In Postmodern Youth Ministry, Jones paints a picture of what Youth Ministry in a postmodern context will look like. The vast majority of Americans claim to be religious, but how much is Christ-like compassion and aid to the needy actually making a difference in our communities? How well are we reflecting and emulating the mission of Jesus? How much is our culture in its darkness and need actually finding hope from those
of us who proclaim Christ and his Kingdom of love and compassion?
Is there a similarity between religious life in the first century prior to Pentecost and that of most churches and Christian communities today? Clearly, the answer is yes. Sure, there are differences: we have all the conveniences of twenty-first century technology—printed Bibles, Christian radio and TV broadcasts, and the
Internet. These wonderful tools should greatly aid us in an effort to transform our culture. But in spite of the differences in technology and information availability, today’s typical religious life seems anemic and ineffectual. The average American church appears to have little impact on the culture around us. Why?
The Church today is not what the church was intended to be. The Church started as a missionary
movement in Jerusalem. It moved to Rome and became an institution. It traveled to Europe and became a culture. It crossed the Atlantic to America and became a big business. While this is simplistic, it does ring true. It appears that religious people have, on the whole, lost their “transforming salt” and are no longer an “attractive light” that most people want to follow.
It may seem strange to think that traditional evangelism is in its last gasps when some North American churches seem to be increasing in number. Indeed, if the measure of success is church attendance, donations, people’s participation, numbers of programs, or square footage of church space, then many of today’s churches would be considered overwhelming successful. But are these factors valid measurements for the success of a church? If not, what is? The apostle Paul established some indicators. He stated that the leadership of the church was responsible “to equip God’s people to do his work…” so they would be “…mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13, NLT). “Since we believe that Christ died for everyone, we also believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live…so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, NLT). The disciple James went on to add: “Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you
don’t prove it by your actions?” (James 2:14, NLT).
Just as in the first century, a new church is emerging that is measuring its success not by the numbers of those participating in religious programs, but by its transformed lives. These churches measure their success by the lives of those who profess to be Christians. Their standard is simple Christ-likeness and how the transformed lives of their members impact the community around them. Over the past few decades Youth Ministry has been on the cutting edge of relevant ministry. He points out that if we are going to make an impact we must understand the condition of the postmodern mind and develop Youth Ministries that seek to meet those individual where they are. Considering the condition of the church and what is has become, we must be willing to think outside the box and be proactive in our approach to reaching this generation.
As I read this book, I could not help but think of my second full time Student Ministry Position. The church was in rural part of Georgia. Most of the students that were drawn to our ministry were skaters and Goth kids. I thought that this was odd considering the community we were in. As I began to minister to them, I realized that I needed to change my approach or I would lose them. I spent time getting to know them and began to invest into their lives. As time went on their appearance began to change. I think that once they felt loved and accepted, they did not need to dress that we any more. I believe most of them dressed like that just
to get attention, and sometimes not very positive attention. As I read Postmodern Youth Ministry, I really began to identify with the description that Jones gave of this new type of ministry. I really see how I have incorporated some of his ideas into my own ministry.
So this raises some very important questions:
How can I change my Youth Ministry to be more sensitive to the Postmodern Seeker?
What things must I change in order to be relevant, but not compromise the truth of the Gospel?
How do identify those students in my ministry that have a Postmodern mindset?
How do I train my leaders to be sensitive to this type of approach to ministry?
After reading Postmodern Youth Ministry, I realized that if we are going to make an impact in the generation, we must get back to the model of the early church. It didn’t take thousands of people to launch God’s transformational Kingdom movement in Jerusalem during the first century. There were only 120 in that upper room pouring their hearts out to God in agreement when his transforming Spirit empowered them to engage their city. And from Jerusalem they turned the known world upside down. What did they do and how did they do it? A study of the early church reveals how they grew and stayed focused on the mission Christ gave them. There were many factors involved, and we must practice these as well.
First, I must proclaim a transformational message. The new kingdom was not about changing the
Government; it was about transforming each individual life. I must have a burden to reach the lost and
truly seek to help students find the transforming power of Christ.
Second, my Youth Ministry must embrace a missional focus. Church growth should not be our goal; it is a
by-product. My strategy has to come together in the prayer of agreement, unify around God’s heart of compassion, and engage the city with a message of Christ’s love that met people’s needs. And that will result in converts. Converts will then be discipled, and the Youth Ministry and church will become more authentic and experience growth.
And third, I must help my students become living models of transformation. People aren’t attracted to
preaching personalities or church buildings or church programs. They are attracted to a people who demonstrate love and care for others, people who have a clear sense of purpose and convictions worth dying for.
Our culture today has similarities to that of the first century. The needs of people are the same now as then. People in our community will respond and can be changed by the same message of transformation, they will respond to the same missional focus, and they will be attracted to authentic models of transformation.