I don’t wanna grow up; I’m a nineties church kid!
You guys remember the nineties, right? There is a certain innocence that comes to mind when I think of the 90s—things that just aren’t around today. Looking back it seems all water hoses, bicycles, bottle rockets, fireflies, tent-camping, and dirt. Lots and lots of dirt.
For Christian children, the “church kid” experience was also another world entirely. The campfire vespers services, repetitive praise music, cheesy hand motions, cheap but elaborate VBS programs, felt boards! There were purity rings and W.W.J.D. bracelets and Adventures in Odyssey and Veggie Tales (the original).
Do you remember the youth group tee shirts?
Looking back I feel like there was a whole culture in the 90s that doesn’t exist today, and the culture then helped me be the Christian I am today.
Do you hear the “but” coming?
But, it created this idea of Christian life that just doesn’t exist.
1 Corinthians 13:11 says “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (ESV).
When I was a child I spoke up about God as a know-it-all. As a martyr. When I was a child I thought that everything was going to be perfect and fine because I believed in God. When I was a child, I let others reason for me when I could not. When I was a child my reasoning was narrow.
This is explained when we look further. Verse 12 and 13 go: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (ESV).
What helps us grow up? Love. What do we not quite understand as kids? Love.
Let’s take it back further. As adults, we often look back at our memory of life as adolescents. Let’s look instead at what we believed as tiny children.
When we were little children we believed our parents were superheroes. Life is and would be amazing because God said so. We can be whatever we want to be.
What happened to those 90s church kids when they realized maybe their parents weren’t perfect?
What about when life didn’t turn out alright? You got held back a grade, didn’t make it into the college you wanted, had that bad break-up?
What happened to those kids when they realized that God doesn’t make everything wonderful? (At least not today…).
When I grew up and read the gospels for the first time and realized that Jesus was a person with human emotions and behaviors, it was culture shock. Why? Because a specific church kid culture brought me up.
In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul addresses the early church very clearly.
Who is he addressing? The church.
He doesn’t address them as spiritual equals, but as children—infants even.
Infants drink milk only. They nap a lot. They cannot walk or communicate on their own. And in the words of Paul in verse 2, they are not yet ready. When a child is not yet ready for life outside the home, who do they follow to figure it all out?
Who we follow matters. Who our kids follow matters.
Envision it—whether you grew up in the church or not, there is a foundation there, at the bottom of your soul. You can see Jesus there. Somewhere along the line, you were introduced to Jesus Christ and that is your foundation. Lucky me, my foundation was laid, stone by stone, by 90s church-kid culture. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a start.
I learned that God reigns. I learned that He loves. And I learned that I can be a part of the club.
Nineties, church-kid Rachel thought she had it all figured out, but like Paul, grown-up Rachel has figured out that there’s more to learn.
The church-kid culture that brought many of us up fed us fake meat instead of real. Now we’re grown and we don’t know how to eat. This is both a spiritual and literal truth for my generation.
And what happens when you build a house out of brick look-a-likes?
In Paul’s letter he tells the church that he can’t even speak to them as equals because they aren’t. But don’t we want to put on a show that we’re equals so that everyone in the church know we’re in a good spiritual place?
When you’re buying a new home, you hire a building inspector to check out your foundation, but who looks after the foundation of your soul and your heart?
As children we had youth leaders and parents to help us stay on track. The early believers had Paul!
Do you have a Paul? Does our church have a Paul?
The church is no building, but a people–and when we’re using false bricks for our foundations, someone needs to let us know!
When we’re putting on the What Would Jesus Do bracelet and reasoning every action with it, we may need someone to check in with us.
When we’re adults and trying to recreate this little bubble of faith like we had when we were kids, we may need someone to come by and pop it on a good day so that life doesn’t pop it and surprise us with a really bad day.
How is your foundation today?
Do me a favor and check in with a Nineties Church Kid.