Book Review: Youth Ministry in the 21st Century

51D-3YevG9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_What is the correct view of youth ministry that youth pastors, youth workers, and churches should have when they do ministry to teenagers? Youth Ministry in the 21st Century attempts to answer that question by bring together five influential leaders in the youth ministry world and having them each share their conviction as to what is the best “view” of youth ministry. Each author passionately shares his view of what youth ministry should look like and then the other authors get the chance to respond to that view. The views and responses are both detailed and honest, but handled with respect and appreciation for the other views. Chap Clark, who serves as the editor, compares Youth Ministry in the 21st Century to an earlier book he was part of called Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church. Clark expresses his gratitude for that work but rightly argues that as youth ministry has moved forward and new issues among teenagers in our world has surfaced it is time for a new conversation to emerge about what youth ministry should look like. Youth Ministry in the 21st Century serves as that new conversation and it’s a good one!

Greg Stier offers the first view, which is “The Gospel Advancing View of Youth Ministry.” Stier holds to the conviction that youth ministry is about developing students who will be “world changers” for Christ. Taken from Jesus ministry (the Gospels) and the book of Acts, Stier paints the picture that youth ministry is introducing students to Jesus and then training them to go out and share the message of the Gospel. Stier says, “If we really want teenagers to be like Jesus, then we must cultivate in them a driving passion to reach the lost” (page 5). Stier also says, “The goal here is not more evangelistic programs but nurturing teenagers to live and give the Gospel in word and deed in their spheres of influence” (page 5). One may wonder where Stier puts helping students grow in their faith when it comes to this view of youth ministry. He doesn’t ignore that facet of youth ministry, but believes that the most spiritual growth in teenagers lives happen when they share their faith and focus on the mission to reach the lost.

The second view, offered by Brian Cosby, is “The Reformed View of Youth Ministry.” Cosby picks an interesting title for his view that  leads the reader to think more about reformed theology than a view of youth ministry. Cosby, who holds to the reformed tradition, doesn’t necessarily give a view that’s tied to that tradition but there is no doubt that tradition influences his view. In the reformed view of youth ministry, the focus starts with God not the teenagers. Cosby argues most youth ministries emphasizes “Home Depot Theology” – “You can do it, God can help.” He debunks that false view by arguing the emphasis of youth ministry must be God working in and through the teenagers hearts to change them. Cosby argues that youth ministry needs to move away from entertainment and focus on a methodology of practicing historic “means of grace” – ministry of the Word, prayer, sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s supper), service, and Gospel community. Cosby argues these are the practices that should shape youth ministry.

Chap Clark offers the third view, which is “The Adoption View of Youth Ministry.” In this view, youth ministry is seen as part of the larger church body. It’s not a separate church of younger people but a ministry of the church to help nurture the faith of teenagers. However, those teenagers should and must be “adopted” into the larger body of Christ through relationships, service, mentoring, and worship. Clark argues that the way to help teenagers posses a life-long faith (one that doesn’t fade away when they graduate the youth group and go to college) is by connecting them to the church. Clark says, “I contend that the primary reason we have lost so many of the hearts and investment of our young when they leave the confines of the high school routine is that we have failed to provide them with the most vital resource they possessed in Christ: the God-given faith community” (page 75). The adoption view of youth ministry strives to make sure teenagers are a part of the larger church community so that even when they graduate the youth program they have a place to belong, grow, and serve.

The fourth view, offered by Fernando Arzola, is quite out of place in my opinion. The view Arzola offers is “The Ecclesial View of Youth Ministry.” This view argues that “Protestant youth ministry has all but deleted ecclesiology from its theological radar” (page 113). This views argues that teenagers should be taught church history and should experience their faith with the backdrop of what has taken place in the church in the past. To be honest (and this seems to be a point made in the responses) I don’t understand what this view looks like practically when it comes to being a view of youth ministry. I appreciate the argument and believe teenagers should be taught how God has worked in the history of the church but to call this an entire “view” of youth ministry is a bit too much.

The fifth view shared in this book is from Ron Hunter and is called “The D6 View of Youth Ministry.” Hunter, who founded D6 and is helping bring a very Biblical family ministry approach to the church, argues that youth ministry should be a partnership between the family and the church to nurture students in their faith. The D6 view is built upon God’s commands in Deuteronomy 6 (and Ephesians 6) for the parents to be the primary leaders of their  kid spiritual development. The youth pastor and the church should train, equip, and resource the parents but should never take the place of them. This view, much like the emphasis of ministries like Orange, believes ministry to teenagers is done best when the parents and church partner together.

After reading this book I did not come away with the conviction that one of these five views is right and all the other ones were wrong. Instead I came away with a much greater understanding of the scope of youth ministry and an appreciation for the different views of how to do youth ministry. As I reflect on the views I come to a place of realization that all of these five views offer a piece of the greater youth ministry puzzle. One view doesn’t cover all the complexities of ministering to teenagers in our world but they do all offer a significant piece to the overall puzzle. For example, in my opinion and in light of this book, youth ministry must have a great commission focus (reaching students with the Gospel and sending them out to reach others) [Gospel Advancing View] and should be built upon Biblical practices such as preaching/teaching, prayer, service, and Gospel community [Reformed View] while making teenagers a vital part of the church community (Adoption View). This should all be done in partnership with families as we help them fulfill their God-give role to disciple their kids [D6 View].

This is a youth ministry book I would put in the hands of anyone who is currently in or preparing to be in full-time youth ministry. It will sharpen and guide those of us who want to be faithful to God and His Word as we strive to build a strategy for youth ministry in our context.

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Book Review: Counter Culture by David Platt

41O76wsT0VL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Recently I finished reading David Platt’s new book Counter Culture. I’ve always enjoyed reading Platt’s books and found this one to be my personal favorite. It’s a timely book that speaks about major issues we are facing today as a church and as a culture.

In this book, Platt urges and shows how we as Christians must be counter cultural when it comes to the various issues that are in our world today. The issues Platt hits in this book are poverty, abortion, orphans and widows, sex slavery, marriage, sexual morality, ethnicity, and religious liberty. Platt dedicates a whole chapter to each one of these issues. Within these issues other topics that show up are same-sex marriage, immigration, persecution, and more. Platt bookends these issues with a chapter on how the Gospel is the great offense and calls us to be counter cultural. Then he ends the book with an urgent plea to not loose sight of the unreached world around us. Instead of going into detail about what Platt says about these issues (I’ll let you discover that on your own when you read the book) I want to share five things I really liked about this book. These are just a few of the many reasons I believe this is a “must read” for Christians today.

Boldness and humility. Throughout this book Platt balances boldness and humility well. There isn’t a page in this book that doesn’t have one or more bold statements that calls the reader out of complacency and indifference on these important issues. However, Platt’s boldness is balanced by a deep humility. Throughout the book Platt shares how he hasn’t always responded to these issues in the way God expects. He also shares how he doesn’t have all the answers and is seeking answers alongside the reader. Platt’s boldness for the Gospel and his deep humility is clearly seen throughout this book.

Gospel-Centered. If you have ever read anything about or by Platt you know he is a very Gospel-centered leader, writer, and person. It would be easy for anyone to write a book about social issues like these and do so in a way that isn’t Gospel-centered. However, Platt realizes and shares how the only real answer to these issues is the Gospel. That doesn’t mean he ignores the practical and gives us a pass to not take action, in fact, Platt shows us how the Gospel fuels action and demands we live counter culturally as well as doing something about these vital issues. Platt shows how the Gospel is the foundation and key to addressing and fixing these social issues. He also shows how the Gospel itself transforms Christians and how they see and act towards these issues.

Practical. Platt not only tackles these issues with a large dose of Bible and theology, but also shares a lot of practical things the reader can do in response to these issues. At the end of each chapter, Platt shares a list of things the reader can do in response to that particular issue. There is also a helpful website for this book that has more resources on each issue and more.

Focuses on the local church. The call to live counter culturally and respond to these issues is something that is not just given to the individual Christian, but to the church as a whole. The entire body of Christ has been called to counter culture and to respond in a way that God expects when it comes to these social issues. Platt keeps the local church at the center of how we should respond to these issues. He calls the Christian to partner with their local church in doing something about these issues. I believe that’s the way God wants it. God doesn’t want “lone ranger” Christians working their tails off alone against these issues. He wants Christians to work together as a church to counter culture and through the Gospel make a difference in the world around them.

Timely chapters for the American Christian on racism, homosexuality, and religious freedom. I’m not suggesting these issues don’t exists elsewhere in the world or that they are not timely for other countries, but I do believe these are very timely chapters for Christians in America. Our country is facing racial issues, a redefinition of marriage, and freedom of religion becoming less of a reality. Platt takes these issues head on and shows how the Gospel ascends race and breaks down the racial walls. He shows how homosexuality is wrong and against God’s design for marriage. He shows how religious freedom should be given but how we much approach such an issue. These chapters are needed for American Christians today.

As you can probably tell I really liked this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand more about these issues as well as how to respond in a God-honoring way. It’s a powerful book that packs a much needed punch.

Book’s I’ve Read Recently

I enjoy reading and writing reviews of what I have read here on my site. However, I do not always review every book I read. Some books I simply read and put them on the shelve. But in an effort to review and recommend more books here on my site I will be posting “mini-reviews” from time to time of recent books I have read. So today I want to share some quick reviews of three books I have recently finished.

FURT_9781601424563_jkt_all_r1.inddCrash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick. Crash the Chatterbox was a good read. I read a chapter a day during my devotional time and learned a lot about how Satan and his lies can cause me to loose focus on my Savior and His promises. Furtick is one of my favorite preachers to listen to and I have enjoyed reading his books. In this book Furtick considers some of the “chatter” Christians hear in their heads from Satan that often times trips them up and causes them to fail. He gives Biblical principles in how to overcome the “chatter” and reminds readers of the promises of God. This was a really easy read that I would recommend to anyone that is looking for a book to help them in their spiritual growth. Overcoming the lies of the enemy is important if we want to believe and live out the promises of God for our lives.

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Building a Youth Ministry that Builds Disciples by Duffy Robbins. When it comes to youth ministry, I love reading and learning from Duffy Robbins. This guys has been around for a long time and is full of youth ministry related wisdom. It’s evident from his books (and when you hear him speak) that he loves Jesus and teenagers. He is also passionate about helping youth pastors follow the Great Commission in making disciples, which is what this book if all about. In this book, Robbins shares how you can build an effective youth ministry that builds teenage disciples. This by far was one of the best youth ministry books I have ever read. It was practical, but very theologically sound. Robbins doesn’t just share how to attract teenagers, but how to pour into them and help them become fully-devoted disciples of Jesus. I really enjoyed chapters 2 and 3. In chapter 2 Robbins talks about how youth ministry is more about the youth pastors relationship with Jesus than anything else. Then in chapter 3 Robbins talks about how youth ministry must be incarnational. With Jesus ministry as the blueprint, Robbins helps youth workers see the important of being with teenagers and how healthy relationships with teenagers make for great ministry. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone in youth ministry both full-time or as a volunteer.

cotw-cvrCreature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger. We need Gospel-centered local churches. Not many pastors (or Christians for that matter) would disagree with this statement. But what does a Gospel-centered local church look like? How does a Gospel-centered church operate? Those are the kinds of questions this book addresses. The local church is all about Jesus. He built it, runs it, and owns it. The Gospel, the good news of what God did through Jesus, is what should drive the church. The Gospel, the person of Jesus, should be at the center of it all. The first few chapters (chapters 1-5) unpacks this truth while the last section (chapters 6-12) get more practical in dealing with how the Gospel impacts everything from church leadership, ministry, preaching, and contextualization. I really enjoyed chapter 8 and what the writers had to say about children and student ministry. As well as chapter 9 and the discussion on what is Biblical, Jesus-centered leadership. I’d recommend this book for anyone who is in church leadership and is passionate about building a Gospel-centered church.

I’m currently reading The Judgment Seat of Christ by Samuel Hoyt and plan to start reading Perry Noble’s new book Overwhelmed this week. Reviews coming soon.

Freebie: 10 Degrees Hotter eBook

10DegreesHotterThroughout the month of January our church has been in a series called 10 Degrees Hotter. This is the vision four our church in 2014 that God has placed on our lead pastors heart. Throughout the series we have been talking about how we can grow 10 degrees hotter in our affection for God. The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.

Gary Chapmen is probably best known for his book The 5 Love Languages. In that book Chapmen says every human being gives and receives love in different “languages.” They love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. In this series, 10 Degrees Hotter, our lead pastor has been walking us through how these love languages can also help us grow in our love for God. Just as we work on these languages in a married towards our spouse, we can use them to grow in our affection for God. You can click here to watch the sermons from this series.

To go along with this vision and series, our lead pastor wrote a book about growing 10 degrees hotter. In this book he walks through the love languages and how we can use them to grow in our affection towards God as well as other practical ways to grow in this area. Also, the book is totally FREE! Click the link below to get the 10 Degrees Hotter ebook and see how you can grow 10 degrees hotter in your affection for God.

Download the 10 Degrees Hotter eBook

Book Review: Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

Crazy-Busy-214x300I love reading. I use to hate it, but sometime around my senior year of high school and my freshmen year of college I started to really enjoy reading. Throughout college I read all the time. Between my Bible college reading and personal reading, I was going through multiple books a month. However, now that I am married, in full-time ministry, and doing seminary I struggle to get through a book or two a month. I’m just too busy. That’s why it’s ironic one of the best books I have read in the last year and half was Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung.

Crazy Busy is a little book that is packed with practical and theological insights for people who just feel too busy. Our culture is one that is filled with people who feel this way. I certainly feel this way as I juggle marriage, ministry, and seminary. No matter what’s on your plate, most of us can admit to feeling too busy.

DeYoung spends most of the books (Chapters 3-9) talking about seven diagnoses to consider when it comes to being busy. These are practical, yet theological at the same time. It’s a good balance. Before getting into the diagnoses, DeYoung talks about three dangers to avoid (Chapter 2). These are not physical or mental dangers, even though DeYoung admits those are important to consider (page 26), but these three dangers he shares are spiritual dangers. He says, “When we are crazy busy, we put our souls at risks. The challenge is not merely to make a few bad habits go away. The challenge is to not let our spiritual lives slip away” (page 26). I will let you read the book yourself and find out what these dangers are. DeYoung ends the book with a chapter on “the one thing you must do” (Chapter 10). When the busyness won’t stop and you feel like you are running a billion miles per hour there is one simple thing you must always do and never let the busyness stop you from doing it. So what is that one thing? DeYoung says, “If you are sick and tired of feeling so dreadfully busy and are looking for a one-point plan to help restore order to your life, this is the best advice I know: devote yourself to the Word of God and prayer” (page 113). Spend time with Jesus! No matter how busy you are, don’t let that slip away. Make that your number one priority.

This book didn’t help me stop being busy. In fact, I’m probably more busy now then I was when I started reading this book. However, I learned a few things and found some practical advice in this book from a guy who is obviously very busy himself (see chapter 1), but loves Jesus and wants to helps other loves Him as well. If you feel crazy busy, this book is for you.