I finally finished Soul Searching by Christian Smith. This was a very insightful book, if nothing else I woudl recomend that any youth pastor read the conclusion and the unscientific post script. This is a really valuable book to have in your library. It’s a long tough trod, but well worth the effort.
Our church is going through a massive overhaul, changing the name, moving, and all that. And our student ministry is going through the same process. We introduced our new name last night at our youth service. we were fomerly called thryve, now we are >>beyond>> student ministries.
Our goal in this ministry is to go beyond the common assumptions of what a student ministry looks like, and to equip our students to live beyond the status quo. I am really excited for the change that we are going through. It’s a long process, but if we do it right I think we can build a ministry that will amaze us all. I really think our church is ready to break through some walls and I’m praying that the youth ministry will be the starting point for a lot of this.
our core values are >>faith, mission, reality>>. first you believe, than you are on mission, and God helps you deal with your reality, both physical and spiritual.
One of the things that I am learning in all of this is that things don’t have to be super complicated, they don’t have to be really hard, they don’t have to be all hype. But if you leave room for God to move in your ministry, he always does.
So I’ve been reading this book for a long time, it’s a slow reading researching book, about spirituality in the lives of American teenagers. And it looks at spirituality in many different faith context and how students look at their faith, and how it affects their lives. Today what I read disturbed me not just for teenagers, but for the entire church.
“moralistic Therapeutic Deism, is colonizing many historical religious traditions and, almost without anyone noticing, converting believers in the old faiths to its alternative religious vision of divinely underwritten personal happiness and interpersonal niceness . . . We can say here that we have come with some confidence to believe that a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition . . . It is not so much that U.S. Christianity is being secularized. Rather more subtly, Christianity is either degenerating into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, Christianity is actively being colonized and displaced by a quite different religious faith.” (pg 171)
I read this section of the book and I felt horrible, because I know it is true. More and more people are trying to use God just to feel good about themselves, and really the only people to blame for this is the Church. I fear the the seeker sensitive movement, which was spawned with the best of intentions is actually causing people to dilute the faith so much that they really don’t ever think about letting God take over their whole lives, and they don’t care that other people are actually going to hell because we don’t want to offend people with the truth that is proclaimed in the Bible.
American culture has created this great melting pot, and mega churches have gathered many people to the event on Sunday morning. But is this melting pot and the easy gospel killing Christianity in the US? I don’t know. I’m all for cultural diversity, but shouldn’t I also defend what I believe? Shouldn’t the church be willing and able to stand up with confidence and preach what the Bible says? Or do we want to be broad and general in what we talk about? Do we want to preach the gospel of give self help seminars, or self esteem boosters to the overmedicated masses?
God makes people uncomfortable, and that’s good, because in that discomfort there is probably some reverence, but instead of embracing that reverence and otherness of God, we would rather not talk about what he would like us to do in our lives, or that he loves people but for his mercy to be so deep there also has to be wrath. God isn’t the cosmic sky fairy that grants wishes to “good people”. God is bigger than that and we in the church should not be afraid of God, and offending people with his truth. If I have to choose between offending God or offending you, I am going to offend you every time.
Last night at our youth service, we took communion. It was an incredible time of worship and reflection, and for the first time since I have been here I saw our students linger in the presence of God, students who never really take time to worship were singing, raising their hands. One Student even started leading an impromptu devotional, with some other guys. It’s amazing what God can do when you just step back, and let him move. It seems like whenever I over plan, it’s just a service, but when I leave room for God, it’s amazing.
Last night went really well. We recently combined our High School and Middle School groups into one supergroup, and we had the highest attendance since the merger. We still haven’t recovered all of our middle school students but we are working on it. It was really encouraging to see that we are still influencing these students that we haven’t seen in a while.
Our worship leader was in the zone last night to. His heart was really evident, and when I looked around I saw students responding to his challenge and his leadership into worship. It was an all around great night.