In a not-well-known-enough sermon on a not-well-known-enough Bible story, John Wesley interrogates Acts 26, where Paul presents the gospel to King Agrippa, the feudal lord of Judea, and (in the King James translation) Agrippa tells Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Wesley goes on to offer a devastating choice to those with ears to hear: are we almost Christian, or altogether Christian?
The Reverend Doctor Kenda Creasy Dean, a United Methodist elder and professor of youth ministry at Princeton, uses the story of Agrippa and Paul as Wesley investigates it to frame her book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church. This book is, quite simply, maybe the best I’ve read in the last 5 years. That’s not because it makes me feel good about my faith, but precisely because it unsettles and challenges me to a deeper faith. It would be far easier to blame teenagers and young adults for all the controversy swirling around their lack of church commitment, but Dean doesn’t settle for the quick and easy answer. Instead, she brings the question back to the church that taught that lack of commitment — she brings it back to us. Have we become, like Agrippa, almost Christian? And have we taught that almostness that to our children and youth?
This fall’s Wonderful Wednesday study will explore how we teach and model faith at church, at home, and in the community, and how we can faithfully retrain our message to pass on what has been handed to us. If you are a parent or grandparent, this is a book you should read and a discussion you need to be a part of. But if you are a church member, it is vital that you join us as well, because this concerns how we teach, learn, worship, serve, and follow Jesus as a faith community. This is an opportunity for all of us to make a fresh start.
We’ll have copies to purchase beginning Wednesday evening, September 4th, or you can order from one of the sites below (including digital copies). Don’t forget that Wonderful Wednesdays includes a great dinner at 5:30 pm, and programs for all ages at 6 pm. Infants through pre-K will have nursery care including age-appropriate Bible activities; elementary-aged children will have a high-quality music program with our choir director; middle and high school youth meet for Bible study with our youth director. This year will also feature Homework Helpers weekly, from after school until dinner is served.
I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday nights with your whole family for food, for growing in faith, and for this important discussion!
Grace and Peace,