Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture by Walt Mueller
What an eye-opener!
I learned a number of things as I read this book and I think it’s a message that many of us have heard or even expressed at one time or another. Making the message of the Bible relevant to a generation or people group with whom we do not share their culture. This book is specifically talking about the current and upcoming youth generation.
I have heard the phrase “Postmodernism” before, but I had never taken the time to actually pay attention to what it is. Postmodern thinking basically says that there really is no moral right or wrong; “truth becomes what people—an individual or a community—want it to be.” Here are some distinctions of this worldview: everyone has a story and interpretation of society or art for example. Whatever your story or interpretation is, that is correct because that’s the way you see it. Postmodernism uses feelings, not reason. We don’t have to go too far to see evidence of this; all we have to do is turn on the television and observe commercials. What are the ads really selling us? Postmodernism embraces moral relativism; “truth becomes what people want it to be.” Postmodernism celebrates pluralism, diversity and tolerance. It replaces immorality with amorality. With the idea that there really is no right or wrong (amorality), immorality is impossible. It promotes an agonizing pessimism, displaces hope with despair, fosters a longing for connections and permanence, advances interest in spirituality, and it dismisses Christianity. This postmodern way of thinking is dangerous, but it’s real. This is what the youth of today believe (in general).
Walt explains three dynamics of the culture war within the church: accommodation, alienation and transformation. In accommodation, the church is on a leash being led by the culture. The extreme is when a church is accommodating themselves to cultural values and behaviors that are contrary to a biblical worldview. Sometimes it’s out of ignorance, convenience, or a belief that it will enhance the proclamation of the gospel. Alienation would be the other extreme where churches “ban” themselves from worldly activities in order to protect themselves from evil and offensive influences. Doing this, they construct for themselves a “bunker” where they stay and are “protected” from the world. These churches believe that contact with the world would lead to corruption and the adoption of ungodly attitudes and practices. Here Walt says, “In recent church history, many in the conservative evangelical church in America have adopted this bunker mentality.” I think I can see his point and I would probably tend to classify myself as a “bunker” Christian more than a “leashed” Christian.
Transformation suggests that the church be in but not of the world. This is the idea that leads us to the point of this whole book. In the end, Walt explains the Apostle Paul’s approach to the Athens when he spoke on Mars Hill. Paul went in, observed the culture adding to what he already knew about them, and as he was walking around he noticed an idol with the inscription “Unknown God”. He spent time learning about the people, getting to know what they believed. He met them on their turf (in the world) and an opportunity came up for him to share the Gospel. As he did so, he used their vocabulary and quoted form sources they respected (ie. Epimenides, Aratus, etc.).
We are encouraged to learn about the people group we are ministering to or, even as a layperson, trying to reach. The final question in the book is “Who is your Athens?” He gives a number of questions to think about as we learn about our target audience. We need to approach them with questions and a willingness to learn about them.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK FOR ANYONE WHO DESIRES TO REACH SOMEONE OF A DIFFERENT CULTURE OR AGE GROUP OTHER THAN THEIR OWN.