Spiritual Maturity: Tom Bergler

Spiritual Maturity: Tom Bergler

"Adults should not try to be teenagers, but instead should set adult examples," writes Tom Bergler in his recent book, The Juvenilization of American Christianity. Yet American culture esteems youth and prizes adolescence as a "golden age." The result is a growing crisis in American Christianity, according to Bergler--a crisis of "adolescent Christianity"--ways of practicing Christian faith that conform to the patterns of adolescence in American culture.

Bergler's criticisms have been often misunderstood as a polemic against youth ministry in general, but he is quick to point out that this is not his aim. When youth ministry is done well, he asserts, it is an asset to the Church. The problem comes instead when the goal of ministry--all ministry--is set at a level of shallow emotionality and no longer at the achievement of "spiritual maturity."

"Spiritual maturity" is the ability to understand and articulate one's faith in the real world. Quoting Galatians, Bergler asserts that the marks of spiritual maturity are clear and biblical: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control."

Tom Bergler is associate professor of ministry and missions at Huntington University in Indiana, and is senior associate editor of the Journal of Youth Ministry.

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