“The Good News should be a life transforming message that utilizes culturally relevant methods, but is not captive to them nor obsessed with them.”
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: A new book by Andrew Root titled “Faith Formation in a Secular Age: Responding to the Church’s Obsession with Youthfulness,” reminds us that sharing the gospel can become captive to trendiness, hipster appearances and pop-40 music. Rather the Good News should be a life transforming message that utilizes culturally relevant methods, but is not captive to them nor obsessed with them. For good insights check out Root’s book as well as read this interview with the author.
“Responding to American Christianity’s obsession with youth” By Jonathan Merritt, Religion News Service, 3/2/18.
(RNS) — Centuries ago, some of our ancestors powdered their wigs in order to appear older and wiser. Today, adults dye their hair darker to seem young and relevant. It’s difficult to dispute that, as Simon Donnan put it, “Youth is the new global currency.”
One might assume that the Christian church, which often touts itself as counter-cultural, would buck this trend. But many American congregations have embraced it instead. Have you ever been to a house of worship with a top-40 style music and a skinny-jeans wearing pastor donning a carefully coifed hipster hairdo? Then you know exactly what I mean.
This trend is born out of an earnest desire to “reach the next generation” and is usually well-motivated. But according to Andrew Root, author of “Faith Formation in a Secular Age: Responding to the Church’s Obsession with Youthfulness,” it is a recent phenomenon and creates challenges that must be addressed. Here we discuss how American Christians can understand and respond to our obsession with youth.
RNS: Talk to me about the history of “youthfulness.” What are the key turning points?
AR: I am developing this idea of “youthfulness” because of a thesis that Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in 1930, in it he said, “Since the days of the youth movement [referring to the German Youth movement in the late 19th century] the church has been more obsessed with the youthful spirit than the Holy Spirit.”
When I read this five years ago, I almost jumped out of my chair; it felt incredibly prophetic and like Bonhoeffer was speaking to the American church today. I think the legacy of youthfulness, like Bonhoeffer says, goes back to “the days of the youth movement”; as some cultural theorists point out, it is always 1969 in America. In the late-1960s the counter-culture drew from older avant-garde communities to embrace this ethic of authenticity, opposing a larger sense of obligation and duty. The baby boomers shifted the whole ethos of the culture to follow only what speaks to you. We all, in one way or another, live in this legacy now.
RNS: How did American society specifically become obsessed with youth culture?
AR: How we got here was not just young people growing their hair long and smoking weed, but Madison Ave picked up these themes of authenticity. After World War II, it was your duty to buy. Madison Ave took the counter-culture ethic of authenticity and made it the new engine for buying and consuming. Youth become the prophets of the age of authenticity – to be authentic is to be youthful. This continued to be sold to us for the past 50 to 60 years. So as the church finds itself with an authenticity deficit, it often runs to youthful forms to legitimate it.
RNS: I’ve heard some Christians say that working to attract young people is a good thing, that the youthful spirit will keep the church vibrant. Is this true?
AR: I clearly want young people in the church. I am a professor of youth ministry, after all. My concern is that the youthful spirit becomes a certain form of idolatry – a way of saving ourselves without the need for God. Do they actually want to attract young people? Real young people will force them to have relational encounters that will change them and their church. Or do they like the idea of having young people as a measure of their church’s vibrancy, legitimacy, or longevity?
Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2018/03/01/responding-to-american-christianitys-obsession-with-youth/
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