Wednesday, June 9, 2010

#161-Relevant Youth Pastors

To begin, that's a picture of the most popular target of "Is he or isn't he emergent?" One Mark Driscoll. And if you know anything about the man, or ever heard him speak or heard him try to rip Rob Bell to shreds, then you will know in fact that Driscoll is not emergent. 

But there is a bigger issue up for a discussion. One that has literally changed the movement in 6 years flat. The issue is that of THE RELEVANT YOUTH PASTOR.

In reality within the apostolic movement  means one thing: "I unapologetically wear jeans when I preach to the youth." 

Ultimately  it is the relevant youth pastor that brings in the latest trends of fashionable Christianity. Most of which revolves around designing really cool looking logos on adobe photoshop for the newest preaching series that youth pastor is talking on. But sometimes it also revolves around a fauxhawk, plastic bracelets, having a twitter, retweeting T.F. Tenny quotes, Toms shoes, and Rob Bell styled glasses:

But the deciding mark of how relevant your youth pastor is, is whether or not he has gone to or watched videos from from the Catalyst Conference (if you don't know what that is then you aren't relevant).

 The relevant youth pastor is the testament and reminder of the cliche: "While the methods may change, the message never does."

And thus the pastor of a church which has a relevant youth pastor can proudly declare that by having such a cutting edge minister on staff who wears jeans (which is completely hardcore), he is in fact keeping up with the times. And thus not as out of touch of reality as ye suppose.

But whatever...pawn or activist, the relevant youth pastor is a sign that fake is dead. And real is here.....or in other words: "we don't like the old culture, so we will call it fake. And build our own subjective culture which in it's very core has no more of a claim towards being "real" than that culture which preceded us."

And with this, the ultimate distinction of the younger generation and their leaders (the relevant youth pastors) and the older generation is the use of a whole plethora of buzz words including but not limited to: Real. Missional. Community. Relationship. Authentic. Emerging. Emergent.
Or perhaps as one author stated:
"We don’t have a clue what we mean by authenticity (or other similar buzz word), and even if we did, we wouldn’t know how to find it. That is, the quest for authenticity is a hoax—there is no such thing. Authenticity is an exclusionist notion, defined, by what it isn’t, not by what it is, and, for the most part, so-called authentic lifestyles are just as artificial and contrived as the rest of modern culture"

But it makes us think we are changing things. And that makes us feel good. So we'll roll with it. And in the process know that we are doing the right thing because a few older pastors in the area are getting mad at us....

As a favorite line from one of my favorite songs goes:

"Oh and we carried it all so well. As if we got a new position... oh and we own all the tools ourselves without the skills to make a show,,, with oh what useless tools ourselves."

For the record, I do not have a problem whatsoever with young ministers trying to relate more to the lost and the youth by being more "relevant" to such a culture. I have many favorite ministers who, had it not been for their accessibility through the comfort I felt about them being more like "me" than like "them," I probably would not be back in church to this day. Jeans to a youth service are not a bad thing at all, but I would hypothesize they, as miniscule of significance they seem to be provide an essential outlet for youth and others to be comfortable within a church setting...

What I fear is that this desire to "relate" has been manipulated by some to carry a tone of "superiority" with it. And thus what was done in the name of "lowering oneself" to relate more to others, becomes a pedastal by others to scorn other kinds of culture that may not be as "cutting edge" as theirs.

(Note: My mention of Mark Driscoll or TF Tenney in no way infers I am not a fan of either. I enjoy an occasional driscoll message. And as for Tenney....Well, I don't think there is anything that I could say that hasn't already been said in terms of the man's ridiculous amount of wisdom and those sick one-liners he has that knock you off your feet.)

Reminder: New comment policy. See post below. Mazel Tov!


  1. The idea of "authentic" christianity has always annoyed the living daylights out of me. Such a tautology!

    I tend to think that the whole relevant youth pastor thing has become far too contrived and instrumental, but I'll concede that it probably has gotten through to a lot of youth that wouldn't have received the message otherwise. That being said, I know that it's also turned a lot of people off, simply by virtue of its performative nature. It's a line that has to be trod carefully.

    Here's some other attributes of the relevant youth pastor/service for you, Joel:

    1. Soul patch.
    2. Sandals/slippers in lieu of shoes.
    3. Candlelit services with live acoustic guitar accompanying.
    3.5 Live performance may or may not include repeating the chorus of an extremely slow/"emotional" song over and over again, during which the youth are instructed to meditate on its meaning, Jesus, and the universe in general.
    4. Serving iced coffee at youth/college aged functions.
    5. Pulling semi-relevant quotes from famous secular thinkers.

  2. "The relevant youth pastor is the testament and reminder of the cliche: "While the methods may change, the message never does."

    I am reminded of Paul's statement:

    I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.- Paul, 1 Corinthians 9

    Good post.

  3. Having done some Psychology work, it is interesting to note that within the Psychology and counseling field, the idea of dressing like, and acting like "normal, everyday people" for the sake of building rapport does not work. It was tried and rejected as a method of counseling, and should be done with the same within our churches. It is important that people have someone to look up to, and not someone simply "at their level." --Just a thought.

  4. Relevant YP's are funny to me. Can't fully explain why, except they've created their own sub-culture. I also think the wave they ride has been helpful. It's caused the church to wake-up and realize we are not performing religion, but taking Jesus into our culture, not removing him to a far-off retreat.

    In a world that likes the arts, speaks a different language, many of the cultural rythmns we see today are not invented by the church. They are rather engaged with Jesus.

    To Rachel, I'm not a fan of trying to dumb down what you have to say, but people first want to know they can trust you. Acting like you are someone better than them doesn't cut it. I am still just one beggar telling another where he can find bread. That sort of humility helps me relate to those coming to Jesus.

    I'm not concerned with Catalyst, relevant labels as much I am concerned with taking this 1st Century Jesus to my 21st Century world, and not enshrining him in the traditions of cultures gone-by, and thinking that it the authentic Christ. He transcends culture, yet we live in the tapestry of culture. Our job is not to change culture. It's to adapt. To engage in the culture. That's exactly what Jesus did, and that's why he ticked so many religious people off too. He didn't do it the way they did it. He went straight to the people, spending more time in the town streets and houses of sinners, than with the religious and in temples.

  5. I have to disagree with you, Lee. I don't think trust is necessarily built by coming to the same level as the person you are mentoring. I look at my pastor's wife, for example. In no way does she "come to anyone's level", either in her dress or her manner. However, neither is she snooty in any way, or think of herself as something special. There is not a woman who does not look up to her as an example, and believe me, she is truly TRUSTWORTHY and very easy to talk to.

    It's a delicate balance, I agree, but I have to agree with Rachel's point on this one. Leaders in any way (even parents) do better to earn trust and respect by their character rather than trying to fit in with whoever it is they are leading.

  6. Are you not on the same level? What is the issue with people that they insist on keeping their level?

    Jesus, the Son of Man, came to serve. Leader serve. They are on their knees. They are not elevating themselves, they are lowering themselves.

    That doesn't mean you have to take on the persona and character of the lowest level denominator of your audience. That's phony and not authentic.

    I've never proctored the point that earning trust is based solely on "fitting in" to the abandonment of their character. I'm not interested in "fitting in," nor was Jesus. Relating is not fitting in.

  7. Culture is not evil.
    Culture is not evil.
    One more time, Culture is not evil.

    Culture just is. It's a sociological reality. It is made up of traditions, attitudes, economics, landscapes, languages, ideas, behaviors, etc... Elements of culture can be ungodly and sinful. For example, selfishness, fornication, pride, anger and jealousy. All of these are popular elements emphasized in certain strands of culture. However, to be "separate" of that, we model, in the framework of our world, the opposite behaviors. This is what it means to be in the world but not of it. We share a different value system. We are not called to run to the hill as the Essenes, or robe ourselves with Spiritual Pride as the Pharisees. We are called, like Jesus, to put on our humble clothing, eat with our neighbors without fear of contamination, and live a Gospel life expressed fully. And the beautiful thing is when we see fellow unbelievers, beyond the moral stigmas of some of their habits (smoking, getting drunk, etc) and realize we are no better off before God, except for the grace of God. I can't boast or Lord that over them. I can only point it to Jesus.

    This attitude of confrontation with culture is a made-up one. It's a person chasing the wind. Culture is a reality whether we tuck our heads in the sand or not. What you wear, the words you use, the car you drive, the way you eat your meal and the kind of food you eat are all culturally created.

    So instead of running away from something you can't, step into culture, into the world of sinners, while engaging this world with a Gospeled life.

  8. I'm gonna have to agree with Lee on this one.

    Darla, I think you have an unnecessarily hierarchical view of ministry and the church that you might want to rethink. And you might want to take a look at the ministry of Jesus rather than the people you see around you every day. He's our greatest example. Or perhaps you might want to define your terms a little more clearly - I might be misunderstanding what you mean (for instance, how is your pastor's wife not on you/others level).

    As far as the blog goes - this one made me laugh because I know so many youth pastors who fit this. As a matter of fact, I see myself in some of it - it stings and is funny at the same time.

    "In reality within the apostolic movement means one thing: "I unapologetically wear jeans when I preach to the youth."

    I think it's funny that no matter where we go, style of dress (dressing up for church blog, pants for men, pants for women, etc.) keep popping up rather than content and message. But it is a physical indicator I suppose that cannot be ignored. Maybe Gaga is on to something.

  9. Okay, maybe I did explain myself badly. Because this blog post was about "relevant" youth pastors, and specifically mentioned manners of dress, etc., that was what I was addressing. My pastor's wife does not dress "youth" if she is with the youth. However, she does not elevate herself above them, either. Youth respect her because of her character and spirit regardless that she would be considered - by the terms used in this blog post - "non-relevant".

    I used her as an example, but like I also said, ALL leaders should lead by example and character. When leaders (AND parents) strive to be "too cool" (which is what "relevant" means to me), something is lost. Yes, Lee, I do agree that leaders of any sort should be servants. But, I really don't think if Jesus walked on earth today that He would be wearing baggy jeans with holes in the knees just so He could relate to that group of people. The spirit He carried and the message He preached drew people to Him. He would not try to be "hip and cool". (That is my opinion......)

    Ryan, I do have a very "hierarchical" view of the ministry, which I do not apologize for. I have realized from reading this blog that my views of the ministry do not fit in with most of what I have read in the past. My view comes from 25+ years of submitting to a pastor, seeing all of my pastor's flaws, realizing his humanity, BUT understanding the position he was put in by God and also understanding the uniqueness of a God-called ministry. My pastor doesn't "flaunt" his authority. He is approachable if you have a question and fully understands that people will disagree at times. So, unless he preaches false doctrine (which he doesn't), I strive not to talk against a preacher.

  10. Darla - thanks for the clarification! I appreciate it. I think our uniqueness and diversity makes us more interesting and overall, a better church. And dialogue like this helps our understanding of that diversity.

    I think what Joel is lampooning is the idea of relevant and its being, like you said, "too cool." What relevant in its best form is (to me), is relating to the culture around you so that The Message is easily communicable to those around us. (For example saying 'welcome' to a guest rather than 'praise the lord' - which to the unchurched simply doesn't make sense and is more of a traditional/culturally Apostolic greeting.)

    So being relevant is really less about dress and more about communication. Now whether that communication involves style of clothing, venue, etc. is up to the communicator.

    Also, if you've followed any of the previous discussions, you'll notice that a classic logical flaw is the ad hominem attack which attacks the messenger rather than the message. So I agree that we don't 'talk against' individuals, be they preachers etc., but rather pay close attention to the content of their message and weigh that carefully.

  11. I must say that I absolutely LOVE this generation of Apostolics...its good to see that we stay rooted in God's Word, still have fun, and think outside of the box while not going too far from home base.

    God is about to do some big things with us. Hope we're all ready for it!!!

  12. Youth Groups and therefore youth pastors are not Biblical.

    God never segregated families by age. The teenage years is not a good time to put our children in the hands of a spiky haired, rectangled glasses, joker who has no children or experience of his own.

    Titus told us to teach the young men to be sober minded.Youth Pastors are generally goofy.

  13. wow, way to over generalize, many youth pastors i know are not goofy, they have children, and don't wear rectangle glasses.

  14. Aw shucks, now this whole blog is 4 parts serious and 7 parts goof. I like it. It makes light of some of the totally serious issues in Pentecost. Makes them easier to discuss when they are mixed in with some fluff. Like.

    That is the spirit I left my comment in.... part goof part serious.

    Of course I know not *every* Youth Pastor has rectangle glasses and no experience. It was indeed a seriously over generalized statement. That is why I posted it. I figured everyone would see that.

    Still, bottom line, Youth Groups and even the idea of segregating our churches up by age is not Biblical, goofy glasses notwithstanding.

  15. Now, didn't God always speak to people in ways they understand, and that maybe why he uses old english when he speaks to people, but maybe he just prefers the kings english. Anyways, I believe that God always is relevant to the person who he was speaking with, and that youth groups are a natural progression to that idea. It's the broader approach to the idea that you have to meet people where they are in order to change them. If an older adult enjoys the service I don't think there would be any issue with them attending the service but in most circumstances they can't relate to what is going on and the way the service is geared. Is there a issue with separating people of different languages or should we require all people to sit in the same service, and only appeal to the people who speak the pastors native tongue?

  16. I think you have a good point that we must reach our youth right where they are at. However if we are discipling them as Duet 11 says telling them there is only one God when they wake up when they walk by the way and when they lie down, then *where they are at* wont be so different than where we are at.

    They wont be so disconnected from their parents and elders that what we say has no relevance?? If what I share with my kids is not relevant I am not sharing the love of Jesus.

    Its dangerous to create a Jesus that is palatable for every age group, every preference. Goofy Jesus for the teens and a serious one for the old folk. Wha?

    If this approach worked I would say go for it. If it was Biblical again I would be for it.

    I do think we have a responsibility to reach lost teens and Paul said to become all things to all people so nothing wrong with condescending to meet lost teens.

    Hes still a man of sorrows and aquainted with grief. He still hath no form or comliness. Jesus isnt a good lookin slick popular Jesus. He is so so much more!