Friday, October 06, 2006

youth ministry - the next 50 years - part two

you can read part one here

i have separated these because this second half was influenced by an article i read this morning in the new york times and i had developed the thoughts in part one over the past couple of days and didn't want them influenced by this. i almost tossed them out because this article, it raised so much emotion within me. i think it's important to note some of that here.

New York Times: Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers

as stated in part one i have personal experience in the evangelical mainstream and have seen first hand a lot of what is referenced in the article. much of it now makes me squirm. the very things highlighted as crucial by those interviewed here are the very things i find so damaging and i think might be the very cause of the exodus they seem unable to explain.

i know, who am i to argue with the powers that be? voices like josh mcdowell and ron luce - they are heavy hitters with huge platforms. but i fear that much of what they have built is the cause of a lot of those who truly want a personal relationship with god becoming frustrated and becoming the be-leavers. those who still hold faith, but can't participate in the formal incarnation most churches hold to.

i see that the same tactics that are being used to influence voters are being used to influence church-goers and youth. so much of this message is based in fear.

hear the verbs in these sentences:

"evangelical Christian leaders are warning one another that their teenagers are abandoning the faith in droves."

"Their alarm has been stoked by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be “Bible-believing Christians” as adults."

"We’ve been working as hard as we know how to work — everyone in youth ministry is working hard — but we’re losing.” (Ron Luce)

"The board of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group representing 60 denominations and dozens of ministries, passed a resolution this year deploring “the epidemic of young people leaving the evangelical church.”

do you you hear the fear?

ron luce compares himself and his draw to paul mccartney in the article (yes i know editing can do strange things, but the fact is he mentioned paul mccartney. does it seem as lame as john lennon comparing himself to jesus?) he is competing with a world and an enemy he can never beat. he was never meant to beat.

the article goes on to talk of fighting the great beast of materialism and the worldly culture - like changing the t-shirts on america's youth will somehow change their destinies and futures.

when did we take the bait church? when did we loose our way? the battle is within - not without. the armor of god is for your very souls - not to wage war against the world.

the inner battle is where we belong. not fighting against pop-culture and the media. they are not our enemies. taking every thought captive - now there is our work. that is what we're supposed to be teaching our youth.

how have we become the people who scare the hell out of everyone instead of show the love of christ? we have so lost our way. fear not. fear not. fear not.

we still don't get it.

i remember being at the national youth workers convention about four years ago and a wonderful old black preacher man was there. he talked about the stump from isaiah 11 - the nation of isreal being hacked down to the root because what had been allowed to grow was so ugly and distorted it couldn't be recognized anymore. oh do we need to pay attention here. this looks NOTHING like jesus people.

50 years? i have no idea what the next 50 years will hold. my own children will be having babies by then - god i hope we're on a better track by then than we are now.

love not fear. please. love.


Sonja Andrews said...

Well written, Bobbie. As a long time former lay youth leader, I always wondered at the parents who sent their teens to youth group to be "fixed." Or sent them in order to keep them safe. The parents would tell me those things in no uncertain terms. I'd just shake my head (inside) because what could we do in 2 hours a week that they couldn't in all the time they had their children at home? It boggled my mind. I never understood what kind of magic we were supposed to be able to work. The kids who did well and kept their faith ... yep, those were the kids who had good relationships with their parents to begin with.

Sarah Louise said...

Thank you bobbie for writing on this. We need to remember how hard and important all this is. And WOW that you got a link or whatever through Ron Luce.

Keep doing what you're doing. I'll email ya.