Prophetic Youth Ministry

Walter Brueggemann writes the following: "The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us."
Although many youth ministries and ministers claim to do such a thing, it has been my observation that this is not very common. Even in my own ministry, I find it a rare moment that many of our programs, strategies, and structures actually fulfill such a prophetic role.
Are we supporting the culture of self-fulfillment and success? Or are we seeking to challenge it with an alternative way of being?


According to St. Benedict

According to Benedict, "the spiritual life depends on our being peaceful peacemakers. Agitation drives out consciousness of God. When we're driven by agitation, consumed by fretting, we become immersed in our own agenda and it is always exaggerated.... At the same time, a kind of passive tranquility is not the aim of the Benedictine life. The call of spirituality is to be gentle ourselves and to bring nonviolence in our wake."

Understanding Religion and Experience

According to George Lindbeck:
Religions are seen as comprehensive interpretive schemes, usually embodied in myths or narratives and heavily ritualized, which structure human experience and understanding of self and world. Not every telling of one of these cosmic stories is religious, however. It must be told with a particular purpose or interest. It must be used with a view to identifying and describing what is taken to be more important than everything else in the universe, and to organizing all of life, including both behavior and beliefs, in relation to this. If the interpretive scheme is used or the story is told without this interest in the maximally important, it ceases to function religiously.

Although, most of that is really confusing and hard to understand, I think Lindbeck really hits on the function of religion in the lives of people around the world. In discussing religion as such he seeks to make a connection between religion and experience (both individual experience and group experience). Lindbeck, at least at this point in the book, is not necessarily linking the gospel to this idea of religion. He is just giving a framework for thinking and discussing religion. How does this interact with any current definitions that any of us have of religion currently?



Here is what my friend James (who often comments on this blog) recently wrote (www.davedack.com/geter):

Offenders are people struggling with bleak ideas of self-worth. The j.s.(justice
system) sends them to jail where their current patterns will be reinforced
(violence is the path to self-preservation, and they're just another cog in the
system). The j.s. just erodes offenders even more.
- A better framework says justice begins with needs. The current frame work
goes like this. A law has been broken.
- what does the law require and what will the court accept? A better framework
starts by realizing that crime is a violation of relationships, not the state. We
need to work towards restoring the person, not punishing the offender.
- The better framework goes on to ask who's been harmed and what they need,
not which law's been broken and what the court might accept. Knowing their
harm is recognized gives the victim a sense of justice.
- The better framework says the debt is to the victim, not the state. Sending
people to prison does not make right the debt because it sweeps the real debt
under the carpet by detaching everyone from what really happened. The better
framework fills a debt by making the debt right. The offender has liabilities
and obligations. When these are filled, the guilt is removed.
- Through the process of meeting the liabilities and obligations the offender
works in new patterns that build him in constructive ways. He's immersed in
repairing conflict, not living and surviving in it.

I would be interested to find out how James and others out there would apply this thinking/understanding to the concept of Justification in scripture and perhaps a few other areas of scripture. Although many theological theories abound that do just this task, I think it would be interesting to work at it with just these ideas in mind without consulting these other theories until one has been constructed, after that the theories could be consulted. Let me know what you come up with everyone!


What is Election?

Recently, a conversation has brood on a friend's blog (www.davedack.com/home.htm) about the idea of election. My friend has recently been reading Leslie Newbigin's book, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society, which is a fascinating, and as my friend would say life-changing, book. In this book, Newbigin gives a fresh spin on the idea of election as it relates to the gospel and salvation. Some people get caught up in the argument of free-will vs. predestination/sovereignty of God/election. Although I find this argument to usually be very shallow and using an ever more shallow biblical hermeneutic that picks and chooses verses to build an argument for some western systematic theology that any good eastern Christian would find maddening, Newbigin gets to the heart of the matter about the issue of election and helps people get beyond the typical Calvin versus Arminean argument. Here is my edited comment from davedack.com:

I think that Newbigins idea of election differs
from all ideas presented. I think the main reason for this is that implicit in
most of the arguments mentioned, salvation is linked to the afterlife. This is
not so with Newbigin. Salvation is definately an eternal thing but hardly
anywhere in scripture can this be construed with the idea of afterlife (I'm not
saying that afterlife isn't mentioned. I'm just saying that salvation is rarely
if at all linked with it most of the time in scripture; thus, our emphasis on
this is overstated and should probably not be a part of our salvation language
most of the time). Salvation is about the redemption of humanity, the Earth, and
indeed all of creation. It is about healing and mending what was broken in Eden.
It is about bringing the kingdom of God (the rule of God or dominion of God) to
every point on the planet so that His will is enacted in everyday life among all
humankind. Election is about being chosen to bring this good news to the
nations. The good news is not something that is necessarily to be accepted or
rejected. It existance is not dependent upon humanity. Salvation is not either.
Humanity will be saved. Creation will be saved. Salvation is not about choice
(its not about God forcing some afterlife destination on people or about an
individual choosing God to get there either). Salvation is a matter of fact
about the future. Faith is about believing that this future will exist and
helping to bring it about on this planet, spreading it around, and living as a
parable of it in the present. Being elected is just like being elected
President. God has chosen a group of people (emphasis on a group and not on
individual) to spread a message that the kingdom of God is here and that its
rule is beginning to take place. It is a message of peace and love, of wholeness
and perfection, of eternal rather temporary. It is about telling the nations of
the Earth that God is coming and will renew all things when he does come. Its
about telling people that fresh new life is coming there way. At the end of
telling people this, they are not choosing whether they want this or not
(because it will come no matter what), instead they are choosing to become a
part of an elected community to spread the message and live out the kingdom in
the present.
I hope all of this is understood in the way it was intended. I
have tried to summarize my interpretation of Newbigin (which I hope has been

Disclaimer: No one should read any type of universalism into this post. The only way universalism could be found in this post is if one did not really read it. Universalism at its bottom line is all about the afterlife. Salvation is primarily about the kingdom of God being enacted on this earth.


A Twist on Twisted Desire

Recently a friend of mine posted the following:
  • It’s 11:42 pm here in Phoenix. Tomorrow morning I get on a plane to Philly at 5:30 am. Yet, I’m up posting to my blog. Why? Actually it’s more than that. I’m settling for posting to my blog. What I’d really like to do is revamp the whole site, add ton’s of content to the pages on swing dancing, and create create create. Why? No, I’m serious! Why? Why do we want to create? Why is it that I feel empty if I can’t point to something that wasn’t there before. What hole is going to be filled? In the past I’ve heard “We are made in God’s image, God is a creator, and therefore, we create.” Maybe this is true. Maybe I can go up to my hotel room, sleep for a few hours before returning to Philly, and learn to just be.
Here is my response to him...
Well, I do think we have an innate desire to create. However, I think that desire gets taken captive by our desire to be recognized, to be counted, to stand apart as distinguished. When we were in perfect community, we could create and know that we were creating to express our utmost desires for God and others and creation. However, we no longer have that security. We are naked. We desperately want to clothe ourselves. Often we seek to create in order to provide ourselves some underwear or to provide ourselves with a fancy suit. Nevertheless, even in the midst of these twisted desires, God's creative act is coming through. A special person in his creation is creating. And even our twisted desires often have some element of wanting to express how we feel about God or his creation (however sometimes in the negative because of the pain we feel). I think it is better that we go on creating even when it is negative rather than stop creating at all. I think this is one of the points of the Bible. God could have obliterated us and stopped sin from occurring. But I think he felt that it was better to continue on rather than stopping. Something good still occurs. I think this is a refreshing way of looking at ourselves.

Love and the Art of Pastoring

Over the past 6 years, I did not like church nor did I like church people. I had been burnt many times by leaders and laypeople alike. I did not see the true life of Christ being lived out. Over the past year and a half, that has changed. Two friends of mine reminded me of the fact that Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her. Slowly, my heart caught up to this detail. I began to realize that the gospel was being lived out in my own life when I could love a very imperfect community. Indeed, this is exactly what God was doing throughout the OT. It is in the act of love and forgiveness and hope that the people of God begin to slowly live out the kingdom of God.
Recently, my friend James (
http://www.davedack.com/geter/) posted on the fact that so many leaders, especially youth pastors, want to do ministry. They are like playboys running around dating churches and ministries, trying to do ministry. However, they have no true love for the church (the people of God). Indeed, they often feel the people are a hindrance to the ministry getting done. I use to feel this way.
I have learned that pastoring-- loving the community of people and listening to them and challenging them and even getting hurt by them-- is an act of living out the gospel. And in doing so, hopefully so of them are pastoring me as well.


A God Kind of Wisdom

Over the weekend, I explored with my students the ideas expressed in James 3:13-18 of "wisdom." Isn't interesting how the writer James turns on its head our ideas of being wise, smart, intelligent, and SUCCESSFUL. In our day, success has been directly linked to wisdom. The better a business or the bigger a church or the stronger a government, the more we think that such a place is wise. Indeed, such things are successful in this world's system. Bigger, better, and faster are the ways of this world. To succeed in this world, you must be big and fast and better than the next guy. Godly wisdom was not designed for such a world. Godly wisdom has in mind another world-- a place where the the Lord's will is done on Earth as it is in heaven. This wisdom heals people-- it is peace filled, mercy filled, considerate filled, submissive filled, humility filled, etc. It doesn't necessarily lead towards riches, glory, possessions, place, and power. It does not seek to make you successful for this world, but for another world. However, let's not make the mistake to think that this other world is the world of heaven. Indeed to quote the Lord's prayer again, "May your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven." The goal is to make this Earth, this place we reside, into that other world. That world cannot happen by force like some Christians view the Second Coming. That would be worldly wisdom or this current worlds idea of bringing order. That is about having more power than the other guy. Indeed, if we listen to James and if we listen to Jesus, this world will change because of the power of God's story-- the one that says that humility and love is better than power and violence.