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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Coddling the Church

Written by: on May 17, 2019

If you want to make a point right off the bat, title your book, “The Coddling of the American Mind.” In fact, it is this message that is the main principle that my entire dissertation is being based up; is it possible that even the church as a whole has become so consumed with reaching people that they too have created “terrible ideas[1]” of doctrine, simply as a means of appealing to the masses, rather than clinging to the Gospel? For the purpose of my own project, I address the failure of baptism theology as it is being taught today, though I would venture to believe that there are many more issues facing the church, which as the authors stated, “that these great untruths are bad for everyone[2].” Furthermore, I agree that “anyone who cares about young people (actually all people), education (Christian education), or democracy (though my issues regards true Christianity), should be concerned about these trends[3].”

Before addressing what I agreed with further, I would first like to address one of my biggest disagreements with this text; it regards the third of the “Great Untruths” discussed early on in the book; “the Untruth of Us Verses Them.” Though I recognize that once again, this is also not a religious oriented book, this is one doctrine I wish was being taught more emphatically to both young and old alike today. Without stepping on Mike’s toes; if Ephesians 6:10ff is not a call to Christian arms, reminding God’s people that they are in a war for the soul…not against flesh and blood, but against the Prince of Darkness himself, then what is it? We have coddled this generation so much that we are scared to call out sinful behaviors and wickedness. When I was in basic training in the Army, we cleaned our rifle every single day, so that when the battle finally came, we would be fully prepared for combat. I fear that our youth have been convinced that this whole God/Devil thing is more of a fairy tale than truth; and for that reason, when the fight becomes real for them, they will not be ready.

What I did like about this reading…well…sort of…was the repeated accountability to wisdom. So why the “sort of?” Well, the worldly definition of wisdom and the biblical view of wisdom are not the same thing. When we see Solomon address wisdom in the book of Proverbs, he personifies it as though it was someone we should desire to form a personal and very intimate relationship with.

“To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion—a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding with attain wise counsel…the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.[4]

The modern church has become consumed with simplicity rather than accuracy. Our bibles are now “easy to read,” “politically correct,” “updated and revised,” “gender-neutral,” “deity-generic,” and even as one person put it to me, “less offensive.” Since when did we accommodate human over God? You see, my definition of wisdom…at least as I see it, is to seek the mind of God; what does He call for us to do; how does He expect us to act; what does He say is good and acceptable? It is for this reason that I love the idea that someone is pushing for more wisdom; I just wish it was the same wisdom I wished we were all pursuing.

I also appreciated the fact this this book was calling out the act of “Overprotection[5].” In this regard, the book read, “Parents who reject overparenting and give their kids more freedom can actually be arrested.” Now, out of context this could be confusing; but here is the reality of the way our world views poor parenting; it is a punishable offense because it places the child(ren) in harm to be overly coddled. Sometimes we work so hard to protect someone from something…all in the name of love…that we have failed to actually prepare them to face danger when it finally strikes. What happens to children raised on sweets, but not required to eat healthy things? Any variety of health issues can erupt from poor eating habits. The rational is that the parents loved their kids and did not want to force them to eat things they didn’t like; however, their job was not to spoil their kids…it was to raise their kids properly…healthily. The same is true with spiritual food; the church is not here to make the people happy; it is here to equip it for the fight that is before them. Paul wrote, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…[6]” A church that is great at accommodating the whims of their people, rather than giving them what they actually need, are not helping those Christians to grow; but rather, they are making them weaker and unprepared for the real battle at hand.

What does that all have to do with my dissertation though? My study on baptism is set to show that the church is teaching it incompletely. It demonstrates that the main message being sent out is one that tells believers that it is only a means of showing others that you are a Christian; but that is wrong! My research will demonstrate that baptism is so much more than that; in fact, it serves not just one, but many important and special roles in the Christian relationship to God. To “protect” or “coddle” at this point is dangerous to the those who believe, and yet do not see the importance of baptism…a practice that Christ Himself found important enough to demonstrate through His own ministry and commands. How many other areas of biblical instruction have we neglected, abbreviated, or even removed altogether, simply because the masses deemed it so?

Bibliography

Haidt, Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.New York: Penguin Press, 2018.

 

[1]Haidt, Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.New York: Penguin Press, 2018.P. 4.

[2]Ibid, p. 5

[3]Ibid.

[4]Proverbs 1:1-7 (with some emphasis).

[5]Haidt, p. 171.

[6]Ephesians 4:11-12.

About the Author

Shawn Hart

14 responses to “Coddling the Church”

  1. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Shawn
    Once again you come out firing, I love that you do not try to coddle the reader or soften you stance and you are to be commended. The part of the book you liked, the calling out of overprotection spoke to me as well. How has this played out in your congregation? Are you pushing them to be out of their comfort zone and how are they reacting?

    Jason

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Jason, I believe we should always be challenging ourselves to do better than the day before. So to answer your question, yes…I am always putting on the pressure to be better and to work harder. Some days the congregation pushes back…other days I get to see this excitement when they all pull together to see our church grow.

  2. I’m eager to read what you have to say about baptism, Shawn.

    Here you say, “The same is true with spiritual food; the church is not here to make the people happy; it is here to equip it for the fight that is before them.”

    While I agree that the church does not exist to make people happy, I think it has many more functions than equiping people for a fight. The verse you quote talks about equipping the saints for the work of ministry and edification. From my perspective, the church is called to be a prophetic voice into the world and a foretaste of the future and coming Kingdom of God. Our prophetic voice is most effective when the people of God are living out the ways and will of God in their communities.

    Also, while I understand that we have an enemy, we also have the victory. Too many Christians do live in an Us vs Them mentality when it comes to people, or even those from other denominations. Do you think that there is not a problematic Us vs Them mentality within the church?

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Jenn, there is a reality about being an army; usually it is the strong and able that go to fight for the weak and helpless. I suppose I have always seen myself as an Army of God recruiter; when I see potential in someone, I want to see them live up to that potential. Though we have the victory as we are added to the kingdom, what about those who are not in the kingdom? I believe they are our responsibility to at least reach out to. Many will reject and avoid…but every soul reached is a blessing. I will claim my victory when I hear the trumpet sound…until then…I believe I have work to do.

      We will have to talk later on our views regarding “prophetic voice”.

  3. Hi Shawn,

    I just finished commenting on Mike’s post, and then read yours. And my comment will be similar.

    First of all, great post! Thank you. It was a good window into your research topic. I look forward to what you learn regarding baptism.

    You commented, “[I]s it possible that even the church as a whole has become so consumed with reaching people that they too have created “terrible ideas” of doctrine, simply as a means of appealing to the masses, rather than clinging to the Gospel?”

    I do think that in our rush to try to grow churches and be relevant, we have left out the “offensive” parts of the Gospel. It has watered down faith so that we have become mere social clubs. But Jesus calls us to take up our cross (in effect, to die, following His lead). That doesn’t sound very safe to me. 😉

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Mark, my sermon this morning was titled, “O to be Hated.” The very fact that on more than once occasion in scripture Christ assures His disciples that “they hated me first.” What a recruitment poster that must have made. Jesus warned all of us in advance that they would hate, revile, persecute, and evil kill us for the cause we had just joined. How did that message turn into gum drops and jelly beans?

  4. Good thoughts, Shawn!

    You mention, “…it regards the third of the “Great Untruths” discussed early on in the book; “the Untruth of Us Versus Them. Though I recognize that once again, this is also not a religious oriented book, this is one doctrine I wish was being taught more emphatically to both young and old alike today.”

    Yes. Truth is essential; however, interpretation varies. How do you make room for people in your church to differ theologically and give them room to converse when they come with different perspectives?

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Colleen, we have a general rule in our church; we discuss everything…and I mean that I welcome all questions and comments; however, we search the Scriptures for the answers. There is one particular phrase that seems to leap from people’s mouths lately when talking about areas of faith…the phrase is “I THINK…” Well, Proverbs 3:5-6 warned us all, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean NOT on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” The passage goes on with comments like “Do not be wise in your own eyes; and do not despise the chastening of the Lord.” So, we have a rule…we can talk about all the things “we think,” but ultimately, that really doesn’t amount to much. We want to know what God actually says about it all.

  5. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Shawn!

    Glad you connected this book to your dissertation research project.

    Was wondering if you believe the Bible says baptism is necessary for salvation? Don’t want to argue, just trying to understand your perspective.

    Thanks for all you are teaching the rest of us.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Jay, someone asked the other day in church…how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop. Are you a three licks kind of guy. LOL. My paper on baptism is going to demonstrate 5 benefits that are presented in scripture as only given through water-baptism; I’ll leave the final conclusion to the readers as to whether they believe it is necessary to have those five things. Happy Reading.

  6. mm Mike says:

    Shawn,
    Great opening! Yes, I agree with you that the “message” is changing for some ministry leaders who fall prey to these types of untruths and safetyism.
    Thanks for the shout out that the battle is “not against flesh and blood.” Amen! Mayhem, the personification of Satan on the Allstate Insurance commercials, does just that my friend. He coddles the viewers with behavior that makes sin “ok”. Mayhem would say something like this, “Hey, I’m just a poor fallen angel doing my job…who always has been, and always will be.” And then you see images of a guy breaking into your car, your house, causing accidents, and even rewriting the Garden of Eden account.
    Excellent post! I’m praying that your dissertation will help people see more clearly baptism more clearly, and in doing so, recognize the spiritual warfare threat and begin wearing Christ as their armor of God.
    Stand firm,
    Mike w

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Thanks Mike. I believe you and I both see the battle before us…maybe its the military in both of us; anticipating the fight to come. I am constantly reminded that the bible assures us that things get worse before Christ comes back…not better.

  7. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Intersting points Shawn. Im excited to hear more of your theology of baptism (is there a term for that yet?) and how that should change our practice of baptism.

    You’re right about did we make the church to easy! It’s a tension that we all face, if we set the bar so high, then very few will reach the top, but if its too low, what was really accomplished.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Kyle, I think that is part of the problem with all of our thinking…we think that it is about reaching the top; I just want us all to strive for the top. As Trisha pointed out in her post, “we all fall short…” This is not about perfection, it is about effort.

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