Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Random Thought on Youth Ministry learned from unsuccess

I spent from 1995-2008 in some form of youth ministry, and in the last 8 years I have worked hard to at least keep a little bit involved in youth ministry.

Our church here, by all ways of measuring, is really struggling to establish a ministry to teens. We grew our group from about 5ish kids to between 15-25 (not bad for a small church), but now we are back to struggling again. There is a lot I could say to explain how all of this happened, but that would be a long, rambling post. But I have been thinking about something related to this  lately. Our desire to have safe and reputable ministries in churches have often hindered us in developing deep and abiding youth ministries.

In our church, we have safe sanctuary guidelines. As you might expect from a multi-denominational church, we pull a few resources from this insurance company and that denominational program, and put it together into one boundary training that we do at least once a year.

As one reads a lot of the literature on how churches should police relationships to keep kids safe from predators and churches safe from litigation, I am afraid that some of the caution we approach teens and relationships with has left us less able to offer what they really need.

The literature says to be cautious about spending time with one or two kids. I understand this. We don't want youth leaders grooming kids in order to abuse them and train them to be abusers. The challenge is that many teens are in need of deep relationships with adults that are not their parents.

The common standard for spending time with kids is a two-adult rule. This is a wise rule in youth programming. It allows a church's youth ministry to function with greater integrity. Yet, in my experience, some of my most profound experiences of being discipled by Christian leaders were when I was riding shotgun with the pastor on one of his speaking ventures asking questions I was afraid to ask my mom, or going fishing with a deacon of our church and his teenage son. And, more and more, even in same gender mentoring, this life on life ministry is becoming a thing of the past. Our desire for propriety and safety has created a wall between us and our youth that limits our effectiveness in reaching them.

Last summer I was at a pastor's meeting with my Methodist colleagues. They introduced guidelines for social networking that I believe they will probably adopt as policy in the near future. These rules include never chatting or private messaging young people, but always having another adult included in the online conversation. The same with text messaging.

Again, I understand the need for this kind of safety. Our world is a scary place. I just wonder if we have taken things a little too far.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Book Review of Reformation Readings of Paul: Explorations in History and Exegesis edited by Michael Allen and Jonathan A. Linebaugh

Reformation Readings of Paul: Explorations in History and Exegesis
edited by Michael Allen and Jonathan A. Linebaugh
ISBN 978-0-8308-4091-5
IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Much of the Reformation can be traced back to the rediscovery of the ancient writings, including the Scriptures, during the Renaissance. When the Reformers were able to get back to the original texts of Scripture, they quickly discovered that Catholic dogma did not always align with what they saw as the clear teaching of God's Word. And, so, in different ways and with different portions of Scripture Luther and Calvin began to develop a theology that was at odds with the establishment of the Roman Church.

Reformation Readings of Paul tells the story about how different Scriptures impacted the theology and faith practice of the Reformers and those they taught. In particular, contributors to this monograph focus on Luther and Galatians, Melanchthon and Romans, Bucer and Ephesians, Calvin and the Corinthian Correspondence, and the entire Pauline corpus in relation to Cramner.

This is a book that could be read step by step. There is a lot to learn from a lot of people in this fine book combining the disciplines of church history, theology, and biblical studies. Reformation Readings of Paul is a great book for any theological library.

Book Review of Wesley and the Anglicans by Ryan Nicholas Danker

Wesley and the Anglicans: Political Division in Early Evangelicalism
by Ryan Nicholas Danker
ISBN 978-0-8308-5122-5
IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Since I have become a pastor of a federated church, I have tried to develop more knowledge about the function of denominations and their history. By far, my biggest learning curve has been trying to understand the "people called Methodist", even though I am told I was baptized as a Methodist as an infant, and my earliest memories of a church experience is Vacation Bible School at the First United Methodist Church in Roseburg, Oregon.

In particular, I have tried to understand John Wesley, Methodism's founder, from an impartial perspective. I am fascinated by Wesley's evangelistic fervor, and his ability to combine compassionate ministry with a deep heart for evangelism. On the other hand, Wesley's writings were so extensive that quoting him becomes a kind of spiritual Rorschach test, with people plucking a quote from Wesley here and there to validate and at times enforce their own point of view. Danker adds a lot to understanding Wesley in a more meaningful way, by understanding his ministry in the context of larger ministry movements taking place in England and the colonies at the time.

In Wesley and the Anglicans Dr. Ryan Danker attempts to prove that Wesleyan Methodism's incompatibilities with Anglican Evangelicalism had to do with political ideology as well as  theological differences. Wesley's Aldersgate experience puts him in the context of the revivalism of the evangelical moment of his time. His creating a separate structure of organizing believers from the Church of England makes him unique. He was more Anglican than separatists, but by creating a separate structure to disciple persons that worked outside of Anglican control, he was also seen as dangerous by both ecclesiastical and political powers. Throughout his book, Danker develops a new understanding of Wesley from the political currents of the times, and how they were related to religious concerns.

Sometimes it is easy to forget that the church of England was the church of the established government, and that most uprisings against that government, either from the Scots with Presbyterianism, or the Cromwellian forces with Puritan Separatism melded political rebellion with religious reform. Danker chronicles the unique story of Wesley, who did not lead a political uprising, but who suffered the suspicion of many because they believed his movement had that potential. Following his conscience and his theology, his teachings and methods had far reaching consequences as it helped to form the Christian movement as we know it today around the world, and also the political sensibilities of the western world as well.