Walt Mueller from CPYU does it again…

CPYU (the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding) has for MANY YEARS been one of my favorite “go-to” websites for information and perspective on youth culture.  Walt Mueller’s blog has also been one of the many blogs that I read through on a daily basis.  Today’s post was especially “tasty”…Walt is having the opportunity to review an upcoming book that has “prophetic” written all over it.  Now, I’m not talking “futuristic, predictive” prophesy…rather, this might be “God’s Word being spoke to His people” type of prophesy…in other words, a “listen up and get your act together” type of prophesy.  So, what I’ve done is essentially posted for you “most” of Walt’s blog post.  I think you might find it intentionally provocative (another prophetic trait…think Jeremiah and Hosea if you will).  These insights are powerful because they point out a pop culture “flaw”…the idolization of youth and the fallout of wide-spread immaturity across many aspects of our lives.  Anyway, enjoy…or rather, be irritated…or rather, feel something!

“The youth ministry world is about to be introduced to (another) royal pain in the butt. Thomas Bergler, Associate Professor of Ministry and Missions at Huntington University, has written a disturbing book that will be released in April. . . The Juvenilization of American Christianity. I call the book “disturbing” because it’s going to shake us up. I’m currently reading the manuscript as I’ve been asked to write an endorsement. Bergler brings together history, theology, sociology, and developmental theory in a brilliant mix that’s going to make the church – I hope – sit back and ask ourselves some pretty hard questions about what, why, and how we’ve been doing things. 

“Juvenilization,” writes Bergler, “is the process by which the religious beliefs, practices, and developmental characteristics of adolescents become accepted as appropriate for Christians of all ages. It begins with the praiseworthy goal of adapting the faith to appeal to the young. But it sometimes ends badly, with both youth and adults embracing immature versions of the faith.” He goes on to explain how our churches now pander to American consumerism, self-centeredness, and immaturity of American believers. He clarifies, “The story of juvenilization is a story not of a sinister plot or a noble crusade, but of unintended consequences and unquestioned assumptions.” 

I’m not yet finished with The Juvenilization of American Christianity, but I’m really liking what I’m reading. I’m sure I’ll be blogging on this book more in the coming weeks. At this point, I’m thinking that Bergler is offering a nice follow-up to Christian Smith’s Soul-Searching. 

Here’s a little interview clip with Bergler that will give you a taste of what the book is all about. If you can’t bear to sit through the entire 15 minutes of the interview your impatience might just prove Bergler’s point! Church, youth ministry world, and fellow juvenile Christians. . . meet Thomas Bergler. . . a royal pain in the butt whose arrival is timely and even long overdue! . . .

Hirsch “bombardment” with APEST…

The Permanent Revolution, Alan Hirsch's and Tim Catchim's new book, is totally focused on the APEST typology of Kingdom living.  I must say that I've been a HUGE proponent of "gift-based ministry" for years.  The "beauty" of God's creation of and economy within HIS Body and Purposes is that in unity we have been given a Spirit-enabled diversity and unique sense of call and chosenness to be able to be faithful to the Kingdom task/purpose making disciples.  So, I get that…what I have NOT spent as much time on over the past years is the specific focus on the "five-fold" ministry of ekklesia (of gatherings or organizations of followers of Jesus).  Other books have articulated this but Hirsch and Catchim make a passionate and well-reasoned plea for followers of Jesus to understand and "re-organize" around the design of the Body for maximum apostolic effectiveness around APEST (best articulated scripturally in Ephesians 4).  NOW, this would be a "book long" post if we tried to sum all THAT up…for now, get this – though the new book does spend some time analyzing how institutional, Western Christendom has been obsessed with TWO out of the FIVE types of "giftings" in the Body (primarily the task of teacher and shepherd) and making a strong case for the "resurrection" of the APE (apostle, prophet and evangelist) functions, the core of the book spells out with thorough specificity the scope of APEST and how "revolutionary" the potential of re-igniting a discipleship journey in community for Kingdom faithfulness.  I know…I used a lot of big words…I'm trying to keep the post brief.  I'm planning on sharing this stuff more over the coming days.  So, check back, OK?  For now, do some searching on APEST if you like…or, better yet, get your hands on either The Forgotten Ways, On the Verge or Permanent Revolution books…OR check this web link!  More to come…

The Literary Onslaught of Alan Hirsch…

51Cf4aIVK2L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_This time Alan partners up with Tim Chatchim and Mike Breen…but truly, I don't know how he has done it over the last several years.  Everytime I open up my Amazon account, there is another Hirsch book.  Now, for some of us, redundancy would be the name of the game if we had to pull numerous books out of our souls even if given a lifetime to write.  But Alan has consistently produced and delivered…frankly, if it wasn't for the fact that he articulates what is the foundation of his life in apostolic ministry, that being, the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, I would start wondering if he was more robotic than human.  

Let me tell you up front, that I have only read the introduction.  But as I tweeted today, I highlighted almost half of what I wrote.  In all of Alan's books (and yes, I've read them all), he has not been as suscinct nor as prophetically targeted on THIS particular issue - 

Here are some highlights of the INTRODUCTION…did you get that?  The INTRODUCTION:

"We are forced to ask ourselves…what are God's orginal purposes in and through His people?  Is the gospel capable of renewing the world and transforming the hearts of human beings?  Did God really mean for the ecclesia to be the focal point for the wholesale renewal of society?  Are we really called to be a colony of a much-disputed kingdom, or did Jesus intend that we become chaplains of a so-called Christian civilization in the West?  These are the questions that take us to the core of our self-understanding and purpose, and we must be willing to ask them again and again."

"…we certainly do not believe that Christianity was ever meant to become a domesticated civil religion.  As far as we can tell, Jesus intended us to be a permanent revolution-an outpost of the kingdom of God no less."

"The reality is that in a complex world with an ever-increasing rate of discontinuous change, we can use an existing approach only until the environment shifts, or a black swan requires an adaptive solution.  A simple improvement in current practices will no longer do in these circumstances.  When strategy and environment are radically incongruent, innovative strategies have to be explored in order to reengage the environment."

"We (Christ followers) were never meant to settle down and become a civil religion; there is no indication of that in our primary scriputs.  It is time to become again the permanent revolution that we were meant to be in the first place."

"By changing our metaphors, or paradigms of church, we can change the game.  The name we give to this different paradigm of church is simply apostolic movement…in short, apostolic movement involves a radical community of disciples, centered on the lordship of Jesus, empowered by the Spirit, built squarely on a fivefold ministry, organized around mission where everyone (not just professionals) is considered an empowered agent, and tends to be decentralized in organizational structure."

"Thinking like a movement instead of an institution has massive implications…"

So, my encouragement is to do one of two things – follow me over the next couple of weeks…I'll summarize major sections of the book as I make my way through it…secondly, and better yet, pick one up yourself. When Alan posted on Facebook and Twitter that this book was going to be most likely his most important in terms of ecclesiology I was tempted to diminish his words.  Now I've come to see, that he is right!  

Hits and Misses @ the Grammys…one humble view from a point

I don't know what to really think about this post.  I watch the Grammy awards most years because I'm a Grammy-statuemusician.  I love music and love to follow its artistic journey through the lives of people and their stories.  The Grammys usually "celebrate" the bightest and best of the recording industry…make no mistake about it, it is an industry.  It's goal – to not only highlight artists but to make money.  And to make money these days especially in a celebrity driven, narcissistic, almost "anti-value" culture is to shock, disturb and push envelopes.  That's what happened last night…again, in one humble perspective.  Bruno Mars is simply talented…Paul McCartney, the Beach Boys, etc. are all "classics" but we have to face it, they were there to bring in an older audience (again, media manipulation – yes, I have a tendency to be a bit cynical).  It was refreshing to see "pros" have mic problems (which actually made me laugh out loud, again, my cynical side since it has happened to me numerous times) and it was disturbing to watch a few performances and come to the conclusion (as I said to Vicky at the time), "you know, I just don't get that!"  I don't get club music…what's cool about Danger Mouse is that head-thing he wears as he does his electronic "thing"…I would love one of those!  I get Foo Fighters…I know that Dave is a hard-core rock purist…although I like some of the other "candidates" for the "hard rock" category…it is me or do many of the Foo songs sound alike.  Don't get me wrong…Dave's good but how about some Mastedon or Jeff Beck's work.  The Coldplay/Rhainna song?  Really?  Again, I'm not a big Cold Play fan…Chris doesn't have a great "high voice" and Rhianna is a "girl punk", you can see it in her attitude.  I could go on but I won't.  Civil Wars – funny and too short.  I could have used a few more "seconds" of their song/performance – it was raw and real (much in contast to the overly hyped, overly produced, lip-synched performances – I know this is the "recording" industry but I like live performances not just dance routines).  The most shocking and literally nauseating part of the night was Nicki Manaj and her "Roman" song…put it this way, I don't deal well with people who say that they have another "personality living inside of them"…it is wrong on more levels than I can count.  Center for Parent and Youth Understanding leader, Walt Mueller, had a good post on it today that you (especially if you are a parent, youth worker, leader in a faith community, or cultural student) should take a look at because he brings us broader issues.  Lastly, no doubt the refreshing Adele saved the show…her innocence and genuine thankfulness and humility was like a cold drink on a hot day…just made me smile.  I also like Bon Iver (although I know NONE of his music except what I'm listening to now on ITunes) and his comments about independent artists…again, he looked genuine and like many of the artists I know – looking NOT for celebrity but for a place to share what is most meaningful in their art.  Overall, I wish I would have watched the show on my DVR…that way I could have fast forwarded the aspects of the show that were simply lame (again, my opinion).  The big "idea" of the night – if you want a snapshot of culture in the West…if you want to get a "feel" for what's going on in the world, the Grammys are a "must see"…oh and by the way, I loved checking live feeds from pals on Twitter.  That was fun!  That's it for now…no more blather from me!

Our obsession with idolatry…and it’s subtle twin, celebrity

Agreed-covetousness-mammon-money-idolatry1I've been around for a while…and to tell you the truth, there has been times in my life (like just about everyone, I guess) where popularity and "celebrity" was a personal goal.  I don't know whether to be ashamed of that reality or simply to chalk it up to first half of life issues.  Don't misunderstand me, it's not like I sat around and said to those I loved, "you know, I want to be famous"…but there was a hidden, part of me, that dark place clouded with delusions of self-promotion and aggrandizement that seemed to be fueled by visions of book sales, conference speaking engagements, and church "success" measurements of big attendance (to hear "me" proclaim the Gospel, God's truth, of course) and other monuments to my brilliance. Then the Spirit had to humble me…that's right, I prayed consistently for God to "have His way" with me and my life and, over time, that's exactly what He did  do (of course, not according to what I expected)…He brought my life in alignment with HIS plan…that means, I live and do what He calls me to do no matter how many people even know my name.  I guess celebrity wasn't in the cards…and that's simply fine with me.  I enjoy the circle of relationships that God has blessed me with and the life that He has so graciously provided for me to live and experience His Kingdom.  In a culture of consumerism and idol worship, everyone seems to want to have their proverbial 15 minutes in the sun…in fact, if you talk to students these days, you will hear the articulation of personal goals that have more to do with celebrity and cultural popularity than courage, character, or impact on the world at large.  Whereas I heard kids wanting to be policemen, doctors, and educators in times past, now young people want to be rock stars, reality tv icons and billionaires.   

As you imagine, the culture of celebrity has been something that has become part of the overall "church culture" in America.  We have our "rock stars"…those who have throngs of followers, those who eagerly await the next concert, sermon, or book.  Unfortunately, we all know the stories of the humbling of those who rise to the top of cultural fame…they have proliferated the headlines of newspapers for years.  So, it shouldn't come as surprise that more and more people who follow Jesus are apt to point out the frailty of fame and what our obsession with celebrity does to the soul…no, not just to those being put on the pedestal but also on the hearts of those who live lemming lives.  

Recently, I read a great editorial on Relevant Magazine that articulated some of the dynamics associated with this issue…I would encourage you to take a look at it…it is worth a few of your moments of concentration:  RELEVANT MAGAZINE ARTICLE

And here's more from Mike Breen of 3dm ministries:


The idea of celebrity is deeply woven into American culture and values. All you have to do is look at the ridiculous nature of Reality TV and you see how Americans are constantly craving celebrity (either to be a celebrity or to find the next celebrity and stalk there every move). Now there is nothing dark or sinister about “celebrity” in and of itself. You can’t find an argument that says Jesus wasn’t a huge celebrity in his day.

However, there is a difference between being famous and being significant. If Jesus was famous, it’s because he was doing something significant. The problem with many pastors is they make decisions, develop personas and define success from the lens of what will make them a celebrity/famous (even if they don’t know it or see that they are doing this). So in American church culture, it’s pretty easy to become a celebrity: Grow a HUGE church. Now all in all, it’s not terribly difficult to grow to be a giant church if you have the right tools at your disposal…but that doesn’t mean the ends justify the means of getting there.

For instance, though Jesus was a celebrity in his day, he was willing to say things that ran people off in droves. In fact, the book of Mark chronicles the way (from about the mid-point of the book on) how people left Jesus to where, at the end, virtually no one was left. NO ONE wants to be associated with him for fear of the consequences. That’s a Charlie Sheen-esque flameout (obviously without the character issues!). That’s not something you see too often in American churches.

I suspect it’s because riven deeply into the American psyche is the desire to be a celebrity. And American pastors are very susceptible to this. Many subtle things happen in people who desire to this kind of celebrity status:

* They can disengage community and isolate themselves, setting themselves up for moral failure.

* They can make decisions that are numbers driven and not always Kingdom driven.

* They can skew to a shallow understanding of the Gospel as opposed to a holistic one that leads people to discipleship.

* They can put the good of their church (their personal Kingdom) over the good of God’s Kingdom.


When you don’t have anything original, “borrow” something from someone else…

Asurprise_answer_4_xlargeI ran into this this morning…it has been rattling around my soul for over a hour.  I was thinking (since it is "Blog Monday") about what to post this morning.  I had some thoughts about a variety of issues…then I read THIS:

"Though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

       though the olive crop fails

                     and the fields produce no food,

                     though there are no sheep in the pen

                     and no cattle in the stalls,

                     yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

                     I will be joyful in God my Savior."

And I run my fingers again under these lines in Habakkuk. Could I do this? What would I do if He (God) asked this? And doesn’t He? Though the fig tree does not bud…. I may not enjoy every moment but every moment I can joy in God. Does He ever leave us?

That’s what it says at the top of the page: Habakkuk. The name means wrestler.

To wrestle with God because the hard times are holy times. To not escape time, but stubbornly, fully embrace time, because this is how we stay engaged with God. When we don’t know how to hang on in hard times, to just grip hard to God. 

The only ones who can rest in God are the one who have wrestled with God… I will not let you go until I you bless me.

That is what the pastor said: There is no tighter embrace than the grip of the wrestle."

If you don't ever read this blog again…if you ran into it by accident or are a friend of mine who checks it out occassionally because you have nothing better to do, you should print this out and pray that it can be implanted in your heart and soul.  The grip of God…I can live in and with that…in fact, in that grip is LIFE!  And LIFE in abundance!


More from the “you can’t spin this” bucket…

Ano-spin-480This time, we look again to the Leadership Journal/Barna group (really, the only serious organization that consistently "measures" issues within ecclesiastical circles – Pew is good too – also, you can't ignore doctoral work even though usually it isn't as comprehensive).  Here is some more information on young adults and their leaving institutional expressions of faith journeys (what people call, "church").  Now, what is interesting to me is that when things like this are "aired" publicly it usually surfaces those people whose first line of "defense" is to attempt to act as apologists for their particular institutional movement.  Inevitably, we will  hear it, "oh, that's not what we do"; OR "we have been the only church that has the theology/practice that faithfully ministers to…"; OR "if these kids were really Christians, they wouldn't be having these issues."  Oh sure, there are a plethora of comments that I've heard over the years when some meaningful critique or snapshot of reality makes its way to the consciousness of church leaders/people.  All I'm going to say is this – "STOP and listen."  The issue here is to listen to the feedback and ask ourselves some very pointed and intentional questions as well as to begin to have some conversations with people (in this case younger adults) who may (or may not) have these perceptions, feelings and experiences.  So, for those of you who DO have some investment in institutional religion, it is time to heed the words of Jesus, "for those who have ears, HERE what the Spirit is saying to the churches… (Revelation 2 and 3)."  

Six Reasons Young People are Leaving the Church

Editor's disclaimer – my experience tells me that it isn't that all young people are leaving "faith" or even "followership/discipleship"…they are many young people who are actually adhering to faith…what they are talking about MORE (no doubt there are many who are questioning faith as well) is their relationship with institutional forms of "church"…many of the young people I know crave authentic community…that's the issue that is most prevelant to me…but like I said above, it is time to listen!

Isolationism. One-fourth of 18- to 29-year-olds say church demonizes everything outside church, including the music, movies, culture, and technology that define their generation.

Shallowness. One-third call church boring, about one-fourth say faith is irrelevant and Bible teaching is unclear. One-fifth say God is absent from their church experience.

Anti-science. Up to one-third say the church is out of step on scientific developments and debate.

Sex. The church is perceived as simplistic and judgmental. For a fifth or more, a "just say no" philosophy is insufficient in a techno-porno world. Young Christian singles are as sexually active as their non-churched friends, and many say they feel judged.

Exclusivity. Three in 10 young people feel the church is too exclusive in this pluralistic and multi-cultural age. And the same number feel forced to choose between their faith and their friends.

Doubters. The church is not a safe place to express doubts say over one-third of young people, and one-fourth have serious doubts they'd like to discuss.

—Adapted from a list by David Kinnaman in You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church … and Rethinking Faith

Young Exodus

Six in 10 young people will leave the church permanently or for an extended period starting at age 15, according to new research by the Barna Group. And for the generation now coming of age, it's more than the usual "driver's license to marriage license" joy ride, according to the pollsters. For church leaders, the question is, what will we do about it?

Today's young adults are marrying later, if at all, are technologically savvy, and hold worldviews alien to their upbringing. Barna Research president David Kinnaman, after a five-year-study, declared that church leaders are unequipped to deal with this "new normal."

Their response is mostly at the extremes, both dangerous. Many ignore the situation, hoping young adults' views will be righted when they are older and have their own children. These leaders miss the significance of the shifts of the past 25 years, Kinnaman contends, and the needs for ministry young people have in their present phase—if it is a phase.

But the opposite reaction is just as problematic: "using all means possible to make their congregation appeal to teens and young adults." This excludes older members and "builds the church on the preferences of young people and not on the pursuit of God," Kinnaman said.

Kinnaman prescribes intergenerational ministry. "In many churches, this means changing the metaphor from simply passing the baton to the next generation to a more functional, biblical picture of a body – that is, the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God's purposes."