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10 Things We Need to Hear From Young Leaders

Learning is a two-way street.

Learning is a two-way street.

I have the privilege of spending much of my life with young church leaders. As a seminary dean and missionary trainer, I hang out with people younger than I am.

I’m the teacher, but I learn from the young generation as much as—if not more than—I teach them. Sometimes they teach me something new, as with technology and social media. In other cases, they simply remind me of something I’ve forgotten or have taken for granted.

Of course, all young church leaders have room to grow, and nothing I say here can be applied to every young leader.

With that understanding in mind, here are some of those general reminders that I, and perhaps other older leaders, need to hear from young church leaders.

1. The Bible is still our guide.

My own denomination spent several decades affirming the inerrancy and authority of the Word of God.

Today’s young church leaders were not part of that struggle, but they are the recipients of that teaching.

They may at times differ with us in interpreting and applying the Word, but it is not because they doubt the Bible’s veracity. They read it, study it, believe it and teach it with passion.

2. Christianity is intended to be life-on-life.

This generation understands that no Christian is to live in isolation. Accountability is non-negotiable. Small groups are centers of life transformation rather than only weekly fellowship gatherings.

To young leaders, calling someone “brother” or “sister” means much more than, “I’m sorry, friend, but I don’t remember your name”; it is recognition of members of the family of God.

3. Authenticity is critical.

Young church leaders have watched other leaders fall. They have been raised in a culture of political games.

For many, even their families of origin have been marked by duplicity. They want to trust other church leaders, but, frankly, they have seen too much.

Anyone whose life models authenticity will catch their attention.

4. Mentoring matters.

The most common request I hear from young church leaders is, “I want someone to mentor me. I need someone to walk with me through ministry.”

Given that Jesus and Paul discipled others primarily through mentoring, we older leaders cannot ignore this request. If we do, we share the blame if those following in our steps fail.

5. Christianity is a “doing” faith.

For my generation, Christian commitment has sometimes been limited to church attendance and monetary support, with little attention to service and ministry.

Young leaders, though, assume a “hands on” personal faith. Christianity without action is at best an incomplete faith, at worst a false one.

6. We cannot ignore social ministry.

We older leaders have often neglected social ministry, for fear we would lose our focus on evangelism.

The young generation, though, is striving to correct our omission. Their faith is a Great Commission faith (Matt. 28:18-20) that does not miss the hurting and disenfranchised (Matt. 25:31-46).

7. Church discipline is biblical.

Leaders of my generation have largely ignored church discipline.

Not so with young leaders today. They may at times lead too quickly into discipline, but they are willing to tackle this biblical responsibility. They understand that ignoring this need is neither loving nor godly.

8. The local church is the missions sending agency.

We older leaders often delegated this responsibility to other agencies and organizations.

Young church leaders recognize the church’s mandate to raise up missionaries and church planters, send them out, and then care for them while they are on the field.

The wise missions agency will invite these leaders into the conversation and seek to work alongside them.

9. Denominational loyalty must be earned.

Many in my generation have invested in a single denomination. Young leaders, though, do not share this loyalty.

We must take some responsibility for this reality, for we have not adequately convinced them of the value of cooperative work. Rather than judge them, we must hear them, teach them … and be willing to adjust if needed.

10. If faith requires death, that’s OK.

This commitment is perhaps the one that most grabs my attention.

Young church leaders are often less concerned about big church buildings and earthly recognition; they are most burdened about getting the gospel to the 1.7 billion people who have little access to the gospel. If doing that work requires moving their families to the most dangerous places in the world, they are ready to go.

That kind of faith often puts mine to shame.

What other insights have you gained from young church leaders? What else do we need to hear?  

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on Twitter @Clawlessjr and on at facebook.com/CLawless.
 
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Publicado por em 12/05/2015 em POIMENIA

 

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Can Older Pastors Really Reach the Younger Generation?

Can Older Pastors Really Reach the Younger Generation?
Do younger people actually prefer an older pastor?

Churches mean well when we pursue strategic ways to reach out and help the church become all God wants it to be. Nevertheless, we also sometimes grab a bushel of strategies and consume them without careful discernment. When we do so, we risk a goose chase that can take the church off-track for years.

Great churches typically share similar traits. They have a “big God.”Community is strong. Worship is vibrant and genuine. They have a clear sense of purpose and aren’t easily distracted. Churches that try to grow share a common impulse toward strategic fads. These fads can be recognized if one steps back and simply thinks of the lack of substance they share. However, I continue to hear how much these things matter from churches all over. In my experience and that of my colleagues in healthy, growing churches…they don’t.

We begin with this one: “Older pastors can’t reach young people.”

Hogwash. Balderdash. Poppycock. Bologna.

These days, when people say “older,” they unfortunately refer to anyone over about 45. I turned 36 a couple of months ago and have had conversations with people at New Vintage about the potential imminent demise of my ability to reach young families. I am in my mid-thirties with a 9, 7, and 1 year-old daughter. When I was 33 and Emily was 30, I was informed I was in a completely different generation than a couple that was 29 and 26 respectively, though our children were the same age. That couple needed to be in a different small group with people “their age” I was told. Give me a break.

Here’s what I’ve found…younger people often prefer an older pastor. When I say “older,” I’m referring to someone 45 and up, probably even in their fifties. The reason–they feel the person has experienced enough of life that they can teach them something. The minister is their parent’s age–but isn’t their parent.

Many of the churches that reach the most young people have pastors well into their fifties. Think about these churches with HUGE numbers of college/singles attendees who effectively plug them into ministry.

  • North Point Community Church – Andy Stanley (53)
  • Fellowship Church – Ed Young, Jr.(50)
  • Harvest Christian Fellowship – Greg Laurie (59)
  • North Coast Church – Larry Osborne (I don’t remember Larry’s age, but he’s late fifties)
  • Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa – Chuck Smith (84) – and the churches he’s helped start are among the best at this.
  • Saddleback Church – Rick Warren (57)

Now, some will say, “Yes, but those are some of the most gifted pastors and incredible churches in America.”

Exactly.

A far bigger indicator of your ability to attract and involve younger people over time will be kind of church you are…not the age of the pastor.

Of course, there are some things that will help. The pastor’s age can be a very small one. If the church is completely old, putting a younger minister in there can help build a critical mass of youth in the pews–and such churches really need to find a way to put some younger people in public ministry roles to convey welcome and inclusion. Also true: left to itself, the church will drift toward looking like the people on stage over time. Nevertheless, reaching younger people for Christ is far more nuanced and complicated than that. If you’re not reaching them now, it isn’t about the age of the minister. It’s far more likely he’s not effective in general, the elders don’t want to change, the church doesn’t care about reaching young people, etc.

If you really want to learn how to reach young people, PLEASE do so. We need to do all that we possibly can. Just know it’s a substantial missional undertaking…not a matter of plug-and-playing a younger model in the pulpit. In fact, if you’re older, you might be even better equipped to reach them than you’ve ever dreamed. It’ll take intentionality, but it’s completely possible if your church is willing to do what it takes.

What difference do you think the minister’s age makes?  

Tim SpiveyDr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California–a fast-growing plant launched in 2011. Tim is also the purveyor of New Vintage Leadership – a blog offering cutting edge insights on leadership and theology and the author of numerous articles and one book: Jesus, the Powerful Servant.More from Tim Spivey or visit Tim at newvintageleadership.com/

Source: CHURCH LEADERS

 
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Publicado por em 10/03/2012 em POIMENIA

 

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Jovens tentam converter ‘pecadores’ na rua Augusta

DANILA MOURA
DE SÃO PAULO

Pães, bolachas, leite e café, muito café, em plena madrugada de sábado. Cerca de 30 jovens encaram esse lanche reforçado num casarão da rua Avanhandava, região central. O destino deles é o Baixo Augusta, vizinhança cheia de atrações à noite, entre bares fuleiros, moderninhos e prostíbulos decadentes.

Maria do Carmo/Folhapress
Jovem religiosa da missão Thalita Kum, que evangeliza pelas calçadas da rua Augusta, atrás de jovens "pecadores"
Jovem religiosa da missão Thalita Kum, que evangeliza pelas calçadas da rua Augusta, atrás de jovens “pecadores”

No “esquenta”, a cerveja dá lugar à oração. A tarefa não é descolar um paquera ou dançar até o chão. Os jovens fazem parte da missão católica Thalita Kum (“levanta-te”, em hebraico) e saem pela madrugada com o intuito de tirar outros da vida profana.

A missão integra o grupo Aliança da Misericórdia, criada há 12 anos por dois padres. Com sede em São Paulo, hoje está presente em 36 cidades do país e do exterior. Também faz parte da Aliança a missão Maria Madalena, cujos itinerários incluem bailes funk e pontos de prostituição na região de Perus, na zona norte da capital.

Em comum, as duas turmas largaram o conforto familiar pelo voto de pobreza. Entre as tarefas que devem cumprir está morar em uma favela por alguns meses para saber como é passar pelas dificuldades do local.

Fazer parte da missão também exige disciplina. Além do voto de pobreza, é necessário viver em comunidade num curso preparatório de três anos. “Meus pais não aceitaram quando eu vim de Indaiatuba para morar aqui com o meu irmão. Agora, até pensam em se mudar para cá”, diz Rafael Menezes, 24.

O celibato não é obrigatório. Quando um deles se apaixona por outro, o orientador deve ser avisado. Se for recíproco, fazem votos de namoro, vão morar em endereços distintos e ganham o direito de se encontrarem sozinhos eventualmente. Após o casamento, vão morar em uma das casas dentro das comunidades, separados dos demais -uma prática comum.

Mesmo com tantas restrições, ainda há atividades mais “descoladas”, como as idas à Cristoteca, espécie de discoteca gospel localizada em bairros como o Brás, na região central, onde não entram bebidas alcoólicas.

  Maria do Carmo/Folhapress  
Jovens da missão católica Thalita Kum durante oração de aquecimento para a pregação noturna entre turmas de baladeiros
Jovens da missão católica Thalita Kum durante oração de aquecimento para a pregação noturna entre turmas de baladeiros

Saindo por aí
Os jovens fiéis moram em comunidades coletivas, como a da rua Avanhandava, visitada pela reportagem durante a incursão baladeira. Antes de sair pela vizinhança, eles formam um círculo de oração numa das capelas do espaço. O intuito é o de se proteger de eventuais represálias e pedir iluminação divina para a empreitada, que inclui “livrar os jovens de vícios”, como a bebida, o sexo fácil, as drogas e outros pecados.

Durante a visita, a reportagem foi surpreendida: todos juntaram as mãos em oração por este texto. Ainda na comunidade eles trocam histórias sobre outras passagens noturnas pela Augusta, que inclui relatos de uma prostituta arrependida e de uma adolescente de 14 anos que perdeu os pais e saía pelos clubes bebendo até cair. As narrativas de sucesso das evangelizações dão ânimo aos presentes para encarar a maratona cristã.

Os preparativos também incluem pinturas divertidas nos rostos dos mais empolgados. Os músicos afinam o violão e o grupo já organiza quais serão os trios que formarão durante a caminhada. Ninguém pode se perder ou ficar só. As portas se abrem e todos saem pela rua sem se intimidar.

“Já aconteceu de vizinhos jogarem água na gente. É comum tirarem sarro na rua, mas não estamos nem aí”, conta Adriana Garcia de Aguiar, 29, fonoaudióloga que largou o diploma e o aconchego da casa dos pais em Piracicaba, cidade do interior paulista, para viver religiosamente, assim como a maioria dos seus irmãos de fé. A profissão? Não exerce mais.

Apesar de a região do Baixo Augusta ser famosa por ataques homofóbicos e de intolerância, essa turma jamais sofreu atos de violência -a oração do esquenta deve ser forte.

Sem pena do gogó, começa a cantoria. Os integrantes cantam alto hinos de louvor e frases como “Jesus te ama”. As palavras ressoam como um choque térmico nos ouvidos de quem está bebericando um drinque nos bares e inferninhos.

Olhares surpresos
“Socorro, o que é isso, pelo amor de Deus?”, pergunta a publicitária Juliana Canhadas, 28, frequentadora da região que assistia perplexa à romaria dançante. A explicação dada pela reportagem não é suficiente para tirar a expressão de assombro da moça.

Grande parte reage dessa forma. Começa a subida, piadinhas são ouvidas aos montes, ao mesmo tempo em que eles interagem em clima informal com quem está aberto a conversar. Sobram olhares surpresos. Afinal, o grupo percorre a rua aos pulos e, não raro, empunham uma santa gigante que entrecorta o trajeto pecaminoso.

Alguns se rendem à doçura da turma, como as garotas de programa da região. E as piadinhas acabam se transformando em pedidos de oração.

SERVIÇO

Para conhecer a missão Thalita Kum, não é preciso agendar horário.

Casa Cenáculo-Emannuel
R. Avanhandava, 616, Bela Vista, SP, tel. 0/xx/11/3237-3061.
www.misericordia.com.br

 

Fonte: FOLHA DE SAO PAULO

 
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Publicado por em 05/02/2012 em POIMENIA

 

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“Sócrates é um homem bem-sucedido, brilhante e, além de tudo, médico. Se aconteceu com ele, pode acontecer com qualquer um.”

Ele começou a beber pesado durante a universidade e nunca mais parou, mesmo em seus anos de atleta. 

O médico e ex-jogador Sócrates. Aos 57 anos, ele enfrenta o risco de morrer de cirrose causada por abuso de álcool (Foto: JF Diorio/AE)

Na segunda-feira passada, dia 5 de setembro, o cidadão Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira foi internado no Hospital Albert Einstein, em São Paulo, para tratar de um sangramento digestivo que ameaçava matá-lo. Aos 57 anos, ele é um rosto familiar aos brasileiros. Ídolo do Corinthians e da Seleção Brasileira, foi um dos grandes jogadores do futebol mundial nos anos 1980, notável tanto pela elegância e precisão de seus passes quanto por suas posições públicas contra o regime militar. Formado em medicina, inteligente e carismático, o Doutor, como costuma ser chamado, assumiu, ao deixar os gramados, a função informal de intelectual do futebol, alguém capaz de expressar com autoridade a dimensão pública desse esporte que apaixona os brasileiros.

Além disso tudo, Sócrates é também alcoólatra. Ele começou a beber pesado durante a universidade e nunca mais parou, mesmo em seus anos de atleta. Em consequência de décadas de excesso, desenvolveu cirrose hepática, doença degenerativa que destrói o fígado e provoca o colapso do restante do organismo. A cirrose causada por álcool mata mais de 11 mil pessoas por ano no Brasil. Sócrates esteve assustadoramente próximo desse desfecho na semana passada – um drama que tocou milhões de pessoas que o admiram e trouxe para os holofotes, novamente, a epidemia subterrânea de alcoolismo que devasta o país. “O drama de uma pessoa pública querida mostra que pessoas inteligentes e fortes também podem se tornar dependentes”, afirma o psiquiatra Ronaldo Laranjeiras, da Universidade Federal de São Paulo, uma das maiores autoridades em alcoolismo no país. “Sócrates é um homem bem-sucedido, brilhante e, além de tudo, médico. Se aconteceu com ele, pode acontecer com qualquer um.” [LEIA +]

Fonte: EPOCA

 
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Publicado por em 10/09/2011 em POIMENIA

 

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Culture: Enemy or Friend?

Steve Rabey

Pop culture has always accentuated differences between younger and older generations. For example, people who during the sixties rebelled against their parents by listening to artists like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones now look on with horror as their own children listen to artists like Limp Bizkit and Outkast.

But during the last quarter of the 20th century, pop culture illustrated differences of another kind. For much of this period, some conservative Christians saw culture as the enemy of the church in a vast “culture war,” while other believers saw culture as a symptom—but not a major cause—of the often confusing mix of faith and faithlessness that characterized the age.

Two important episodes from the period illustrate these divergent approaches.

In 1988, filmmaker Martin Scorsese released his movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, which he described as a “deeply religious film.” But some evangelicals didn’t see it that way. Across America, theaters that showed the film faced pickets from believers who thought that the film was critical of orthodox Christianity. And Campus Crusade for Christ president Bill Bright offered to buy the original print of the film for $10 million so he could destroy it.

In 1999, Gen X filmmaker Kevin Smith, a self-confessed Catholic whose youthful imagination was steeped in comic books and videos, released a movie he called Dogma, which he described as a comedic love letter to the church and the sacred mysteries of life.

As with The Last Temptation of Christ, there were many angry believers who tried to halt the film’s release. This time, it was the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association, and the Southern Baptist Convention who declared the film blasphemous.

But Dogma, which is certainly controversial, generated a different kind of response from many members of the emerging generations who embraced the film’s unusual mix of piety and profanity.

The film stars Matt Damon as Loki and Ben Affleck as Bartleby, two fallen angels with bad attitudes who were banished by God to the wasteland of Wisconsin. Now they’ll do anything to get back home to heaven, exploiting a loophole in Roman Catholic canon law which threatens the sovereignty of God and the very existence of the cosmos.

The film’s wacky cast of characters includes the glitzy angel Metatron (Alan Rickman), a woman named Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) who works in a Pittsburgh abortion clinic, a muse who works in a strip bar to make ends meet (Salma Hayek), Rufus, a previously unknown 13th disciple of Jesus who was allegedly edited out of the Bible because he was black (comedian Chris Rock), and Cardinal Glick (George Carlin), whose program to reinvigorate the church uses contemporary advertising and marketing techniques to replace the “depressing” image of the crucifix with a statue called “Buddy Christ,” which features a smiling Jesus with upraised thumbs.

Smith, a film school dropout and former video store clerk, used credit cards to make his 1994 debut, Clerks, an acclaimed “slacker opus.” In that film’s closing credits, Smith thanks God, “without whom this couldn’t have been done.” His later films included 1995’s Mallrats and 1997’s Chasing Amy.

Dogma explores Smith’s strong, but often ambivalent, feelings about religion. Although he has repeatedly affirmed his belief in God and in Jesus Christ, Smith is much less certain about the church. Like Bethany, a central character in Dogma, he goes to church but isn’t always sure why and is usually bored. “It’s called the Celebration of the Mass, but it’s no party,” he said in an Internet interview. “No one’s having a good time.”

Critics liked Dogma almost as much as many conservative Christians hated it. But it was Catholic priest and author Andrew Greeley who may have best summarized the film’s mix of the silly and the sublime.

“Is God offended by the movie?” Greeley asked in a column he wrote for Religion News Service. “Unlike those religious fanatics who are trying to ban the film, I claim no special access to the mind of the deity. I suspect, however, that God understands that the humor of the film is a prelude to making some very serious, and funny, theological points.”

Out of the cocoon

Few members of the emerging generations boycotted the film. Many went to see it, some more than once. And some even used the film’s release as an opportunity to talk to unbelievers about contemporary perceptions of Christianity. One of these is a friend of mine named Patton Dodd, who works as a full-time writer for a Colorado Springs mega-church and in his spare time directs “The Colorado Springs Film Society,” an informal group of film fans who meet once a month to share their love of movies.

You may have seen an article Patton wrote for issue 6.2 of the magazine Re:Generation Quarterly. The article, entitled, “Can Colorado Springs Save Itself?” describes the confusion some local evangelicals experience when Patton tells them that the film society isn’t an evangelistic outreach to unbelievers, but merely a gathering place for film buffs. This in a city that is home to dozens of evangelical parachurch organizations that have spawned a never-ending series of city-wide evangelistic efforts. “No one in the group knows that we are Christians,” Patton says, “and we don’t plan on doing anything to show that we are other than forming relationships with people and letting the Gospel speak through our lives.”

Responses like this show that, unlike older generations of Christian “culture warriors,” many younger believers focus less on battling pop culture and spend more time decoding its metaphysical messages. They prefer to see pop culture as both a barometer and influencer of mainstream tastes and beliefs; and instead of seeking to silence or suppress it, they seek to understand it and utilize it in their ministries.

Throughout the 90s, spiritual themes increasingly found their way into pop culture products like books, musical recordings, and films. Often, these pop culture artifacts raised deep and probing questions about the practice of Christianity (such as Robert Duvall’s The Apostle) or showed positive portrayals of non-Christian faiths such as Tibettan Buddhism (Kundun, or Seven Years in Tibet).

Gen X authors Todd Hahn and David Verhaagen described the new approach in their book, GenXers after God.

“On the surface we appear to be concerned with promoting godliness. However, a sharper analysis suggests that these skirmishes are more often motivated by fear. We are fearful that as Christians we are losing our place at the head of the table as the dominant molders and shapers of culture’s mindset…

In our culture, we were comfortable with being the leaders of the consensus worldview. This is no longer true and it frightens us. In response we have lashed out. We have fought and adopted the language of war. The problem is that we have savaged the very ones that need the gospel. We have demonized them and turned them into our enemies.”

Perhaps as young new leaders begin charting a course for the church in the new millennium, they will guide us to an approach toward pop culture that learns from the failures of the “culture war” approach.

Steve Rabey is a Colorado writer. His most recent book is Milestones: 50 Events that Shaped American Evangelicals in the 20th Century(Broadman & Holman).

Fonte: YOUTH SPECIALTIES

 
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Publicado por em 11/09/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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The Call to the City: Have We Lost Our Urban Youth?

Jimmy Dorrell

Standing on the sidewalks of the city’s largest low-income housing complex, a group of cocky young men chided the elderly woman walking past them on the way to church. “Ya gonna hoot and holler in the pews today, sister?” one said. “Hold on to you pocketbook, cuz the preacher man ain’t lettin’ you out ‘til you help pay for his new car!” added another. “Say a prayer for me,” heckled yet another. All laughed at their prowess and fearlessness to ridicule the sacred symbols of religion. Most had only darkened the doors of the church when their moms forced them to go as young boys. None planned on returning.

The urban centers are hardly lacking for churches. In fact, four separate congregations circle the perimeter of this housing complex. But none of the four reach out to the subsidized residents, and certainly not to these bad-mouthing kids. Instead, the congregants come from outside the neighborhood and the pastor lives in the suburbs and rarely comes downtown except for church services. Despite the proximity, it’s as if the two worlds never meet.

Spiritual Angst in the City

Meme Webb, 19, grew up in a tough, lowincome neighborhood. Like many children, she was dragged to church in her early days but wondered what the church had to say to her generation—to whom God was acceptable but the church was considered out of touch. She writes:

Hood Kids

hood kids
but good kids
not bad kids
just misunderstood kids
watch mom shoot up
and dad shoot bullets
and combat the words
that scream that I’m useless
I’m not
just hot
and mad at dad who split
and mom who took him back
even though he split
her lip the third time
I watch from the sidelines
and grow full of hate
from parents’ guidelines
and you, pastor
push me faster
to hate
taking our crumbs to fill
your already full plate
your frock is stained
you mock the name
of He who commissioned
cuz you’re more concerned
with titles and pensions

than the mission to save me
don’t forget the babies
don’t be so lazy
cuz I need you greatly
it’s not about parking spots
and who pays a lot
but who gives a lot
and who prays a lot
for me
the lost sheep
but nobody’s looked for me
don’t you know God made
the Good Book for me?
but I need direction
some protection
much affection
not rejection
I…NEED…YOU
man of God
woman of God
be of God
and keep your eyes peeled
for real
we’re crying
and dying
but still trying
though momma ignores us
and daddy abuses us
I’m sure that God still
wants to use us
when momma doesn’t hug us
and daddy slugs us
I’m confident that God
still loves us
cuz I’m a hood kid
but a good kid
not a bad kid
just misunderstood kid
and I need your help
before it’s too late
and I walk the same path
that my parents made
look at us
behind the chain linked fence
pain wrenched kids
such tainted kids
who were struck
but never fainted kids
we live hellish lives
but can be saintly kids
if you just try TRY!
until then
we’ll continue to die
continue to cry
the hood kids
that no one really cares about
it’s so obvious that no one
really cares about ‘em…

Yet in these deep longings of the urban youth, the voices of the streets seem louder than the faint cry of a church stuck in institutional patterns of the past. A growing “non-church Christianity” is growing up where God-talk is hip but church is out.

Underwhelmed and Gone

Though some return later in life when they have children, the challenging years of being an urban teen generally occur without the church. They leave for a myriad of reasons, but some of the most common include criticisms of impotence, hypocrisy, and being out of step with a culture that’s more hip-hop than hymn-like.

Church Hypocrisy

In his book Noah Where Are You? Why Black Men Don’t Go to Church, Kawanza Kunjufu says African-American churches are 75 percent filled with women and girls and most of the remaining 25 percent are elderly men and young boys. In his effort to understand the mindsets of the young adult black males, he lists some 21 reasons that his sampling of the unchurched gave for giving up on the church. These included a general disdain for the clergy—often perceived as taking advantage of weak-willed old women who support the pastors’ fancy cars and new suits. The church sold out and is more concerned for its own self-preservation than the needs of the urban poor.

“Most hard living people do not accept traditionalist approaches, and most churches that do work with the poor operate from this stance,” writes Tex Sample (Mainstream Christians and Hard Living People). Though middle-class suburban churches often fare no better, the bitterness of the urban poor who feel abandoned by the only institution that historically cared for them intensifies. “They don’t care about me, they just want my body in a pew and my money in a plate,” said one teen.

Hip-Hop Culture

In a phenomenon that too few city missionaries recognize, the counter culture of rap and hip-hop became the language of the streets. Birthed in a type of urban poetry laced with feelings, protest, and brutal vulgarity, urban youth found a way to speak their minds in a public forum— a forum that took over the music world. While many older churchgoers think hip-hop is an African-American phenomenon, most don’t realize that over two-thirds of all CD purchases are by white youth and current sales put hip-hop music as the number one genre in popular music. But while advertising agents and market experts have patterned commercials and display ads around this street culture, the church has resisted. It’s the same old generational struggle of contextualizing the truth in the language of the unchurched in a churched world often trapped in a 1950s worship format.

In the midst of the sinking traditional church in the urban centers, signs of hope are also emerging. In Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood, urban minister Phil Jackson has helped establish an outrageous hip-hop cultural expression of worship that has packed out buildings in late night Saturday celebrations filled with rap, dance, street lingo, multimedia, and pounding music. Others like Without Wall’s Club X in Tampa offer the mics to teens telling their stories through rap. From New York City (Club Life) to West Palm Beach (Urban Youth Impact’s “Bow Down”) to an Episcopal church in southern Virginia doing “hip hop Eucharist,” urban youth groups are adapting the eternal message of the good news to a youth culture living in bad news.

These passionate city dwellers recognize that the Gospel must take on new forms or “wineskins” to reach today’s disenfranchised youth. Taking hip-hop’s protest, vulgarity, and anger themes out to be replaced by revolutionary and redemptive themes, scores of Saturday night urban youth congregations have sprung up that attract the unchurched in a participatory worship. They capitalize on young people’s frustration with America’s culture of materialism and reshape the biblical message of purpose and meaning in the harsh and honest language of the streets.

Postmodern Pundits

Perhaps far more pervasive and dangerous than the hardness of the inner-city youth on the corner, the encroaching postmodern mindset is repelling more youth away from today’s churches. For decades, Western Europe has watched a steady stream of teens leave the established church in what they deem a “post-Christian” era. Rejecting absolutes and embracing relativism as a standard, most reject any claim that suggest there is only one way to God. Many have become nihilistic and atheistic, while more wandered into a practical atheism that lives as if there is no God. Growing numbers of young adults and teens in America have followed suit. Content to sip coffee and discuss life issues, they often reject the post-Enlightenment’s rationalism and embrace an experiential truth.

Again, growing numbers of churches have acknowledged this critical trend and are seeking to recreate worship forms that provide meaning to the postmodern mindset that prefers dialogue, art, and creative music to sermons and hymns. Often meeting on couches in upstairs lofts on Sunday evenings, the atmosphere is strange to the traditional churchgoer. Defending the “old time religion,” congregations tend to see such wineskins as a sell out to secularism. Postmoderns, however, recognize that there’s a freshness of truth in this post- Constantinian emerging church that rejects a type of stoic civil religion and replaces it with honest searching where experience is welcomed.

Secularists

Today’s unchurched youth are lured by competing opportunities on Sunday. Far from the times when the first day of the week was primarily set aside by the culture for worship, youth today have numerous alternatives to choose from on Sunday. Besides the ever popular “sleep in ‘til noon” option, recreation leagues, television, video games, the Internet, pick up ball games, shopping malls, special events, and other opportunities lure those who do arise before noon. Sunday morning church has traditionally been hard for teens to get excited about due to their late-night time clocks. Add dress up clothing and a boring Sunday school lesson, and few teens who have a choice will choose that experience. Parents who attend and weekly fight their adolescent children to get up and go often give in after the resistance continues each week.

Unchurched Christians

Finally, some of the competing forces against vital Christian faith have emerged in the church itself. In the growing evangelical culture, which highlighted individualism and privatization of faith, many youth have accepted a distorted message of salvation that supposedly secures the eternal future in heaven with little expectation on the earth. Reducing the Gospel down to what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace,” a new Gnosticism has grown up which validates a quick conversion with no discipleship required. Many of today’s unchurched teens consider themselves born-again Christians but have no sense of obligation to attend church or even Christian activities. Their lifestyles and values are clearly pagan, but their belief system says that they have taken care of the religious business and are enjoying life until the blessings of heaven later. Since belief is a private matter in this view, few church leaders press them with the biblical call to not “forsake the gathering” of the Body. Youth groups built around an entertainment strategy may pick these kids up for a youth lock-in or trip to an amusement park, but rarely engage them outside of their consumerist hedonism. Unparalleled wealth, amounting to over a billion dollars a week in discretionary spending, has allowed most of these urban materialists to go and do and buy as they please with little thought of sacrifice, servanthood, or service. Many of these teens exhibit strong patterns of selfishness, yet record numbers (six million under the age of 12 in the U.S. alone) suffer from depression and take medication for it.

What Next

The church in the city is in trouble. Though signs of hope and a few new models emerge around the nation, most congregations aren’t even asking the questions of what changes they must make to reach a growing disenfranchised urban youth culture. Those that do most often retreat to institutional answers that worked a generation ago and hope a new youth minister can reach “those kids” with Bible drills, youth choirs, and Sunday school refreshments. Little do they realize that the mere existence of the church is unlikely in a couple of decades as irrelevance and postmodernity continue to erode their struggling congregations.

The hope of the church is in the urban youth. In a world where over half the globe now live in cities, new models and wineskins must ramp up soon. Though the same spiritual needs of a 14-year-old exist in suburbia and the ghetto, the forum to meet those has changed. The church must struggle once again to recognize that the Gospel can and should be contextualized to reach the present generation. The Apostle Paul spoke to the philosophers of Greece, to the sailor city of Corinth, and to the blue-collar workers of Philippi in languages each could understand about the eternal good news.

Christian colleges and seminaries must break free from their entrenchment in European classical academia to train passionate students with solid doctrine in the language of the streets. Congregations must dare to risk Saturday night services that are loud and participatory in order to reach the urban adolescent. Youth leaders must be set free to hang out in clubs, barrios, and inner-city schools to build relationships with a churchless generation that is still willing to talk about the deeper things of life.

What lies ahead is still uncertain. But the call to the city is unquestionable.

Jimmy Dorrell is pastor of Church Under the Bridge and executive director of Mission Waco, missionwaco.org, as well as a part-time lecturer at Baylor University and George W. Truett Seminary. He’s committed to mobilizing the Christian community to become more involved with urban poor, both in the U.S. and throughout the world

Fonte: YOUTH SPECIALTIES

 
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Publicado por em 08/09/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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God: A Pop Culture Superstar

Steve Rabey

He’s a brainy astrophysicist (played by movie star Bill Pullman). She’s a brainy nun (played by movie star Natascha McElhone).

Together these two sleuths star in NBC’s new [started April 13] supernatural thriller series, where they investigate weird and unusual phenomena that just may signal the end of the world!

It’s like The X-Files meets Constantine in this good-versus-evil drama that includes a daughter that may have been murdered by a Satan worshipper and all kinds of supernatural shenanigans.

But then NBC already knows spirituality sells; this is the network that brought us Allison Dubois (Patricia Arquette), the average wife and mom who’s a psychic investigator on the network’s top-rated Medium, a show that was introduced in January and has racked up stellar ratings ever since.

It’s like the crime thriller Cold Case meets the psychic gab-fest Crossing Over, only Medium is based on the escapades of a reallife psychic who touts her own successes on her own web site (www.allisondubois.com).

But the former undisputed queen of TV spirituality is Joan of Arcadia, the hit CBS show that’s now enjoying its second year of popularity. God works in mysterious ways, but seldom so mysterious as on Joan of Arcadia, which features a high school student who regularly receives messages from God.

Joan’s God is a shape-shifting deity who manifests himself/herself in numerous human guises and delivers directives to sensitive Joan from the mouths of fellow students, a grumpy cafeteria worker, a bespectacled man who lectures students on sexuality, or even the guy at the local convenience store.

God’s divine assignments are equally varied. In one show he commands Joan to build a small boat in her family’s garage. In another she’s told to transcend her low-key personality by trying out for her school’s cheerleading squad. And in another, she’s directed to host a party at her house while her parents are out of town (an act that represents a direct violation of their orders).

Like Touched By An Angel, its long-running supernatural predecessor, Joan of Arcadia is punctuated by frequent divine interventions. But there are significant differences between the two shows. Touched producer Martha Williamson, who attends the evangelical Church on the Way, wanted her show to reflect the spirit of Jesus. Joan creator Barbara Hall, who was raised Methodist and spent years away from the faith before converting to Catholicism, is more content with a less doctrinaire deity. “I’m Catholic, but the show’s not Catholic,” she told The New York Times in 2003. “Joan isn’t Catholic. God isn’t Catholic.”

A Los Angeles Times article described the “ten commandments” Hall created as guidelines for the show. The first commandment says, “God cannot directly intervene,” while the third says, “God can never identify one religion as being right.”

A spiritual cornucopia

Recent TV seasons have witnessed a flood of God-haunted broadcast and cable shows like Tru Calling, Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, Carnivale, Six Feet Under, Miracles, and Veritas.

Perhaps the most unusual program was Mad Mad House, which premiered in March. The Science Fiction Channel’s postmodern, post-Christian reality show put ten guests (including a few Christians) in a house with a vampire, a voodoo priestess, a Wiccan, a naturist, and a modern primitive.

In a January TV Guide article entitled “TV Goes with God,” writer Mark Nollinger explored the sudden upsurge in spiritually-themed shows.

“Does God exist? What’s our place in the universe? Is there a meaning to life? And what exactly happens to us after we die, anyway?

“It used to be that the only way people could find a helpful discussion of such profound questions was to get up early, put on their best clothes—and their best behavior—and head off to a church, temple or mosque. Not now. These days, you barely need to get off the sofa during prime time.”

And other pop culture media are overflowing with spiritual messages.

At the cineplex, movies in the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Matrix series have become box office hits while inspiring profound theological reflection and debate. And the new Spiritual Cinema Circle (spiritualcinemacircle.com) is a subscriptionbased DVD service that delivers “spiritually themed” films.

At bookstores, Philip Pullman’s anti-God His Dark Materials series battles it out against British vicar G. P. Taylor’s faith-friendly Shadowmancer novel. And younger readers can pick up the latest installment in the growing, internationally popular W.i.t.c.h. series featuring “5 ordinary girls…who discover that they have extraordinary powers.” (see www.clubwitch.com)

Lynn Schofield Clark, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, says, “Religion and spirituality are ‘hot’ right now.”

Clark spent six years conducting 250 interviews with teens and their families, publishing her results in her 2003 book, From Angels to Aliens: Teenagers, the Media, and the Supernatural (Oxford, $29.95). A member of Denver’s Faith Lutheran Church, Clark says changes in the contemporary media marketplace are fueling the growth in spiritual entertainment.

“Popular culture has become much more diverse than ever before, and this means that there is a much broader variety of messages available to young people, as well as a proliferation of evangelically-oriented materials like the Veggie Tales videos, Revolve and Refuel teen Bibles, and bestselling albums by Christian bands like Third Day and Mercy Me.

“Successes like this allow young evangelicals to identify with something they see on a very public stage, and thus it gives them a space in the culture in which they can see their faith,” says Clark. “The challenge for leaders is to help them to move beyond this identification and reinforcement, encouraging them to live out their faith by being a part of movements for better living conditions for other young people around the world, for example.”

The phenomenal success of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ led Entertainment Weekly magazine to ask: “Has Hollywood found religion?” And last fall,

Gibson’s Icon Productions firm launched three new TV series: Clubhouse, Savages, and Kevin Hill. None of them were explicitly religious, and none was a major hit.

Meanwhile, today’s profusion of spiritually-influenced entertainment has created a bumper crop of theologically-informed books, from Mark Pinsky’s The Gospel According to the Simpsons to Jana Riess’s What Would Buffy Do?: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide. Such books can help prepare Christian leaders and laypeople for the difficult task of developing a biblically-informed critique of pop culture.

No escape

Spirituality is everywhere in entertainment today. But not all shows are created equal, nor do all teens view these shows in the same way. The University of Colorado’s Clark divided teen pop culture consumers into the following five distinct groups:

  1. Resisters have no interest in organized religion, but they readily identify with the antiestablishment themes in supernatural dramas like “The X-Files.”
  2. Mystics are impacted by shows like “Joan of Arcadia” but remain ambivalent toward organized religion.
  3. Experimenters are very interested in spirituality and are the most likely to go from seeing a TV show like “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” or “Charmed” to toying with Wicca.
  4. Traditionalists, the category that includes most evangelical Christian teens as well as conservative Mormons and Muslims, are primarily concerned with personal morality and how the consumption of pop culture will help or hurt them.
  5. The Intrigued are committed to their faith but seek to balance their received traditions with the new information they get from the mass media.

Finding out what kind of culture consumers your teens are isn’t always easy, but talking with kids about pop culture can help.

“It’s often easier to talk to kids about pop culture than it is to discuss what they think or believe concerning religion,” says Clark.

Steve Rabey is a Colorado-based freelance writer who teaches a class called “A Christian Perspective on Popular Culture” for Fuller Theological Seminary. His latest book is The Way of the Mystics with John Michael Talbot (Jossey-Bass).

Fonte: YOUTH SPECIALTIES

 
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Publicado por em 05/09/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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