What is the Theological Turn in Youth Ministry?

The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry is the newest book from youth ministry people Andy Root & Kenda Creasy Dean. It’s a combination of different essays written by each of them dealing with a hope for a more robustly theological take on youth ministry. Most of the chapters are articles that have been previously-published, but updated for the book. It’s all fantastic stuff and really worth the time reading, not just for youth ministry, but for all ministry. I think we need a more theological look at the way in which we, as a church and the people who work in it, interact with people in our ministry.

Over the next week or so, I’ll be going through some great discussion points of the book and posting responses and thoughts on the ideas presented there. I’m not going to do a lot of summarizing of the chapters, because it’s kind of a waste of both my time and yours. Read the book. It’s very worthwhile. I think each chapter has different enough ideas where it would be worth it to engage in the conversation in an attempt to develop a more robustly theological (youth) ministry.


What is Preaching in the Inventive Age?

Doug Pagitt’s new “Inventive Age” series have been great resources in helping re-imagine what church looks like in today’s world, which Pagitt has coined as the inventive age.  He defines the inventive age as a time period in which inclusion, collaboration, participation and beauty are key values. It’s one in which everyone has creative input and is valued as an important resource. Last summer, his first book in the series, Church in the Inventive Age was published. This summer he released two more titles, Preaching in the Inventive Age and Community in the Inventive Age. While they are certainly interrelated, each offers a unique perspective on church in our late modern time.

I don’t want to give a summary of the book, because I would encourage everyone to read it for themselves. One problem he cites is the propensity of pastors to think of giving a sermon as a one-way monologue which puts the pastor in the position of the one, central authority. He calls this not preaching, but speaching. I found it to be a very interesting (and very accurate) assessment of modern preaching. The book is not meant to be a definitive and conclusive word, but a partner in conversation (which is characteristic of the Inventive Age in and of itself). Instead, I want to offer a few quotes that stuck out to whet the appetite of anyone interested in a re-imagination of preaching.

“This is my hope for what preaching can be: a mutual admonition of one another in life with God.” – pg. 20

“[On the act of sermon as speech] If we truly believe that God is involved in the lives of the people of our communities, it seems obvious that we should avoid using a practice that tells them this involvement is determined by others. Why would we call people to a personal connection with God and yet be content to give them generic, universal experiences with the message of faith?” – pg. 122

“We are helped when we understand the reasons why something matters to another person. This is how we grow, learn, and develop. The goal of truth seeking ought to be more than finding support for the perspective I already have. It ought to broaden and deepen my perspective of the world by figuring out how the perspective of another dovetails into or corrects my own.” – pg. 134

I would definitely recommend the book to anyone who is yearning for a re-imagining, or even a re-invigorating, of the role of the sermon in worship.

You can find Pagitt’s books on Amazon, including in the Kindle store. You can also follow him on Twitter here.


Church in the Present Tense: Theology

Sorry these posts have been so sporadic. It may have been a bad idea for such an A.D.D. reader as myself to commit to blogging through an entire book. But I’m having fun engaging the different chapters so here goes with the second section: theology

In the second section of Church in the Present Tense, Jason Clark and Kevin Corcoran deal with the theological issues of emerging Christianities. Clark deals with consumer liturgies in chapter 3 whereas Corcoran deals with an emerging eschatology in chapter 4.

Consumer Liturgies

I think Jason’s chapter on consumerism as a detrimentally developing tradition is a really provocative thought. He writes that consumerism attempts to answer those really deep questions of our existence. What is a good life? Well, a good life is having nice things, of course. The feedback loop that consumerism gives us places our salvation in having the next best thing. Having all of the nice things and experiences that a consumer-centered economy has to offer, in a way, saves us from the worst fate imaginable: boredom. With echoes of Neil Postman, Clark explores how we amuse ourselves to the point of numbness to real and valid engagement with the world around us.

While I was reading Jason’s chapter, I couldn’t help but think of echoes of Pete Ward’s Liquid Church. In this short work, Ward says that in our modern society, the most the church can hope to be for people is either a place of heritage or a place of refuge. Church is important because it either a) connects us with our past or b) shelters us from all of the big, bad, “secular” wolves out there. Otherwise, for many people, church is largely irrelevant as a third space for people, which gets back to what Jason explores throughout the rest of his chapter. He comes out by saying that people are yearning for a third space in their lives. A space that isn’t work, and isn’t home, but a place that offers fulfillment of relationship. People aren’t looking for heritage or refuge, so these third spaces are almost never church.

Jason then heads into an ideation of church that leads us into the exchange of stories that seeks to downplay the self-creation that is endlessly promoted in consumer culture, as a way of leading into a search for the true story of life centered around Jesus with and for others. He juxtaposes consumer culture with true community and fellowship found in Christ. The liturgies of consumerism aren’t going to be thwarted by people from the outside coming in. It starts with the people already in the church putting aside the perverted liturgy of consumerism and offering a way forward in mission with the broader community to make the community a better place.

Farewell, Kevin Corcoran

I only title his chapter with a farewell to be a bit facetious about Kevin’s chapter on eschatology. He espouses similar ideas to that of Rob Bell’s new book as ideas that are appealing to the emerging communities. At one point he even explicitly states the essentials of Bell’s thesis that, in the end, love will win and all of humanity will be reconciled to God.

He takes Christ’s announcement of “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” to explore the already/not yet dichotomy of the coming Kingdom. It’s here and now. Unfolding right before our very eyes. In no way is the fully consummated or revealed at this point. But we participate in this coming with every action we do. When we act with good intentions to help our neighbor, we help bring about the kingdom. When we participate in destructive activities, we actively prohibit the kingdom coming to fruition. But either way… we’re the participants.

For Corcoran, the coming kingdom is characterized by compassion and justice. There needs to be simultaneously both present in order for the kingdom to be realized. One without the other produces hollow sentiments that, at the least, are not productive. In God’s kingdom, both are abundantly present. In the earthly kingdom, that balance is a little bit harder to come by. The Christians who tend to be attracted by emerging sensibilities are attracted to the tension held by justice and compassion. Scores of people want to help participate in the coming kingdom (even though most certainly would not use that language). Creation yearns for the time when justice and peace meet. But it’s only in the full actualization of God’s  kingdom that it happens. It’s a good thing when people wish to come together and defend the oppressed and work to re-gain what has been lost.

As Kevin notes, there are scores of people who still yearn to participate in this work of justice and peace. And as he, rightly, concludes: “That is a good thing. A very good thing.”


Church in the Present Tense

So I ventured out to Barnes and Noble a couple days ago and picked up this book, Church in the Present Tense. In the newest publication from the folks at Emergent Village, Scot McKnight, Peter Rollins, Kevin Corcoran and Jason Clark take a look at the landscape of church as it is, not as it was and not as it will be. They split up four general topics and two of them write about each. The areas covered here are philosophy, theology, worship and Bible & doctrine. A couple of these writers take a crack and each of the topics in the larger conversation of what the church looks like in the present tense.

That being said, why am I talking about it? Well… (as many young Christian bloggers do) I’m going to write as I journey through it. I’ll take one section at a time and respond to what’s being said, look for practical application to youth ministry pieces in an ultimate search to see what this book has to contribute to the greater conversation of church in the post-modern, post-denominational, post-everything world. I hope you guys will join me for some engagement in these issues as I’m sure they will come up and be worthwhile. That’s all for now. Coming on Thursday… Section 1: Philosophy with Kevin Corcoran and Peter Rollins. Stay tuned!


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