evangelicals worried that teens won't acquire the fire
on friday the NYT ran a front page story that focused on "acquire the fire's" youth revivals and evangelical's concerns about the faith of their children. apparently ron luce, the director of AQF, has frequently noted that if we fail to properly evangelize and indoctrinate our teens only 4% will grow into "bible-believing christians." these claims are highly suspicious insofar as they rely on a dated study by thom rainer, who admits in the body of the article that these figures are not current, and the surveys of evangelical pollster george barna, who tends to define "bible believing christian" in unmistakably modern terms that would paint many of us as apostate ee-vangelicals (i.e., belief in biblical inerrancy, an embrace of biblical "absolutes," etc.). while i agree with sociologists such as christian smith (who is interviewed in the article and recently co-wrote soul searching: the religious and spiritual lives of america's teenagers - a book i am dying to read) that the state of american christianity is not quite so dire, i do believe that we need to effectively proclaim the story of Jesus to america's teens, find more effective ways to incorporate them into the body of Christ and empower them to participate in the mission of God. however, i do not think that mass youth rallies that merely stir up religious enthusiasm and the ongoing propagation of a christian subculture (i.e., by countering the consumerism of the world by creating christian brands such as luce's branded by God line and the ever popular, sexually subversive wait wear line) is going to do the trick.
rather, in order to effectively share the story of Jesus with teens, incorporate them into the body and empower them to participate in the mission of God i think we need to: free them to create new and engaging forms of worship instead of just consuming the rah-rah shit we've been serving up for the last 30 years, find opportunities for them to serve in transformational ways and environments (i'm thinking of letting them discover the spirituality of cleaning toilets at places like l'arche and creating callouses on their hands as they dig wells in sub-saharan africa) and teach them how to actively subvert the consumeristic culture of the western world instead of simply teaching them to support and sustain the "sanctified" ee-vangelical sub-culture of middle america.
in short, i respect the passion of people like ron luce, but fear that his methods are not going to produce the ends that he seeks. i'd love to hear what you think about these matters. i'd especially like to hear what youth ministers have to say.
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