Mental challenge for the young

I have always thought we underestimate our youth if we say theology and exegetical biblical teachings are too dry or hard for them. As a young person, I cared a lot for knowledge and truth.  I don’t think young people today are any different in that regard. The only difference is the breadth of information available today but there has to be careful instructions to think through all that information process it and apply it in a manner which gels and clicks in the light of what they hear and see in communities like churches and family circles.

As a young teen I craved for knowledge and truth. This made me look for books constantly and living in a town where the closest public library is a 30-minute bicycle ride away through hot, dusty and crowded cowboy-driver infested roads, I had to limit my visits. In any case, the books available in that library were very limited so I had to rely on old books, magazines and newspapers lying around in my school library.

I think my love for Manchester United was borne out of (partly) that reliance. I remember going to the local grocery shops and newsagents to read outdated editions of “Shoot!” magazines in the mid-70’s and catching up on game reports and commentaries, interviews and fan feedbacks which were several weeks old. It was the days of Tommy Docherty and the Greenhoff brothers. I would pick up the latest available editions and pick out articles on guys like Lou Macari, Sammy McIlroy and Joe Jordan. By the time I could afford to actually buy a copy to take home with me, the Ron Atkinson era had begun and heroes like Frank Stapleton, Bryan Robson, Norman Whiteside, Mark Hughes, Remi Moses, Paul McGrath et al had started to deliver those false starts before Fergie came around in 1986. Anyway, I digress – that detour to crass sports journalism of that era was a result of my hunt for books and other material.

That hunt has been made much easier today. Instead of hopping onto a bicycle to ride to the nearest library the search can easily commence in the comfort of one’s home. You can even do it in bed. It isn’t just that the process is so easy today, the breadth of information is also breathless. You can type “Rob Bell and universalism” for example and you’d probably have scores if not hundreds of source material to read and digest. The trick is the manner in which the wide ranging information is selected, processed, digested and applied. This is where communities like the local church must come in and provide leadership. There is no excuse for the church today to not provide solid theological and exegetical grounding for young people today.

The below blog entry by Timothy Tennent from Asbury touches on this.

Robust Christianity

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

In reflecting on the responses to my blog the last four days, I thought it might be helpful for me to share a few of my own reactions.  My overwhelming response is gratefulness to God, to our students, various other responders and yes, indeed, to Rob Bell as well for stimulating such a healthy conversation.  Part of what made the Reformation such an amazing time in the history of the church is that it brought so many more people to the actual text of Scripture.  Today the collapse of Christendom coupled with the rise of the Majority World church is having the same effect.  New questions are being posed to the text in fresh ways.  If Rob Bell’s Love Wins forces us to become better readers of the Bible in order to articulate a cogent response, then the whole church benefits.

I am also reminded of the ongoing importance of theology in the church today.  Serious theological reflection has fallen on hard times in the world of twitter where everything must be reduced to 140 characters, simple slogans, sound bites, etc…  In a recent, very helpful  article in Christianity Today entitled The Leavers, Drew Dyck explored why young adults in their twenties are leaving the faith at “five to six times the historic rate.”  One of the themes Dyck discovered in his interviews with the children of evangelicals who had left the faith is how many young people who had serious questions about Christianity were met with youth leaders, pastors and parents who either did not know the answer or gave them some trite, shallow reply which sounded ridiculously forced and mechanical rather than thoughtful and persuasive.  Some parents and pastors even tried to hush up the questions or doubts completely.  Young people found that it was wrong to question, they were exhorted to “simply believe.”  Is it any wonder that many of those who left the faith departed because Christianity seemed to lack the kind of robust vitality they were searching for?  All of this genuine searching coincided with a massive movement across the country to invite kids to youth groups and give them pizza and movies, but was fairly light weight when it came to exploring the great truths of the Christian faith.

These are the days when Christians in the West have to recognize that we have largely propagated a domesticated caricature of Christianity rather than the real thing.  We need serious theological reflection, a keen knowledge of the Scripture, a profound engagement with the world, a willingness to really listen to the doubts and questions of those around us, and sacrificial acts of service and witness in every arena of life.   The day of entertainment driven, attractional models of Christian witness must give room to deeply missional discipleship models.   My favorite blog response was a lay person who wrote in and declared “don’t underestimate the laity.”   Brothers and sisters, one of the most profound mistakes we have made is the assumption that we must dumb down to this culture because all they are interested in is simplistic solutions and easy answers.  What an insult to this generation!  What I have found is a generation crying out for a deeper call to a genuine, robust, Apostolic Christianity.   The believing mind and heart must find an expression that is appropriate to the nature of revelation.   Think about it.