And the next trend in Christianity is….

As the next new trend sweeps through Christianity, with its gurus, books, conferences and marketing machine, I feel heartsick.

Heartsick for two reasons: first, it’s “here we go again,” another panacea, another great solution to church attendance going down, another exciting novelty that will only last until the next new exciting trend comes along. And, secondly, I think, “Oh no, is this going to be something else I’m going to have to deal with, requiring another long study trying to figure out if it’s good, bad or ugly, creating yet another situation where people get offended if I don’t go along with it?”

I remember all the excitement that swept the churches about the Purpose-driven Church book. Then it was Spiritual Formation. Then The Shack. Then Heaven is for Real, then – well, I’ve forgotten what came next because it’s the same old routine – more excitement, more conferences, more peer pressure to comply, more people making a name for themselves, more arguments for and against, and more enthusiasts lifting up their gurus like mini-gods.

I admit I’ve been just as susceptible. I got so excited after reading a Christian book that I immediately did a sermon on it, and wrote two articles. Someone then pointed out a problem, and he was right. Down I went in flames, flagellating myself for getting caught up so easily.

It brought me down to earth with a crunch, because I realized why I’d been taken in so easily. It was the title of the book and the blurb on the inside cover. It promised “new” knowledge and a “new” way of looking at familiar scriptures that other Christians had missed. This was new territory, new understanding no one else had discovered. It was heady stuff.

But it also made me think of Paul when he toured Athens in Acts 17. The Athenians were like that too, always on the lookout for anything new (verse 21). But they also had an altar “To an Unknown God.” All that new knowledge pouring in but God was still an unknown. Is that why they couldn’t stop grabbing onto anything that sounded new and intriguing, then? Was it some inner hope they had, that maybe, one day, they’d hear something that would make their unknown God suddenly come alive and real to them?

It made me wonder, “Is that why I’m still such a pushover for a new, exciting book, too? Is it because I really don’t know God yet, and I’m hoping some book, some trend, some new exciting program will suddenly make God real to me?” Horror of horrors: Do I still have an altar to an unknown God too?

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