Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wisdom. . . .

The older I've gotten the more I've become convinced of the value and absolute need to ask ourselves the right questions. Sadly, I think most people are like me. We learn to ask the questions about thirty years too late. I think that is by and large a typical habit among people in youth ministry.

We are young. We are idealistic. We know what we're doing. . . or at least we think we do. And so we start to do. . . . usually without stopping to assess the world around us, seek the will of God in His Word, and then and only then engage in ministry that is marked by faithfulness and obedience as opposed to "what works." I realize this may sound like an overstatement or some kind of generalization, but I'm trying to capture and communicate a corrective approach to so much of what we've been doing for so long. . . . usually without evaluation.

This is why I asked some pretty specific questions of theologian David Wells. Wells has earned a well-deserved reputation as a critic of the contemporary church, particularly the market-driven consumer-oriented seeker-sensitive variation along with the emergent types that have been popping up in reaction against the aforementioned seeker-sensitive congregations. I firmly believe that no matter who we are or what we are doing in our efforts to worship and serve Christ, we must always be asking questions that force us to evaluate everything we are and do in light of the Scriptures. No one and no one way is beyond scrutiny.

That's where David Wells comes in. If you've ever read any of his books you might conclude that he's a critical, angry, unsettled man. And then you meet the man or sit under his teaching. He's one of us. A brother in the Lord. A member of the Church. And it is that Church that he loves so very much that he can't help but speak in response to what's happening from the perspective of a deep and discerning knowledge of and love for God's Word. I've grown to appreciate this man and what he says. However, I don't think his work will be fully appreciated until history has a chance to look back on it and we say, "Wow. . . that guy really had his finger on the times."

If left to ourselves, few of us would ever pick up any of David Wells' books. That's why I want to challenge you to get brave, open yourself up to some self-evaluation, and start working through his latest book, "The Courage To Be Protestant: Truth-Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World." We posted a review of the book on our CPYU Bookshelf blog back on October 13. Last week we posted a short interview I conducted with Wells about the book. You can read the full text here.

Here's the last question I asked Wells along with his answer. . . . I think you'll see that this guy is passionate about Christ, the Kingdom, and kids. . . .

CPYU: If you were to address a room full of youth workers and you had the opportunity to communicate one message to them, what one message would you communicate?

DW: It is time to get brave. Let’s stop the pandering. Kids see right through it. Let’s give them the real thing. They are looking for it. No one has demanded anything of them; let us tell them that if they come to Christ, he bids them die. No one has told them that they can know truth as something other than their own private perspectives; let us tell them there is Truth and those who know it, lose their lives. No one has told them that there is a different way of life. What many churches have done has been to run after the kids fearing that they will be lost irretrievably to MTV, rock, sex, and drugs. So, better to give them small, undemanding doses of Christianity that won’t interfere too much with their lives and which they will be willing to accept, than none at all, we think to ourselves. Wrong! If we tell them that they can have Christ on their own terms, we are selling them down the river. They instinctively know that. So, let us not make fools of ourselves anymore.


miah said...
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miah said...

When you say we need to ask the right questions, do you mean: ask the right questions of others more experienced than us, ask the right questions of ourselves, or a little bit of both?

Walt Mueller said...

I think we need to ask questions of ourselves. Then, we should seek the answers primarily in the Word, looking as well to the wisdom and advice of those who have gone before us. There is nothing new under the sun. For that reason, there's a deep well of time-tested wisdom and experience from which we must draw.

Mandy said...

It is amazing to what extent the culture around us is driving the church rather than the passion for Jesus Christ driving the church. There are so many different churches available to us in America, so we shop for the best and if we don't like it, we can simply leave and find another. This sounds similar to how we choose which song we'll play on our mp3 player--stay on one song for a few seconds, scroll through all the lame songs, land on another song we like but play it only until we're sick of hearing it, and then completely change the playlist. Unfortunately, this church consumerism has led youth ministers and church leaders into being more "marketable", i.e. doing "what works". They are afraid of people leaving the church or are afraid of others having better programs than them. Ministries then become driven by fear, not God.

I am guilty of it myself and within youth ministry have often found myself "pandering" between what will look good in the church's eyes (usually whatever brings in big numbers--again, culture driven) and the true joy and ministry that occurs when truly seeking the Lord. You're right, kids see right through the "pandering". It is almost scary what amazing things could be happening in churches and youth ministries if we truly sought the Lord rather than looking for pats on our backs from the church. So yes, evaluation is essential in our ministries along with accountability, which encourages us to continually seek the Lord with all of our hearts. I look forward to reading the Wells' book you mentioned.