Nov 30, 2006

culture wars

My friend Steve Argue is one of many voices responding to an article by Ron Luce in Youthworker Journal. The whole thing can be found here, including the passionate Luce sharing his take on how youth need to be willing to boldy proclaim a battlecry by opposing things in culture that are violent, sexy, and vulgar (paraphrasing his words).

Some of Steve's thoughts:
"I wonder if the true battle that Christians face today is the struggle with our own lost identity and us trying to recapture a gospel by force, by power, and by protest. The way of Jesus is meek, loving, quiet, and subversive. His revolution (if we must use this term) is one of love, healing, reconciliation, and forgiveness.

The greatest casualties may be within our own communities where divorce is higher than the national average, sexual addiction is prevalent, abuse is reported, church splits happen regularly, and a younger generation is leaving the institutional church in search of something real. Maybe we need to look at our own faith communities before we start critiquing others."

Now stay with me... this may initiially sound inappropriately critical.

I am a bit put off by Ron Luce's stuff and approach, too. I've often been worn down by interns from Acquire the Fire calling me up and telling me why I absolutely *have to* bring my kids to their next conference. I'm sorry... I just don't buy into it. I think ministry is less about using a loud show to convince people to just "live it louder" and more about having a living relationship with Jesus Christ that causes people of all spiritual backgrounds (or lack thereof) to ask questions about the authenticity of your journey.

Granted, that hypocritically comes from a guy like me has done both... loud show and all.

Still with me?

All that said, I think there is a place for Ron Luce's approach in the kingdom. Perhaps Steve Argue feels that way, too, so hear me out on this... I don't like Luce's approach, nor do I see a whole lot of longevity in it if that's all that happens in a kid's life. I mean, a teenager can only stay fired up in his/her faith for so long before he/she needs the next fix, conference, youth group night, big event... whatever.

In short, we need to move away from trying to convince people to circle the wagoms by using loud arguments that play on our fears.


did I just try to convince you of that?

Ah... there's the rub.

See the problem?

So let me ask a question instead - what would it look like to allow our lives, ministries, and churches to be an overflow of love that journeys with people and speaks into them in both soft and penetrating ways as the Holy Spirit leads?

Someone needs to stoke the flame... shouldn't it be Him?

Maybe that in itself is a role Luce's ministry is serving... the fire he's acquired may honestly be God-breathed, so I'm going to go ahead and believe the best about the motives of his heart. Maybe God is using it overtly and subvesively - after all, he's saying such hot stuff that the rest of us are going, "Ouch! I don't know if that's the way to go so maybe we should go this other way instead." In an ironic way he might be helping bring about a new revolution in student ministry by inadvertantly pushing away from the old approach.

Biblically speaking, we find in the Gospels both the tender John the Disciple as well as the abrasive John the Baptist. Apparently both had a ministry in the kingdom, even if we tend to like one over the other. Jesus commended both... didn't he?

All I know is thanks to Mr. Luce and Mr. Argue, the flame is a little hotter today for me.

But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice. (Philippians 1:18)


Jessica said...

i also find it interesting that the so oft described tender John the Disciple was one of the sons of thunder, sons of zebedee and one of the disciples who wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a village b/c they did not welcome him. i think sometimes we think being gentle means you can't be forceful and force can't be gentle.

David Moss said...

I don't have much to add - I agree with your thoughts. Thanks for sharing them.

I am also "inundated" with ATF phone calls and mailings. Being an introvert at heart I always have a bias to not go to big events. But I have also found them to be good gathering points for building excitement - for me the key is in creating a ministry that is working on sustaining - not just creating flamethrowers and flameouts.

As with most things - tender and abrasive both have their place. We all respond differently. As long as we are walking along side our youth during both, developing relationships, talking before/after, not abandoning when they stumble - and allowing them to walk along with us when we stumble (even harder) - God will use it for good.

My greatest hope (and challenge) is that we are responding to God's spirit in creating an environment that will disciple our kids so that their faith will still be growing and active 5 years after they "age out" from youth ministry.

derek bethay said...

I think Petra was on to something...

(Sorry, maybe Tony can turn it into a link).


Tony Myles said...

Jessica - Good thought on John the Disciple... I like that angle. My only counter thought, though, is whenever John demonstrated those characteristics Jesus didn't seem to be too pleased (but did affirm the affectionate moments, it would seem). John the Baptist, on the other hand, didn't get any reprimands like that. So maybe God wants both in the kigdom... tender and tough.

David - life long disciple making is the goal... I totally agree. Not just excitement building.

Derek - Petra?!?!?!

Heather said...

This reminds me of what Buber had to say about those mountain-top experiences. In fact, I think I'll post about that next week.

J Raitz said...

Great post! Maybe instead of being so loud with our words and our battle cries, we could be loud with our love and compassion.

derek bethay said...

Did you check out the video? Google the lyrics for the song... I think they are appropriate to the topic at hand.


Tony Myles said...

Petra is never "innapropriate," bro.

That's why they are Petra.

Yes... I did. Here's the link.

Steve Argue said...

Thanks for the post and for referring to my article.

A couple of comments...

Yes, I originally was responding to Ron Luce's article in the "Stirring it up" section in the Youthworker Journal.

I later refined the article and made it broader for the Journal of Student ministries.

All that said, I want to be clear that I'm not attacking or singling out Ron Luce. I think many youthworkers use war-metaphors in their christian rhetoric and I believe this to be problematic.

Many have pushed back saying that war language is used in the bible therefore, we ought to use it. I've posted an additional response to this and you can click on the website to see it.

I am convinced we have a huge responsibility to be careful with the images we paint regarding Christianity. One's of earthly power, force, superiority, and destruction are one's that must cease as they are not the gospel.

God's peace-sca

Tony Myles said...

Thanks, Steve... I appreciate your comments and for taking the time to reply.

We're on the same page and I didn't perceive you as attacking Ron. I agree that war metaphors are too extreme, but I also think they are one side of the kingdom that we shouldn't ignore. Jesus spoke of peace and division... being in the world and not of the world... all those crazy tensions.

That's the problem with human metaphors - they are all incomplete and need a tension of some sort to balance out.

Personally, I always like to land on the tender and peaceful side, but the tension is still there nonetheless.

Perhaps that's why need each other.