Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

Vanishing GraceIt’s been a few years since I’ve read a Philip Yancey book. Reading Vanishing Grace reminded me why I appreciate him as a writer. He is an intelligent, yet humble author. It is obvious throughout the book that he has spent a great deal of time in research. He quotes a number of different writers and speakers that span a variety of academic disciplines and faith backgrounds.

Reading his past works makes it clear that Yancey is a follower of Jesus and in this offering he discusses how the modern church is doing representing Jesus to the rest of culture. In the final chapter of the book, he writes this, “I care about vanishing grace, the erosion of a gospel that, for many, sounds less and less like good news.” While it is clear that he comes from a specific point of view regarding Christianity, he doesn’t allow that to blind him as he explores the topic. In one chapter of the book, he shares about an experience attending a New Age seminar and listening to a well-known speaker in that arena. Yancey took that as an opportunity to not judge the beliefs of those attending the seminar, but rather to seek to understand.

In one candid moment in the book, Yancey shares a bit of guilt he feels as he sits in an office wrestling with words for books while there are others who are serving on the front lines. While he sees the value in what he does as an author, he maintains a humble perspective on his role.

Vanishing Grace seeks to address how the church can continue to live out the good news to those in our culture. He references a list of complaints about Christians in the magazine Christianity Today: Christians are seen as those who don’t listen, who judge, whose faith confuses people and who talk about what is wrong instead of making it right. Yancey shares stories of those who are doing a good job engaging culture and modelling the good news while also identifying where the church is falling short.

In the book he talks about three different roles Christians can play – as pilgrims (those who live authentically), as activists (those seeking to address various social issues), as artists (using art and creativity to share the good news). Near the end of the book Yancey writes this: “Pilgrim, activist, artist – whatever our calling, we join together to proclaim the good news that God has commissioned us to announce to the world.”

Vanishing Grace was a though provoking book and challenges those in the church to take a look at how we represent the good news to our culture.

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Amazing Video Conception to Birth

I’ve been reading a book by Philip Yancey called Vanishing Grace. His book is an exploration of why the church doesn’t seem to be doing a good job of demonstrating grace to the world. The question he asks is “What ever happened to the good news?” Through the book he talks about our world having a thirst that only God can satisfy, yet the church doesn’t always good job of presenting how God can quench that thirst.

Yancey explores some questions about the importance of faith and how people are searching for meaning. One area he looks into is science and how some scientists are pointed to God as they study. One extraordinary example he uses is Alexander Tsiaras. Tsiaras is a professor at the Yale Department of Medicine and has written software that utilizes MRI technology. He developed a video that he presented at a TED talk which compresses the nine months from conception to birth into a nine minute video.

I looked it up and thought the video and the facts shared through it are pretty amazing. Tsiaras shares in his TED talk about the complexity of the development of a baby and makes this observation: It’s a mystery, it’s magic, it’s divinity. It speaks so loudly as evidence for a creator.

This is the video he made (there are some graphic images).

Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World

YM in a Post Christian WorldI (finally) finished reading Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World. It was one of those books that stirred my thinking, but I kept experiencing interruptions in my reading.

I referred to this book in previous posts that have talked about the issues the church faces when it comes to our post-christian culture. In this video, you can hear the author, Brock Morgan, talk briefly about the basis for the book.

In the opening chapters, Brock Morgan shares both his experiences and statistics that point to the fact we are living in a post-Christian world. He referenced a Barna study in the first chapter that speaks to the change that has been occurring in our culture: “The younger the generation, the increasingly post-Christian it is compared with its predecessors. Nealy half of Mosaics (48%) qualify as post-Christian compared with two-fifths of Busters (40%). One-third Boomers (35%) and one-quarter (28%) are post-Christian. These patterns are consistent with other studies that show the increasing percentage of “Nones” [i.e., adults who claim no religious affiliation among younger generations.”

Basically our culture is moving away from the church being the authoritative voice in our culture. With each generation, a larger percentage claim to have no religious affiliation. One speaker I heard describes it this way: the church used to be the majority and speak with authority. Now, we are in the minority and don’t have the same authority.

Morgan offers a unique perspective in his book as he shares about his experiences ministering in New England. When he first arrived at the church he serves, he was described as very “Jesus-y,” which he later learned wasn’t a compliment. Some of his stories would shock those of us who live and serve in the Bible Belt.

While pointing out that we live in a post-Christian culture, Morgan also talks about how to effectively minister to students in this context. He offers some defining characteristics of students who are post-Christian and shares some practical things he has done to connect with students and help them connect with God.

While ministering in New England is a lot different that being in the mid-West, there were several observations Morgan made with which I could relate. This book offers some good ideas on how to serve in our ever-changing culture.

I love what Morgan wrote about our approach in chapter 6: “Our goal should not be helping 15-year-olds become godly. Our goal should be that one day when these 15-year-olds are 30-year-olds, their faith will influence who they marry, what careers they choose, what habits they form, and how they raise their children.”

Whatever generation we serve, our goal should be to help foster a relationship with Jesus that impacts all facets of our lives. Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World offers some insights to those who are serving students today.

Brock Morgan – Post Christian Youth Ministry

In a post back in January I mentioned that I’m reading a book called “Youth Ministry in Post-Christian World.” Unfortunately, I’m still not finished with it (been doing some other reading), but I have it bookmarked and ready to pick up on my Kindle.

Yesterday, the Youth Cartel shared a 15 minute or so video of the author of the book, Brock Morgan, talking about the basis for his book. (I guess this talk was the springboard into the book).

I thought what he had to share was worthwhile and pushes those who serve in youth ministry today to take a look at our approach to current culture.

Three Major Faith and Culture Trends for 2014 – Barna Group

pollsThis month I started reading a book titled Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World. I’m still reading through it and processing some of the data and conclusions the author shares (I’m sure something will appear in this space on a later date regarding the book).

So, as I’m thinking through this idea of living in a post-Christian world, I see this research from Barna. I thought it was interesting, especially for leaders in the church. One paragraph especially caught my attention:

The rising resistance to faith institutions is evidenced in the newer language used to discuss spirituality today. When it comes to matters of the soul, disclaimers are emerging as the new faith identifiers. Today, there are those who self-describe as “spiritual, but not religious”—individuals who like to associate with what they perceive as the positive elements of spirituality but not the negative associations of organized religion. Or consider the rise of the “Nones”—the much-discussed adults who are religiously unaffiliated and who don’t want to use any conventional label for their religious faith. And in many places, the prefix “post-” is being attached to matters of faith. Post-Christian. Post-denominational. Post-evangelical. Post-religious.

You can read the Barna article below, but it added to the churning in my brain about what it means to lead youth ministry (or any kind of ministry) in our post-Christian culture.

Thoughts?

Three Major Faith and Culture Trends for 2014 – Barna Group.