For those that have read any number of my posts, it is probably clear that I do not hold a conservative view when it comes to the Christian faith.
Now, I am not one for labels as I find there only use is to reduce and flatten people to a series of dogmatic statements. I would never define my theology as liberal because of that. I say it only so you can get a sense of where I am coming from. When I studied at bible college, the New Testament lecturer labelled me a heretic. It was good to see that in bible college there was an openness to dialogue and debate (that last sentence was sarcastic).
I’ll be honest and say that my last position, as youth worker for a conservative baptist church, was a difficult one. Many judgements about who I was because of what I believe were made.
We have since moved and as a family we have started attending a small anglican community church. A few weeks ago I went out to the pub with a few of the other folks from the church and through the various discussions, it became clear that the leadership of the church would be, what I term, conservative. Again, I want to be careful with that label.
This sent my mind racing. Can we be part of this church? What happens when I express my supposedly unorthodox views of sexuality, adam and eve, hell, atonement, swearing, horror movies etc? Will we be thrown out? Should we even bother building relationships with people who have such opposing views to ourselves?
We are still at the church.
After several discussions with my wife, it became clear that I was making the same errors in judgement that I felt some of the congregation of the Baptist Church had been guilty of. I was labelling people. And more than that, I was dismissing people because of these labels. I had flattened these people into a label.
I do not want to be that kind of person. I don’t want to be the kind of person who only hangs around with those who share a similar view point; who make judgements on someone because of the views they hold.
So I’m taking a step of faith. My family and I are taking a step of faith. We are going to invest in this church. We are going to seek truth together. We are going to fellowship with one another.
And I hope I can become more like Jesus in the process.
On Saturday, I attended the youthwork summit in Manchester: An incredible thought provoking, God soaked, challenging and inspiring day.
Over the next few days, I hope to explore what I thought worked well (as well as what didn’t), what inspired and challenged me, what I disagreed with and what, frankly, bored me. sadly I couldn’t make the retreat or the other activities on the Friday so my posts will focus solely on the Saturday event.
So let’s dive in.
read part 1 here
read part 2 here
After a lunch hour that consisted of mostly wandering around aimlessly trying to find somewhere we could buy a sandwich, finding said shop, buying a sandwich (and eating it…obviously) we took our seats for what I hoped would be an inspiring and challenging set of talks.
I wasn’t wrong.
First up was Steve Griffiths who wanted to bring back “hit and run youth ministry”. Griffiths spoke of his frustration with how people used the term ‘incarnational’. He believes that most people who use this term do not use it correctly and do not base their work on the style of Christ. He said that hanging out with young people so that we earn the right to speak to them is a load of rubbish and we need to get back to how Jesus operated.
I agree with his frustrations, but for different reasons.
Youth work is so much more than hanging around with young people. It is this kind of thinking that shames our work and makes us look like a bunch of people who have nothing better to do and have no aims or objectives. Secondly, I hate this kind of manipulative agenda that we sometimes carry as Christians. The idea that we befriend and get to know people so that we can build a bridge that allows us to share the gospel with them. Jesus didn’t do that and neither should we. He helped people, met their needs, talked with them, stood up for them, fought for them. I don’t start friendships with people so that I can change them in some way. that’s not authentic. That’s what salespeople do and that’s not what we are.
After outlining his frustrations he went on to talk about two greek understandings of time that were used in the New Testament.
1) Chronos– Time that can be measured.. quantitative in assessment. seconds, minutes, hours, days etc.
2)Kairos– time that is qualitative in assessment. It’s about how you feel. “That hour felt like two”. It is time that is measured in eternity.
Griffiths shared how he felt that youth workers focused on chronos time on Kairos. He spoke of how we think we need to spend loads of time with young people but that results in us feeling guilty because we don’t think we spend enough time with young people. Thinking about it, that might also be connected with how we feel about the times we spend praying, reading the bible etc (but that’s another post).
Griffiths urged us to move away from Chronos and focus on Kairos time. We need to be people who live in Kairos time to help young people encounter eternity through our conversations. This all sounds good and throwing in some greek words makes you think that what you’re hearing is right but I think this approach is fundamentally flawed.
H said that we feel guilty about how much time we spend with young people. Is it ever enough? But that wouldn’t change with focusing on kairos time. we would still feel guilty but it would be a different type of guilt. we would feel guilty about whether or not our conversations were meaningful or not. it won’t change anything. What we should be is intentional. Intentional about our work and intentional in our relationships. We should be ready to have those conversations with young people at any point if they ask. not just when we feel we’ve spent enough time with them.
And anyway, can you have kairos time without chronos time? surely they go hand in hand.
Up next were lucy bannister & sid williams talked on “sharing your life with young people”. The exact opposite of what Steve Griffiths was suggesting. Brilliant stuff.
They shared personal stories about how getting to know young people and being ‘present’ in their lives was a better way of understanding incarnational youth ministry. It is about being there for young people without having an agenda. It’s about sharing in their story and, at times, if appropriate, demonstrating how they are part of God’s big story. I enjoyed what they had to say but the one thing I found unhelpful was when they said, “love first then professionalism.” (or something to that extent).
In the context of their talk I understood what they meant but I think that kind of quote can be taken the wrong way and can lead to all sorts of trouble. We should be professional in our youth work. We should take it seriously. We should have polices and procedures in place to make sure people are protected. If we don’t, out work can be become sloppy and we leave vulnerable young people open to risk.
Still, food for thought.
Krish Kandiah then took to the stage to argue with himself on the subject of “tell young people about love before you tell them about judgement/ tell young people about judgement before you tell them about hell
I’ve not always agreed with Kandiah’s views on certain theological issues But I listened to his talk with an open mind and was surprised that I agreed almost entirely with it. Kandiahs main point was that when Jesus spoke about judgement it was to those who were the “in” crowd (ie the religious crowd who believed that they were safe). To everyone who was in the “out” crowd, he spoke love. His point was that the context you find yourself in will determine the message you bring. To some you may need to preach judgement whilst to others you will need to preach love.
As an introduction to the subject, I thought this was clear and concise and Krish came across humble and honest.
It does leave me with some questions however.
1) Using the gospel of Luke to make his point is fair enough because Luke talks a great deal about insiders and outsiders but what of the other gospels? Do they make the same point or would they offer an alternative view?
2) What do you actually mean by ‘judgement’? I would suggest that this will be where Krish and I disagree. I realise there wasn’t time to go into that and ir wasn’t the place to do so but it’s an important question.
In my next post I’ll speak about the remaining talks in the “deepening faith” stream.
Thoughts/ comments? do you have similar comments or would you completely disagree with what I have said?
- Youth Work Summit Musings Part 1: Exploring Culture (smoorns.wordpress.com)
- Youth Work Summit Musings Part 2: Inspiring Ideas (smoorns.wordpress.com)