The Weakness of a Domesticated Gospel (Think Tank 2012)

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When the Christian story no longer seems compelling

The looming crisis in youth ministry is that young people have examined the church and judged it to be inauthentic and irrelevant.  In spite of our best efforts, young people in our culture are simply not convinced that the church is an important or necessary voice in the world—or, maybe it is, but their contribution is inconsequential to the church’s mission in the world.

Kids are going where they believe they matter, to those causes whose message is, “We can’t do this great work without you” (a message young people almost never hear convincingly from their churches). Being needed (not to mention wanted) is compelling stuff.  If kids can’t get that from the institutions they grew up loving, they’ll grow to love the institutions from which they get that affirmation.

That said, this crisis in youth ministry is not one of institutional preservation or survival. The church’s missional witness is anemic because we have domesticated the gospel. We are in the grip of an ecclesial identity crisis that strikes at the heart of the nature and witness of the church in a post-modern, post-Christian, globalized context.

We envision the recovery of a revitalized and robust missional ecclesiology that offers a compelling vision for the church that will draw people into relationship with God, engage them in authentic relationships in the community of faith, and propel them into the world to embody their missional vocation.  This missional witness engages kids as consequential contributors to the church’s participation in the missio dei rather than inconsequential consumers of our programs.  Missional witness is formed as young people are drawn into theological and spiritual reflection on the practices of serving and witnessing to God’s reign in places of deep need and brokenness.

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