Pentecostal Christianity in AustraliaI think I finally 'get' why the Pentecostal movement is growing so rapidly in Australia at the moment.
My 14 year old son is not at all interested in 'religion', particularly in going to church. He sees it as 'boring', even the youth services, and not his idea of a good night out. He's prayed and given himself to God, but he won't attend church.
Which is a pity, as the youth pastor and assistants at our church are fantastic and really committed to the kids.
In discussion with the youth pastor about why attendances of youth are so low, we discussed boredom, reducing the amount of worship singing at youth services, and other issues.
What my son wants is something that is geared specifically to his age group -- LAN parties, slasher video nights, scatological jokes, lack of po-faced seriousness, and not having the bible or God shoved in his face.
That's when it hit me why the pentecostal movement might be growing so fast, especially the AOG 'flavour'. They hit the kids via music -- rock, loud, pumping, energetic. Indeed, it was this very same 'aggressive, counter-cultural' style that brought so many youth to faith in the 1970s via Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell.
Sure, modern (Christian) rock music may be too much for many of the more senior members of the community (and let's not forget that the Australian church currently has four generations attending it, all of them looking for and demanding something of relevance to them), but some of it ain't half bad.
I've really gotten into Switchfoot in the last 12 months (missed out on going to their concert here in Adelaide a few months ago; didn't hear about it until too late - argghh!!!) and there are no doubt loads of other bands that can appeal to young teenage boys.
At a dinner party recently someone even mentioned that a popular and really heavy band ('heavy' as in the style of 'death metal') are in fact a Christian band -- if one reads their lyrics they are apparently amazing, but you'd never guess it from the thrash style of music.
(No, I don't recall the name of the band but I'm investigating further, as I'd love my son to listen to something slightly less intimidating than Slipknot. I think it's great he listens to System of a Down as their musical ingenuity is refreshing… and I've pointed him to 90s band Jellyfish for similar creativity within a lighter rock genre.)
Perhaps disenfranchised 30-somethings leave the AOG for the calmer waters of, say, the CRC 'flavour' of pentecostal Christianity (our church is part of that 'flavour') once they tire of the music and the energy. But the AOG is phenomenally successful in attracting both youth and money, and if Hillsong is any indication, that could be because of the staged progression of music -- from teen-friendly through to less-threatening 'AOR' (Adult-Oriented Rock - a hangover from the 1970s FM scene).
Now, if only some of that money could make its way to our own non-AOG church...