Thursday, January 10, 2008

further YL thoughts...

This is a little more info and another realm of the issue that I didn't even know about. An insightful post by Tony Jones. If these non-negotiables really do carry over to Capernaeum stuff, that is a bit crazy to me.

A wrap up from Tony: here.
Other thoughts on this issue from The Corner.

YL cont'd

The last year I was on student staff with YL and the last year I formally led (and was training freshman leaders with Shey) I was most involved with work with middle school students. I thoroughly enjoyed their energy, their questions, and their perspectives on faith issues. The other leaders on my team and I realized that the sort of formula of talks that we had been working with wasn't reaching kids in the way we hoped and the kids who had been with us for a while had heard similar talks for two years now, and more than that, the changes we saw in a lot of the kids wasn't lasting as long or going as deep as we liked. Now I'll be the first to say that we weren't a perfect team, or that the results were a direct result of YL formulas for talks or anything trite like that. I realize that life is never that black and white.

But in our third year of working with students we felt this overwhelming sense in our prayers and in our conversations as leaders and with some other leaders from other schools, and my conversations with the area director who I worked with at the time (who was going to seminary), that we may try to explore more of the story of God's over-arching narrative. That we would begin where the Bible begins and tell the story of God's activity and redemption, and creative reconciliation over the period of a year beginning with talks about God the Father and creation, then stories of sin, promises/covenants, brokenness, the birth of Christ, the life of Christ, the death and resurrection, the life of the church, the mystery of the Spirit...we were still all relatively conservative on most theological matters, but felt compelled to tell these other parts of the story.

The three of us who were leading did not come into a relationship with Christ through YL, though we all strongly identified with the mission, and the relational connections that YL espoused and lived, but we struggled with the club talks aspect and the formulaic approach to the talk schedule that didn't always fit in with where our kids were at, and in our thoughts didn't express the fullness of the story that we felt like beginning in the OT helped to accomplish.

We had some really positive results with the kids, but more than that, we felt like we were able to help kids to take a step back and look at more of the picture of how God has worked throughout the ages, especially in Christ, but also through the Spirit and in people. To expound on my first comment in the previous post on this stuff, I think the main crux of the issue is that McSwain wanted to present the gospel story in a different order: person of Christ, love of God, repentance (possibly here), cross, (repentance possibly here), resurrection (repentance possibly here), sin (repentance possibly here). YL is advocating: person of Christ (which may include love of God, but is different than what McSwain is arguing for in his understanding of covenental theology), man's need, sin, cross, resurrection, repentance. I may be a little out of order with man's need/sin, I can't remember which goes first for YL, but with McSwain, his issue seemed to be that the presentation of the gospel had to follow the YL outline when theologically it didn't mesh with his reformed and covenantal theology.

I have two issues with this situation mainly: first is the whole formulaic approach to the gospel presentation/non-negotiables. Where do you draw the line on the non-negotiables? If the non-negotiables are the essential matters of the faith, what does that do to the rest of the story of God in Scripture in terms of fitting in with the gospel presentation?

Second, is how the document is being used from the top-down as a litmus test of theological priorities for staff who are all over the board theologically. I am not trying to say YL is out to get people, I don't know Denny from anybody else, but it stinks that it has come to firing folks over disagreements over the methods of sharing the gospel in YL club talks.

non-negotiables and Young Life

Well, there are some interesting articles coming out about Young Life and The Non-Negotiables of Young Life's Gospel Presentation. As I graduated college and was coming off a stint of student staff with YL, I honestly was wondering when this type of document would come out and try to establish from the top down, certain criteria by which the gospel was to be shared and told within the organization. The Non-Negotiables act as a sort of litmus test for staff members, though YL has said they will not make all staff members sign the document yet YL has already fired an area director and accepted the resignation or has fired 9 others related to the area director in North Carolina.

I come from a pretty strong YL background and have a lot of friends in those circles, many of which have or do read this blog. I'd be interested to hear your reactions to the articles one in Christianity Today and another in Christian Century, or even the Non-Negotiables. I'd be lying if I didn't say that I have had some problems with the formulaic approach of club talks and what it means to "share the gospel" for some time now, and that the non-negotiables worry me a bit. Specifically the often emotional manipulation that can come in focusing on sin first rather than the love of God, resulting in students wanting to be saved from hell rather than being motivated by love or the story of God's action in the world and our invitation to join God. Also here are some blogs talking about stuff:

Tony Jones- Something is Wrong at Young Life
Rick Lawrence- Heartbreak and Controversy
Mark Van Steenwyk- The Gospel According to Young Life

This isn't a specific critique of YL in our area because it has been some time since I've been involved in the actual work of YL in our area, and I'm not trying to say that they are all bad people at the top of the organization or anything. But I do have some serious questions, and am a bit disappointed in the top-down approach of forcing staff to work under a document, besides the point that theological training is not a necessity from the organization's standpoint. So how can staff who've not necessarily had the theological training to know whether or not such a form is helpful or detrimental deal with some of the nuances of the argument? That is not to say that theological training is necessary, but certainly would be helpful in this discussion.

I've said this to others before, but I think that YL and Crusade, etc. and other organizations that focus on a certain aspect of the Christian life, i.e. evangelism, and are not linked to specific churches or denominations, have a lot to reckon with in light of post-modernism. The critique of the enlightenment and its inherent epistemological presuppositions and the claim of the Bible being the authority without acknowledging the various interpretations and methods of interpretations will pose problems in the future for organizations the are sort of battering down the hatches and creating non-negotiables.

I was pleasantly surprised in the non-negotiables document to see a plurality of viewpoints being expressed about soteriological issues, while the Scripture piece seemed to say that the OT pretty much existed only to point to the NT and Jesus, as though the OT is not good in and of itself and important in the story of God's salvific work in the world.

That's enough for now, I look forward to hearing what some of you might think about this recent activity in YL...peace!