Thursday, December 15, 2011

Consuming Youth

I'm a pastor.
I haven't always embraced this title, but I'm doing so now.

How did I become a pastor? It has a lot to do with Bob Clayton and Carman Ruggeri. Bob was the Senior pastor and Carman was the youth pastor at Mountain Christian Center in Oakhurst- the church where I grew up. Bob and Carman literally called me into ministry. I'm sure God was also involved, but as I look back to those adolescent days, I remember these men speaking words of affirmation and encouragement to me as the catalyst for why I'm in ministry today.

Calling young people into ministry is why I'm excited to have been a part of the writing of Consuming Youth. The message of the book is my story. I do what I do because of people like Bob and Carman. In the same way this book challenges adults to take the same interest and oversight of teenagers today. Consuming youth offers an alternative reality, a different story to inhabit; one that calls youth and adults to consider their identity as vocation and calling first.

One reader of Consuming Youth summarized it in this way, “Culture tells youth to find identity through consuming; the Church should tell youth to find identity through their calling.”

Unfortunately, as we know, this isn't often the case. Culture defines youth as:

  • Consumers- value comes through what is owned or possessed.
  • Self-absorbed- the message that teenagers only care about themselves to the exclusion of others
  • Rebellious- that they are walking bundles of out of control hormones at war with adults
  • Only peer-oriented- no room or desire for adult interaction

Consuming Youth offers a different narrative. One that challenges youth and youth leaders to create communities that represent:

  • Called- with a unique purpose
  • Others oriented- youth can come alive through service
  • Resourced- that there are caring adults available to walk alongside these teenagers.
  • Community – part of a larger story.

The feedback we've received since the December 2010 release has been very interesting. This book is striking a cord with a wide variety of people in a wide variety of life stages. Older adults are rediscovering the power of vocation and are finding themselves reenergized to spend the rest of their lives pursuign God's vocation for their lives. Youth leaders are investing themselves in ministry that takes seriously the need for a different narrative to live by, one that moves us beyond the dominant message.

One of my favorite stories from the book is about a youth pastor friend of mine who was responding to a program I was involved in that sought to implement the values spelled out in the book. When the high school students returned to his youth group, he told me they were “ruined for normal.” They were no longer able to fully participate in North American teenage consumer culture because they had been touched and transformed by the power of vocation and call.

I thought of Pastors Bob and Carman as I listened to my youth pastor friend, and all I could do was smile.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Responding to the Culture Shift

This week I had a FB conversation with a person from my church. This person was stressing his distaste for the emergent church and his perception that they promote false teachings.

This conversation got me thinking and I jotted down my thoughts on how many Christians are responding to cultural shift and with it a sense of loss, uncertainty, and fear.

Some are responding by hanging on more closely to "Truth." With this is the understanding the Bible is a set of propositional beliefs that need to be accepted. In fact, although they wouldn't say they believe this, many demonstrate by practice that the Bible should actually be reformatted in order to "work" easier. They would argue the importance of Truth is in order to have certainty about belief.

In contrast, some have adapted to changing culture by grabbing onto a dynamic relationship with Jesus. They see the Bible as a narrative of God's salvation story and they seek to live within that relationship. They aren't worried about believing a set of propositions because they know the person of Jesus. For these people they often feel more certainty about their standing with God because of their friendship with Him.

This mental exercise reminded me of Leonard Sweet's book, The Church In Emerging Culture- 4 Views which brought together multiple voices from divergent Christian camps to talk about their way to responding to culture. Maybe it's time I take that book out and re-read it.
Encouraging Stories:

Sometimes as a pastor it's easy to get discouraged when it seems like "nothing is happening." So I'm going to use this format to write things about things that are happening. This week I heard two encouraging stories:

First, I was encouraged to hear about two guys at church who are going to start meeting together to go through a bible study program. I was blown away that one of these guys was willing to meet with anyone so this is great news.

As we approach Christmas and as we work through Advent Conspiracy as a church I heard on Sunday about a daughter who gave her mom "lunch a month" for the year. This meant taking the time each month to schedule and plan a lunch out - way more work than getting a cheap gift at Target. At the same time this mom was sharing how much fun they had, how her relationship with her daughter was closer, and how she hoped to be getting the same "gift" at Christmas this year.

It's amazing how these little things, when I write them down, can encourage so much.