of. He genuinely is here to help lawrence Kansas. regardless of whether or not you agree with the personal image of the church, or if youre even religious at all, i dont think any ethical member of a community should be so opposed to a church that is constantly giving to oorganizations that help single moms and people who need health care assistance. honestly.

0

Irenaku 1 year, 4 months ago

It is politically correct and not very divisive to say that you help the poor and disenfranchised...provided they are poor and heterosexual. I think it is quite deceptive and unethical for a church to pretend to be one thing instead of presenting the doctrine that they really believe. This church, like so many others, is an exclusive and homophobic institution that preys on the emotional insecurities of people who are seeking and needing a place to belong. Disgusting, and even more so that this ostensibly nice pastor doesn't even have the courage to admit it and say what he really believes. Let your yes be yes and your no be no, my friend...

3

Irenaku 1 year, 4 months ago

I oppose any institution that discriminates and espouses bigotry by claiming to speak for God.

3

Armstrong 1 year, 4 months ago

Like liberals do to Christians ( except you speak for yourselves )

0

In_God_we_trust 1 year, 4 months ago

Well, if you are going to represent God in the earth, shouldn't you represent the righteousness of God and His Word faithfully, not compromising to the world's level of corruption?

1

fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

wallace222, we're not here to deny that Velocity and the others give money to good causes, nor does anyone deny the pastors' seemingly good intentions and personal likability. The argument is about theology: the impression is that Velocity, Vintage, and Greenhouse are evangelical and subscribe to a socially conservative form of Biblical literalism. Even if you'd rather avoid these subjects as unpleasant, it's perceived that your church endorses a belief system condemning homosexuality and presuming that all non-believers are damned.

You needn't try to burnish any reputations-- just answer as to whether these impressions are true or not.

4

smileydog 1 year, 4 months ago

Traditional conservative churches keep thriving, traditional liberal churches see interest wane.

2

jonas_opines 1 year, 4 months ago

"Atheists do so much more preaching and attempting to recruit people to their religion than Chritians."

Lol, no. Maybe if you amended to: "on internet message board threads regarding topics concerning religion". You might have something then.

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fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

While it's nice to hear about Vintage's acceptance of gay members, my main attribution/accusation was of an evangelical belief structure with salvation only for believers, and thus damnation of all non-believers. This was an educated conclusion based on the article ("These pastors said...their message of preaching the biblical teachings of Jesus falls in line with many traditional evangelical Protestant churches.") as well as a look at Vintage's and Greenhouse's own websites:

http://vintagelawrence.com/about/beliefs/

http://thegreenhouseculture.com/about/

And to be clear: while I obviously despise these antiquated heaven/hell superstitions and dichotomies of who goes where and based on what, I do not hate any of the people involved in these congregations.

By comparison, short of actual violence, I really can't think of anything more hateful than a belief system that presumes a fate of eternal torture for billions of fellow human beings. This kind of destructive, divisive nonsense is the elephant in the room of such supposedly loving churches.

The adults, quite predictably, want to avoid admitting and discussing this central tenet, but then every day in this country a little kid runs up to another on a playground and says, "Did you know you're going to Hell?" This is the kind of toxic bilge we should have evolved beyond centuries ago, and yet here we are.

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jonas_opines 1 year, 4 months ago

When are you going to go Galt, man? Can it be soon?

2

fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

My experiences with religion are neither so rebellious nor angry/alienated/depressed, and I am actually plenty high on life without needing to have traditional deity worship in my life. I was raised in a United Church of Christ, and was never threatened with hellfire, but am plenty familiar with children of other faiths being taunted by evangelical kids. I identified as agnostic/Unitarian after adolescence because no ancient dogma, Christian or otherwise, seemed compatible with my more rational mindset.

I don’t consider devout believers to be idiots, but I do think that treating every word of the Bible as the literal voice of God rather than as rich allegory written by men (with many, many cooks passing through that kitchen) is one of the most regressive forces currently on the planet. If you read anger in my words, that’s not anti-Christian hatred, but simply frustration due to a fair reasoning about what is and isn’t a constructive theology.

Of course, no one in your congregation, especially if it has this more upbeat tone, is going to dwell on hell or damnation. That’s the whole reason most young evangelical churches thrive, because the alternative fate to their exclusive born-again salvation is never a favorite topic of discussion. I’ve already visited such places and know that despite the warm welcomes, fresh faces, and good cheer, the salvation/damnation dichotomy remains. If you don’t think that Vintage presumes damnation for the world’s billions of black sheep, just ask him what this in the website means:

“Being estranged from God and condemned by our sinfulness, our salvation is wholly dependent upon the work of God’s free grace. God credits His righteousness to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, and thereby justifies them in His sight. Only such as are born of the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus Christ become children of God and heirs of eternal life.”

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In_God_we_trust 1 year, 4 months ago

"salvation/damnation dichotomy remains"

It does remain, because that is the true condition of a person in this earth. All have come short of the glory of God. All are sinners. So since that is the current condition of man, a savior is needed to change our heart condition to a situation that is acceptable to the Judge: God. That's why Jesus died, taking the penalty of sin upon himself for you. And Jesus offers you his record of righteousness and right standing with God, in trade for your sin. It is the free gift of God to you. All you have to do is accept the free gift of Jesus, by believing that Jesus took your sins and penalty on the cross 2000 years ago, and that he died, and was buried, and on the 3rd day, God raised Jesus from the dead by the power of God, and he lives for ever more. When you believe this and speak it out your mouth, your faith in Jesus' sacrifice for you becomes effective for you and you are changed in your heart and spirit. You are born again, into the kingdom of God. It's already been paid for: God can't make it any easier for you. Consider it and take advantage of it now. Because Jesus lives, those who accept him also live, eternally.

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fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

“It does remain, because that is the true condition of a person in this earth.”

The heaven/hell dichotomy is your belief system and based on faith alone; the existence of neither realm is in any way empirically provable. These places have always been posited just outside the boundaries of human understanding, so originally in the sky for heaven and deep in the earth for hell. Where would you say that they reside now-- distant corners of outer space, I presume?

“It's already been paid for: God can't make it any easier for you”

This concept of the debt to God and an “easy” litmus test to be saved strikes most of the world as a patent absurdity, for what deity would condemn not only members of all other faiths and the spectrum of doubting Thomases, but also all the humans with no exposure whatsoever to the Christ story? You will no doubt scoff at such dismissive intellectual dissection, but a growing percentage of the human population is too rational to make your “easy” leaps of faith in any case, owing to the faculties of reason developed in our species. And it would seem quite contradictory for a deity that supposedly bestowed these faculties to condemn the majority of the species for using these gifts to question all things that cannot be proved.

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oldbaldguy 1 year, 4 months ago

i have finally decided there are many paths to god. i happen to go to a baptist church, probably because my family has been going to one since they hit amercian shores in the 1700s. if you are an atheist, i do not care and i do not expect you to believe the way i do. if there is an afterlife i suspect we will all be there. nothing wrong with what is going on at these youthful churches.

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fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

"if there is an afterlife i suspect we will all be there"

If they indeed use a strict, literal interpretation of the Bible as they appear to, then these "youthful churches" disagree with your suspicion, and that's what I find wrong with "what is going on" there.

2

Sherry Warren 1 year, 4 months ago

I attend a wide variety of faith communities, and worry about the ones where the leadership has little formal training in theology or philosophy. From my visits: Too much patriarchy... no thanks. Too much in-crowd behavior such that new people are not welcome... I pass. Too much clapping.... ruins the mood that somebody worked hard to create. Bigotry or homophobia wrapped up in scripture... oh H-E-double toothpicks NO! Certainly can't stomach being told that I deserve to consume more/have more/be blessed more because of anything I have done.

For those who think that people only go to services for one reason - be it salvation, redemption, a message of hope, the chance to be quiet once a week - many people go because they want to be in a community. "We are all on a spiritual journey; some of us think we do it better together" from one of my favorite ministers.

I go for community, music, quiet, hopefully a message that challenges me to think about my existence, not one that tells me to blindly follow dead guys or ministers or words taken out of context..

Atheists go to services! Anyone can be a bad person regardless of their faith or upbringing. Faith communities do good work, and so do individuals and civic groups. The sweeping generalizations and vitriol spewed on this board are indicative of a much larger problem on this planet.

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fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

I agree with your sentiments and observations. I don't know if you're including some of my statements as "sweeping generalizations and vitriol", but if so, I'll again refer to my attempt at more precise criticism explained above:

"My main attribution/accusation was of an evangelical belief structure with salvation only for believers, and thus damnation of all non-believers. This was an educated conclusion based on the article ("These pastors said...their message of preaching the biblical teachings of Jesus falls in line with many traditional evangelical Protestant churches.") as well as a look at Vintage's and Greenhouse's own websites:

http://vintagelawrence.com/about/beliefs/ http://thegreenhouseculture.com/about/

And to be clear: while I obviously despise these antiquated heaven/hell superstitions and dichotomies of who goes where and based on what, I do not hate any of the people involved in these congregations.

By comparison, short of actual violence, I really can't think of anything more hateful than a belief system that presumes a fate of eternal torture for billions of fellow human beings. This kind of destructive, divisive nonsense is the elephant in the room of such supposedly loving churches.

The adults, quite predictably, want to avoid admitting and discussing this central tenet, but then every day in this country a little kid runs up to another on a playground and says, "Did you know you're going to Hell?" This is the kind of toxic bilge we should have evolved beyond centuries ago, and yet here we are."

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fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

I made absolutely no generalizations about Christianity--again, this is about a particular denomination's theology of damnation belying the otherwise loving intentions of its followers, an attribute that nobody has refuted. You might recall your toxic generalizations above about "radical liberals" and charity, and as far as "the bitterness in your heart shines through," what am I to make of your presumptions about "sitting in your mom's house with the lights down low looking at porn"...

Do please spare me the condescension about "waking up." I've treated you with far more respect than you've offered me, and I'm not interested in these straw-man mischaracterizations of perfectly valid and unchallenged arguments.

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fiddleback 1 year, 4 months ago

"Your arguments have been nothing but generalizations."

So quote me one. I'll grant you that my first comment was a bit broad and scathing, but the rest have aimed to discuss specific theology adopted by these churches.

Liberal: "That is why when you actually look at Charitable donations it is not the Democrats giving back...If it is tearing someone else down, trying to make them feel stupid or incompetent then you can bet it is a radical liberal who is doing it."

You're right, that sounds totally emotionless and in no way like a generalization...I'm sorry that the information you referenced isn't nearly the partisan cudgel you clearly wish it was; again, from the very Kristof article you linked to:

"It’s true that religion is the essential reason conservatives give more, and religious liberals are as generous as religious conservatives. Among the stingiest of the stingy are secular conservatives. According to Google’s figures, if donations to all religious organizations are excluded, liberals give slightly more to charity than conservatives do."

"Most world religions discuss the exact same thing"

Indeed, many religions do have an afterlife abyss and paths of salvation, but the concept of eternal damnation for non-belief is more unique to the Abrahamic faiths.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soteriology http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_...

Sorry, but you're reading far more emotion and hatred in my language than is actually there, accusing me of bitterness when the problem seems to be your unwillingness to accept that while individual spirituality is indeed "an inside game," theology is definitely not. If you recognized theology as a worthy subject of debate rather than something criticized only by the bitter and hateful, you might then grasp that I've kept atop this thread for the opportunity to have uninhibited dialogues with both critics and adherents. This argumentation is a pastime for me, whereas it clearly unnerves you and causes you write (and repeat) far more presumptuous and ugly things than anything I've written.

As if to underscore that point, a hilarious contradiction: "I have not personally attacked you or anyone else...[a few sentences later]...I could really care less about you sitting in your mom's basement looking at porn."

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