Aaron Rodgers and the Deficiency of the Youth Group Culture
As a lifelong Wisconsin resident, I’m also a die-hard Packer fan. That’s why it was so disheartening to see my quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, discuss Christianity on Danica Patrick’s podcast.
The world of elite athletes certainly mirrors that of non-athletes when it comes to percentages of Christians vs. Non-Christians. There are some that we hear about from time to time that are strong, outspoken Christians. There are some who have no concern for faith or the things of God. And there are those who would call themselves “Christians,” but have no true or abiding faith. No different than anywhere else.
The fact that Aaron Rodgers isn’t a Christian wasn’t some big revelation or shock. What I saw in his telling his story is the utter failure of the seeker-sensitive movement as a whole, and the youth group culture specifically. And those failures are widespread and reach far beyond the world of professional athletes.
To begin, Aaron mentions growing up like me - being forced to go to church by well-meaning parents but not really enjoying it or being moved by it. Not an uncommon story. But, when he found a youth group through a friend called Young Life he felt connected and a part of something. In comparing the two, he said:
There were two groups-church on Sundays and Young life on Mondays. And Young life on Monday welcomed everyone. It was like ‘come as you are’ - be here at 7:29 and be ready for some fun. And it was fun. We had a great time.
That’s very telling, is it not?
The group was “fun” - that’s why he went. Not that the gospel was preached, not that Jesus was exalted, but that a group of kids got together for some fun. Is it any wonder that the seeds of the gospel didn’t take root in his life? It’s no wonder then, when the fun was over and he went to college, he “didn’t find any connections with the Christian groups there.”
He wasn’t really connected to a Christian group in the first place. If Young Life is anything like most youth groups today, a thin veneer of Jesus was painted over a lot of fun times, thereby failing to build the connection necessary to draw Christians together - namely, Christ. Once the fun is over and you don’t have that common bond, there’s nothing there to keep you connected.
That failure to build a strong connection based on Christ, and poor teaching (or a failure to properly teach) both at church and in the group, leads him to ultimately one of the most common objections to Christianity we hear.
I don’t know how you can believe in a God who wants to condemn most of His creation to a fiery hell. What type of loving, sensitive, omnipresent, omnipotent being wants to condemn most of His creation to a fiery Hell at the end of all this?
If you’ve ever interacted with or heard a non-believer’s objection to Christianity, you’ve likely heard that same argument in some form.
Isn’t it interesting though that Aaron, and so many others, don’t ask the reverse (and, incidentally, correct) question? They don’t seem to ponder “why would a good, loving, and HOLY God, who cannot look upon sin, bring anyone to Heaven? Why doesn’t everyone go to Hell?” That’s the question they should be asking, but don’t.
It’s much easier to discredit God because He doesn’t fit into your fallen idea of morality than it is to see His standard as the standard, and conform your life to that.
Now, why do I go on and on about this one interview? Is it because it’s Aaron Rodgers and I’m a Packers fan and I want to see Aaron Rodgers saved?
Sure, but no more than I’d like to see the checker at the grocery store or the guy in the cubicle next to me at work saved. But, again, that’s not my focus here. My focus is how the seeker-sensitive movement and Christian youth group culture has failed generations of children and young adults. When church and, by extension, a youth groups just become another social interaction with no grounding in the gospel, an opportunity is lost and we do a disservice to those people and dishonor Christ.
Even if, in all the fun, the gospel was preached to Rodgers, it obviously was overshadowed by the activities and good times and not emphasized rightly or taught correctly. That’s the tragedy.
As is often said, what you win them with you win them to. In this case, sadly, that was nothing more than a good time. I pray that Christians will wake up to this minimalization of the gospel and repent in order to point people of all ages to Christ as their joy.