Having just come back from a few days of vacation, I caught up on some reading I have been wanting to do. I have to say, in the midst of a LOT of junk floating out there on the interwebs, there are still many interesting pearls to be found. Perhaps one or three of these links will interest you as well...
"Nones" and Religious Identity Today. A growing demographic in the US have been named "nones" - those without specific religious affiliation. They have been polled at 20% of the general population, and over 1/3 of those under age 30 claim this status. I have posted links about this subject before, but that is because this subject fascinates me... for multiple reasons. As someone who works with young adults, I continue to be surprised by their questions, concerns and doubts. I am working hard to pay attention to what they are saying before saying anything in response. This podcast is an opportunity to do that. One person interviewed leads the Nones club at Harvard Divinity School (which sounds like an oxymoron), but her comments intrigued me. Listen and tell me what you think.
The Best Way to Fight with a Teenager. Though I have not worked officially with teenagers since 2012, I'm not sure youth pastors ever retire! Just yesterday I sat for 3 hours in the hot sun at a track meet to watch a beloved teenager compete. (Old habits never die I guess.) All that to say, I still think about teenagers constantly, and have regular conversations with youthworkers about their students. This article comes from the New York Times, and I liked it perhaps mostly because the brought up the conversation! Three decades of working with students taught me something I wish I had figured out MUCH earlier: the only thing more difficult than being a teenager is being the parent of a teenager. Both parties (the teens and the parents) have never been in their positions before, and the unknown is so intimidating... I found that parents take this uncharted territory especially hard. I consider this article no more than a neutral conversation-starter, and a helpful one at that.
Rediscovering an Evangelical Heritage. In this (dreadful? harrowing?) season of presidential politics, I am beginning to think that the term "evangelical" has completely lost its meaning, and I find cynicism welling up in me like a volcano. But before I give up completely, I decided to read this book and finished it in a week. I cannot recommend it enough! The subtitle is helpful: "A Tradition and a Trajectory of Piety and Justice." This book is part theology and part history lesson, but it all adds up to a deeply encouraging reminder "from whence we came" as evangelicals. This is a second edition, released on the 40th anniversary of the original, and I found it timely and challenging. Take the time to read about the profound social and cultural movements of the 1800's that were driven primarily by evangelicals. You will be glad you did.
Shut Up and Sit Down: Why the Leadership Industry Rules. As someone bold (or silly?) enough to have "leadership development" in her job title, this was a compelling and at times, confrontational article. I greatly appreciated the opening call-out: "In politics and business, we lionize leadership. But how much do we really know about what makes a great leader?" The article goes on to give some pithy statistics and quotes; for example, since August, the word "leadership" was used over 100 times by candidates in the presidential debates. Then the author says this: “Leadership” sums up, in a vague way, everything that’s desirable and none of what’s not." Despite these discouraging words, I pressed on, and enjoyed the survey it provides within the realms of business, sociology, history and politics. I was left with more questions than answers, but overall the article definitely pricked my curiosity and conscience. Perhaps leaders will not be identifiable until after they are gone?
Speaking of leadership, I will end with a quote that has still got me thinking and grappling with the truths expressed within it:
Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador who was brutally murdered while leading the Mass in 1980, wrote, “It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts: it is beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is the Lord’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us. No sermon says all that should be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. That is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted knowing they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that affects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very, very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the Master Builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future that is not our own.”