Tuesday, December 23, 2008

As One Blog Ends...A New One Begins

I've been a very inconsistent blogger for the last several months. Its sort of odd because there are lots of things that I want to write about, and in many ways, my current job is more conducive to such writing than youth ministry was. I think, to me, this blog is representative of a period in my life that has passed. It may seem silly, but I plan to launch a new blog in early January which I will announce and link here. I do plan on writing one final post on this site, which I will call "Reflections on Leaving Youth Ministry", which should be up in early January. I will leave this blog up as an archive, but I do not plan on posting much here after the new one is live. If you have journeyed with me here these past several years, I thank you for your attention and comments. Please come to the new blog once it is live. I plan on posting on a much more consistent basis.


P.S. After a very long hiatus, Phil Wilson and I are also bringing back the Post-Restorationist Podcast in January. I'll provide links once that is live as well. Please come join the conversation.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Book Recommendation: Churched by Matthew Paul Turner

What happens to a kid who grows up in a fundamentalist church when he or she rejects fundamentalism? Many times, because they "got" the message that fundamentalism is the only "true" Christianity, they wind up rejecting Christianity/religion as a whole. However, sometimes, some people find a path through this forest of legalism, conspiracy theories, and isolated subculture to Jesus...or maybe Jesus finds them.

Such is the case for my friend Matthew Paul Turner. In his book Churched: One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess, Matthew recounts his journey of faith through fundamentalism. The narrative that Turner offers is equal parts memoir and satire. Though it could have easily devolved into a bitter rant decrying his upbringing, Matthew succeeds in virtually channeling himself as a child. As such, his story reads with a nostalgic sweetness that brings both laughter and tears. Churched is genuinely funny, and at times quite poiniant. Many readers will find the experience similar to a kind of group therapy...as they learn to laugh at their own stories too. Far from demonizing the "characters" in his story, Matthew excels at revealing their humanity and sincerity. As hilarious as the stories of his Sunday School Teacher's lesson on manna or his childhood pastor's "boxing match with Satan" are, you get the sense that Matthew also finds a way to honor and respect them. Though it is never explicit, you can clearly see the bruises and scars that Matthew carries and how he has wrestled to find a way to believe. In the end, the implicit main character of this memoir is not Matthew himself, but rather the Savior that he loves who shines through all of the craziness and has led Matthew to a genuine faith that is characterized by hope and love.

I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough. Even if you didn't grow up in a fundamentalist church or subculture, I think you may find surprising resonance and inspiration.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Quoting Theology, Christmas Edition: N.T. Wright

"...And remember the story of the shepherds and the manger. We are so used to hearing about it – indeed, most of us never use the word ‘manger’ in any other context – that we often forget the point. The shepherds were told something – or thought they were told something – quite ridiculous: that God’s Messiah, God’s only Son, had been born just up the road. Now how on earth are you supposed to believe that? And what on earth could you do about it? Ah, but they were given a sign: you don’t normally find babies in feeding-troughs, but that’s where this one is. And so they went, and they saw, and they believed, and they worshipped. What’s the equivalent for us today? Well, when you worship the Christ-child for yourself, and learn to open your eyes to the empires and your ears to the angels, you may well wonder whether there’s any point in even trying to do anything about it all. It all seems quite ridiculous. And then you may begin to notice places where there are, so to speak, babies in mangers: places where God seems to have been startlingly at work, in a hospice or a prison or a day-care centre or a play-group, in Bible Study groups, in gospel work going forwards among drug addicts and prostitutes, in campaigns about debt and unjust laws and fair trade, whatever it may be. And then: watch for the empires, listen for the angels, worship the Christ-child – and go for it. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and his kingdom shall be established with justice and righteousness from this time forth and for evermore."
--N.T. Wright, from his sermon entitled, "Emperors and Angels"