So, here on the blog I like to occasionally try the impossible.  Best movies, best songs, best whatever... so I'm going to try to give the best albums of all time (according to me and me alone) to help you on that summer road trip you'll be going on (there's even some hip hop thrown in for good measure).  I think its sad that people don't buy whole albums anymore.  I remember holding them in my hand and reading every square inch - the lyrics, the band member's thank you,  etc...  It was amazing to get a new record.  So I'm going to give this a shot.  Now, I'm very sure I'll miss many of the great ones - this is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination and it is not in any particular order.  I even end with some of my favorite Christian albums .  These are just records that I keep coming back to.  I have one rule - only one album per artist or band allowed, which is very difficult...  Here we go!

Beatles - SGT Peppers Lonely Hearts Club
How do you pick just one of their albums, right?! 
 Impossible really.  But if I had to, this is the one.  It really changed the way records were even made.  

Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
Just brilliant!  Drug induced, but brilliant!  We forget how cutting edge this is.

U2 - Joshua Tree
Hard to pick just one U2 album, but every single song on this record is amazing! It's almost like a "greatest hits" album.  Take a listen - you'll be singing along with just about song.  It's insane!

Stevie Wonder - Innervisions
Again how do you pick just one.  It was a toss up between this one and Talking Book...

Nirvana - Nevermind
I am a true fan of 90's music.  Rock music in the 80's almost killed the genre.  Thank God for the 90's, bringing thought and depth back to music.  This whole record is just so very good.  We need another renaissance in music like Nirvana and the 90's brought us.  Please!

Michael Jackson - Off the Wall
OK, I know Thriller is an incredible album and I love much of his other recordings,especially Dangerous, but Off the Wall, in my humble opinion, is his best.  It was a game changer!

Pearl Jam - Ten
Their more recent record, Backspacer almost took  the spot here.  Honestly. That's what's been so amazing about them - they just keep making really good music. But, Ten- how do you not put it here?  I love Pearl Jam and they still have one of the best live shows on the planet.  Pearl Jam and Nirvana were the top two of some really good music in the 1990's.  Pearl Jam, to me, is the better of the two.

Fleetwood Mac - Rumors
A highly dysfunctional band in every way - relationally and with the use of drugs during the recording of this record - but this is a gem!  Many put it on the best records of all time.

Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
What an amazing and thoughtful record the whole way through - even the little skits or discussions with some teenagers.  As a youth worker, I loved it!  The only downside is that it ends and she didn't continue giving us more of the same.

Amplified Version - Alive
Best band of all time and not just because my parents were in it (ok, maybe because they were in it).  Their previous album, Watcha Gonna Do?, had a top ten hit on secular radio, but I just love this one a bit better.  My early years were all about being on the road, watching my parents, and being in awe of what and who they were.  They blow me away and my mom is still singing.  Occasionally I'll run into people who were big fans - it is just so darn awesome!

Bob Marley - Legend
...and not just for when you're in the Caribbean. 

Marvin Gaye - What’s Going On
Perfect example of an artist stepping up and using their art to move a culture's thinking forward.  

Beastie Boys - Pauls Boutique
It's a really interesting story because, Paul's Boutique was initially considered a commercial failure by their label, as its sales did not match that of the group's previous record, Licensed to Ill - gotta love that name =) But the label eventually decided to stop promoting the album. The album's popularity continued to grow and it has since been touted as a breakthrough achievement for the Beastie Boys. Paul's Boutique secured the Beastie Boys' place as critical favorites and pioneers in the hip-hop genre.  Plus they reminded us that, you indeed must fight for your right to party!  RIP Adam Yauch

Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
Born to Run garnered widespread acclaim when it was first released and it has since been considered by critics to be one of the greatest albums of all time. I love it!

Coldplay - Viva La Vida
There's been recent push back against Coldplay - which I do NOT understand at all.  To me, they are simply one of the best, ever!

Eminem - The Eminem Show
Love him or hate him - either way, he's undeniably just so very good!

Neil Young - Harvest
The father of The Grunge Movement

David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
The album tells the story of Bowie's alter ego Ziggy Stardust, a rock star who acts as a messenger for extraterrestrial beings. So 70's!  =)
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars has been consistently considered one of the greatest albums of all time, with Rolling Stone magazine ranking it the 35th greatest ever.

Talking Heads - Remain in Light
Sometimes you just have to throw on some Talking Heads, ya know?!

N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton
Many have mixed feelings about this group, they really did usher in gangster rap.  But you can't deny their influence and this album in particular is regarded as one of the best all time hip hop albums ever recorded.

Blondie - Parallel Lines
This is so good and Deborah Harry really shines.  Parallel Lines contains several of Blondie's best-known hits, including "Heart of Glass", "Hanging on the Telephone", "Sunday Girl" and "One Way or Another."

Oasis - (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
Idiots but incredibly talented.  I only wish they would have made more music than what they did.

The Dave Matthews Band - Remember Two Things 
This is a great band with a lot of amazing records.  But this is the album that drew me in.

Bob Dylan - Bringing it All Back Home
The first folk-rock album?  Yep!  
There's even some wordplay kind-of-ish rap stuff in it.  Basically, on this album and on his next, Bob Dylan invented modern rock.  Plus he loves Jesus, so there's that =) 
Extra point:  He plays harmonica on his good friend Keith Green's record a few years later after he comes to Christ.

Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill
I love all of her stuff!  This album was huge but the cool thing is that all of her other stuff is really good.  But you gotta love Jagged Little Pill!  

Jay-Z - Reasonable Doubt
Reasonable Doubt has often been considered by many fans to be Jay-Z's best record. He himself deemed it his best.

Johnny Cash - At Folsom Prison

Counting Crows - August and Everything After
The whole record is incredible.  I'll never forget when Letterman booked them for 5 nights straight on his show - so stinking' amazing!

Radiohead - The Bends
Almost too brilliant ;)

OK, so I'm a big Chicago fan, especially of their earlier stuff- anything before 17 or 18 or maybe 19... 20 isn't bad... 

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Chronicle Vol. 1
This album contains every one of Creedence Clearwater Revival's original 19 hit singles -- including "Proud Mary," "Bad Moon Rising," "Green River," "Down on the Corner," "Travelin' Band," "Up Around the Band," and "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" -- plus "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," which became a hit at the same time this double-record compilation was released. It is just a really complete compilation that demonstrates how amazing this band was.

Carole King - Tapestry
You can't forget the brilliance of Carole King - she has written so many hits, many of which she never recorded herself.  But this album, Tapestry is a standout among greats

Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Sometimes you just HAVE TO throw some Elton John on and sing along. Yes you do.

Adele - 21
This album was praised by critics for its vintage aesthetic and of course for Adele's vocal performance, which is absolutely amazing!  That girl can sang!  =)  21 defied the expectations of her record label.  The album topped the charts in more than 30 countries and became the world's best-selling album of the year for 2011 and 2012.  Incredible!

Eagles - Hotel California
I'm still not over the fact that Glenn Frey passed.  Still not over it...

Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation to Hold Us Back  
Public Enemy set out to make the hip hop equivalent to Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, an album noted for its strong social commentary. 
It has been regarded by music writers and publications as one of the greatest and most influential albums of all time.

Foo Fighters, Sonic Highways
We can thank them for keeping Rock alive!  This album was their attempt to take their unplugged stuff - which garnered so much praise - and make a whole album the was melodic, but still kicked ass.

Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge over Troubled Water
Coming out of the beatnik folk music genre, they reigned through the 60's and even into the 70's - this was the best of that whole era.

Taylor Swift - Red
Shut up! 
Even Ryan Adams is a fan - click his name to find out why.

Arrested Development - 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of
I continue to listen to this one enough that my daughter knows all of the songs - so fun - as well as thoughtfully and socially challenging. 

311 - Greatest Hits '93-'03
Sorry, I couldn't pick one album and this one gets played in my house consistently - so much fun and you can't help yourself - you have to dance.  

Kanye West - College Dropout
Forget the recent years of ridiculousness - this was such an amazing recording from start to finish! Even the skits are hilarious

Rage Against the Machine, The Battle of Los Angeles
Hate that they are no longer together!  Hate!

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Greatest Hits
Crazy fun!  Living in LA and listening to this on the radio.  Great memories for this guy.

Imagine Dragons - Night Visions
Maybe unexpected, but I love it!  My family finds them truly fun and inspiring.

and here are some of the greatest christian rock albums of all time: 
Altar Boys - Gut Level Music
This band was cutting edge for Christian music in the 80's.  Heck, they still are!  I'll never forget them playing at a local high school to a packed auditorium and yelling like only they could, 
"You Are Loved!"  Check it out here.

Kings X - Faith, Hope, Love
I've seen them live - they were unreal!  When I first heard the song, Over my Head, I was completely floored (here's the video).  They are such an incredible and underrated band, who is still doing it to this day.  Rolling Stone Magazine lists them as one of the best rock bands of all time - which is awesome!  =>Here's a video of them on MTV back in the day - they play live at around the 4:15 minute mark - WOW!  They are so good!

Stavesacre - Speak Easy
Mark Salomon is one of the best frontmen of all time - at least in christian rock music.  Man, he is good!  Stavesacre attended our church in Long Beach, CA.  They once played for just our youth group  and it was amazing.
If you have forgotten how good they were, just 
click here

Switchfoot - The Beautiful Letdown
I had a very hard time picking their best album - all of them are just so stinking good!  They have kept me listening all of these years and I'm all excited about their next one coming out soon!  
Here's a fun video of them.

Plankeye - Relocation
This one has a special place for my wife and myself plus their lead singer attended our church in Long Beach, CA.  We especially resonate with the song, 
I Can't Complain.

MuteMath - MuteMath
In 2000, before Mutemath even existed, I loved a band called Earthsuit, a Christian rock-jazz-rap band.  Three years later,  Earthsuit member Paul Meany formed Mutemath, and he was intentional about the new band’s music not being marketed as overtly Christian, opting instead for a freedom of artistic expression but with a freedom to express faith in ways that were more freeing.  Mutemath has gone on to produce music full of angst and about relationships, failure, loss and love - and, when you listen closely, their engagement with each of those themes intersects with faith. So good!

Sixpence None The Richer - Sixpence None The Richer
They were the best!  When I first saw them they did a late night at #NYWC and no one had heard of them.  They were edgy and artistic and out of the box.  A breathe of fresh air.

Dynamic Twins - 40 Days in the Wilderness
With all of the crappy christian rap music at the time, The Twins were amazing and absolutely the best!  I still will listen to this one!

White Heart  - Freedom
This was my favorite record my freshmen year of college.  To this day I listen and it's still so good!  It totally holds up.

DC Talk - Jesus Freak
Yep.  Had to...
Actually, their album, Live in Concert - welcome to the Freak Show - is really really fun!

Jars of Clay - Jars of Clay
Again, I like quite a few of their albums, especially Good Monsters - but this one started it all for them.

Delirious? - King of Fools
Their album, Cutting Edge may have single handedly changed worship music forever, moving it to the forefront of the christian music scene (for this I'm not super happy).  King of Fools is just an amazing record.  I still listen to all of their albums - their Farewell concert album is so very good! Take a listen

Steve Taylor - I Want to be a Clone
I still love him! Just saw him recently with his new band, Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil.  He's just so brilliant!  Plus he produced Sixpense, LA Symphony, Burlap to Cashmere, Newsboys...

Supertones - Supertones Strike Back
Ska?  Yep, and music in the 90's was so bad and so good! 

Burlap To Cashmere - Anybody Out There
I saw them the first time at NYWC - they blew us all away!  I was standing next to Tic Long watching them (he helped so many bands make it - including Crowder), Tic looked at me and said, "These guys are simply the best!"  And they were. 

Allies - Long Way From Paradise
This band was one of my favorites when I was in middle school and high school.  Rock n Roll.

David Crowder - A Collision (or 3+4=7)
Just so stinking' good!  This is an amazing and thoughtful record.
I'm looking forward to his next one.  Maybe it's just me, but I feel like more recently his Texas accent has gotten thicker?!?  Not that I mind that, but it's really noticeable.  He's embracing #mypeople  =)

Audio Adrenaline - Lift
Love me some Audio-A!  They were more than the song Big House (which was written for children in Africa at a VBS).  Honestly, no one could lead a crowd like Mark Stuart.  I had the privilege of introducing them at a concert and was standing on the side of the stage watching next to an influential producer.  He looks at me and says of Mark Stuart, "Wow, now that's a rock star!"  He was. Its just sad he lost his voice... ugh!   But here's live footage of them in concert.

MXPX - The Ever Passing Moment Alone 
No one played faster.  And this album was my favorite of theirs!  So fun with songs like, Responsibility.

Amy Grant - Lead Me On
Her best album... by far

The Prayer Chain - Shawl
In the early to mid 90's I had a terrible time getting our youth group to listen to christian music - but The Prayer Chain did the trick. They were a gateway drug (band) into the world of christian music for our students.  Seeing them at Creation Festival in 1992 was a highlight for our group.

Russ Taff - Russ Taff
I loved his record, Medals - but every song on this record is just so strong.  And who could forget, Down in the Lowlands with Rebecca Sparks.

Michael W Smith - Big Picture
The first time I heard this record (it was actually live concert footage), I was really young and it blew me away!  Yes, it's very 80's, but I loved it

Jennifer Knapp - Kansas
Game changer at the time for christian music

Galactic Cowboys - Galactic Cowboys
  Loved this album. They were such naturals at harmonizing. And with brutal metal underneath

Third Day - TimeThe first two records were very good - maybe better than Time, but I just personally loved this one!  The album features ten songs chosen from more than 30 that the band had managed to write during their tour the previous year. Some of the songs left out can be heard in the album Southern Tracks.

We are thrilled each month when a new series of our NEXT Curriculum is released. Yesterday the second month came out by our publisher, The Youth Cartel.  Last month was Evil & Suffering and this month is Science & Faith and I have to tell, Leah Knight, one of our authors, put together the best stuff I've ever seen on the subject.  Here's the write up on the series:
Long gone are the days of shallow and pat answers that have been common in our teaching. Students today live in a complex world and our teaching must rise to the occasion and help guide them through the maze of culture’s complexities. Brock Morgan, along with this dream team of authors and thinkers, have put together what we believe is NEXT in youth ministry teaching and engagement. Through a more holistic manner, we have addressed the topics that are key in a student’s burgeoning faith and crafted a series that will direct investigation and appeal to the heart. Connected to The Amazing Next Conference, this series is meant to empower students and to help them have a sustainable faith that lasts; a faith that is thoughtful and engaged in what God is doing in the world.

Can a Real Scientist Believe in God?  The narrative today seems to suggest that science and faith are in conflict. This lesson focuses on exploring the reality that if we take the time to deeply understand science and faith, we can learn the ways in which they complement and differ from each other. We want to help students navigate the felt tension between science and faith guided by Scripture, discussion, and God’s spirit. 
Some of the most pertinent questions are:
• Can I love science and love God?
• Does science disprove Christianity?
• Why does the church seem to hate scientific facts?
• Do I have to choose between science and faith?

The amazing thing is the cost - only $5.99 for 5 weeks of thoughtful and interactive teaching for your youth group.  You can check it out here.

I just finished speaking at an incredible camp this past week in Oklahoma.  The thing that I kept hearing over and over again from adult leaders was that students were opening up in ways that they  had never seen before.  Which is exactly what a camp speaker wants to hear.  Oh, don't get me wrong - I love the altar times, the times when students respond corporately to Jesus in passionate ways - but really, my ultimate goal is to set the leaders up, who have been in the trenches with their students all year long.  And I love hearing how after the message, students head into their small groups and are finally feeling free and safe enough to open up.  

The essence of youth ministry is creating environments where students experience the warmth of God - and camps, retreats, and mission trips are the perfect place for kids to, in a daily way, experience the reality that God not only loves them, but his heart is with them.  His name is Immanuel!  They are safe.  It's a judgement free zone - and his response through us is always Grace.  Even when students share things that shock and terrify us - Our response?  Grace.  Why grace?  Titus tells us:
Titus 2:11-12
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age

Grace is the right answer.  Love is always the right response.  It was for you, it was for me.  Grace and love taught us to submit our lives to God.  All of the struggles, all of the pain...

And students who sense this warmth will open up - and we know that when we verbalize our struggles, our pain, our junk -> freedom will come.  We invite people and God into all of the mess - vulnerability is just so key in transformational ministry. 

For us leaders, it's just so important that we are in tune with Holy Spirit.  That we are aware of what is really going on and when students begin to share, we then are ready to become God's listening ears, his touch, and his words -> Deeply listening to him as we are also deeply listening to our students stories - this can help us respond in a truly empowered by him kind of way.  

I love the summer.  I love what God does in our ministry this time of year.  
May we learn the art of simultaneous listening.  

I'm speaking a lot this summer at different youth camps and events.  I love getting away with students and youth leaders to seek God and be renewed, re-visioned, and restored.  

Right now I'm in Oklahoma and after this mornings session a few students came up to me and began to share their very real heartache, pain, and difficulties that they're living with.  Honestly, I just felt so honored that they even approached me.  But it reminded me again why we do this.  Adolescents is no easy task, especially in today's culture - the world is harsh, difficult, full of pain - and yes much joy -  but when students are in the middle of the painful hellish stuff, we can't forget to join God in just being there - sitting with them, carefully listening - not trying to solve their stuff - but instead allowing the Holy Spirit to guide, lead, and direct.  

May you be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading as you encounter students in these wonderful summer months - joining God in lifting their heads - restoring hope and gifting them with listening ears and loving words of beautiful truth.   

Occasionally, or should I say, constantly we need to be reminded of who we really are.  For whatever reason, we forget.  And normally when we lose something that shapes our identity, like a job or a relationship, identity crisis ensues.  

We know as youth workers, one of our primary roles is to not only point students to God, but to help them discover their true identity in Jesus.  The funny thing is that we also need to be reminded ourselves - but very possibly, no one around you is reminding you of this - joining God in regularly lifting your head.  

I get almost daily words of vision from my father.  I wanted to quickly just share this mornings one with you, because this is you described.

"I thought I might describe you today.  When Jesus called us to follow him, he never promised safety or certainty or predictability.  And he certainly didn't die on the cross to tame us.  He died to make us dangerous.  He died to invite us into a life of spiritual adventure.  And you have the courage to come out of the cage and chase this Mighty God!  No wonder life always turns into another day, another adventure!  You will forever be dangerous!"

Bless you on this day.  
May your head be lifted, your eyes opened to the reality of God in you!  Live this amazing adventure!

I love what Kenda Creasy Dean talks about  in her ground breaking book, Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church.  She writes that students are looking for transcendence.  They long to be a part of something bigger than themselves.  They are longing for meaning and they want to do something significant with their lives.  They are dying for a life worth living.  The problem is that they are not finding a lot to be passionate about in the Church.

But we know this.  Students have always longed to experience transcendence.  This is why they have gotten caught up into wonderful movements throughout history.  The early church was primarily made up of youth, the Jesus movement of the 70's, and in the civil rights movement had a large group all over the country made up of young  passionate marchers and protestors.  

But not all movements are equal and students' longing for transcendence has also gotten them caught up into horrible things as well.  Hitler focused on students and had thousands of young converts and followers to his Nazi party.  

But here's the good news about the good news = it's a movement.  It's a calling to a beautiful new way that brings hope and healing and love into the dark and marginalized and broken spaces of the world.  Its a calling to live an empowered life by Jesus' Spirit - being his hands, feet, words, and listening ears to a world desperate for the news of Jesus to actually be lived out.  How can we move our ministries back to the heart of the early church movement?  How can we get out of the class room (youth room) and actually get back to what Jesus calls us to?  This is the heart and passionate mission of Generation514.  We are longing to see students rise up and actually become doers of the word, not just hearers only.  We long to see them take their place and do the work of reclamation and redemption - reclaiming and redeeming the arts, business, technology, politics, law, education, science and dare I say, churches... living a new way in a world that is desperate for people to actually live the words of Jesus in their world.  If Hitler can begin a movement which was fueled by hate and nationalism, then why not start a movement for the world that is fueled by the indwelling Spirit of God and empowered by Christ himself?
At a national youth worker conference a couple of years ago I remembering hearing  that we, in the states, were on the verge of seeing massive groups of  students in the church move towards a "polite agnosticism."  I was not surprised by the comment - I have heard and seen this trend for so many years.  But what surprised me was who said it.  The person speaking had, for years, held a very public position that post-christianity was not emerging and that there really wasn't a trend of students walking away from faith.  But now, he was finally seeing this happen all over the country, was looking at the numbers, and the statistics. With a word of encouragement he said, "Maybe we need to rethink some things as youth workers and as the church."

I recently had a conversation with a good friend who had decided that he would no longer be a Christian.  He said that he just was so dissatisfied with the faith. It left him feeling empty and it ended up not being what he thought he was promised.  I walked away from the conversation with a pit in my stomach. Unsure how to respond to him, I just tried to be a good listener.  But I have to tell you I have felt the very same things, most of us have.

North American Categories
For the most part, I have ministered in "Bible" churches.  These are the churches that basically focus on exegesis and on the teaching of God's word.  But as a young child I attended a very different type of church - "Holy Spirit" churches.  These are the churches that focus on the power and presence of The Holy Spirit.  What's interesting is that in America there are these two camps - the Bible churches and the Holy Spirit churches - and there is a real contention between the two.  
Bible Churches Motto: Father, Son, and Holy BIBLE
Holy Spirit Churches Motto: father, son, and Holy SPIRIT

(I realize this is a gross generalization of both camps and one that they'd argue against, but bear with me, it's just me having a little fun.)

But have you ever had the thought that it really isn't supposed to be this way?  Have you ever felt completely dissatisfied with one camp or the other?  One camp speaks like experiences are negative and the other camp just seems to only seek experiences.  This has left, at least in my humble opinion, both camps wanting.  And I believe this is leaving many young believers looking elsewhere - or at the very least, living with a growing feeling that something is missing.

Billy Graham would fall into the Bible Church category, yet this is what he said towards the end of his ministry.  "Everywhere I go, I find that God's people lack something.  They are hungry for something.  Their Christian experience is not all that they expected and they often have recurring defeat in their lives.  Christians today are hungry for spiritual fulfillment.  The desperate need of the nation today is that men and women who profess Jesus, be filled with the Holy Spirit."  

What strikes me is that Billy Graham is no charismatic.  He's not saying that Bible churches need to become holy spirit churches.  I just think he realized that the kingdom is a BOTH/AND kind of kingdom.  
Deeply intellectual.  Deeply spiritual.  
Deep teaching.  Deep experiences.   
Deeply listening to the teaching pastor. Deeply listening to God's still small voice.
Deeply faithful to God's word.  Deeply aware of God's Spirit who is at work within us.
As I sat there with my friend, who is leaving the faith, I realized that, in his case, no one had ever helped him be in tune with God's Spirit.  He had experienced great teaching in his church for many years, but had never experienced God's work.  On the flip side, I have other friends who are restless because what their faith is missing is the other side of the same coin - solid Bible teaching.  

 I love traveling over the big pond to London whenever I can (which these days has been not at all =).  But something amazing  is happening over there.  Thousands and thousands of young people are coming to faith and the churches over there don't seem to have the categories that we have over here.  Many seem to be, BOTH/AND churches. 

Someone will get up, who studied at Cambridge or Oxford, and teach something deep and intellectually stimulating and then the church will rise and listen to God's Spirit.  People will turn and pray for each other and God actually moves.  Many are healed or given peace or whatever it is that God knows that they are needing.  They receive what's called a holistic gospel - the whole coin!  = Thoughtful teaching and the power and presence of God.  This is what a generation is longing for.  

I could write and write and we could talk and talk about this all week long, but my prayer is that this little thought would energize you, would challenge you.  Help you see the other side of the coin.

May we as youth workers, first and foremost, open our own lives to the other side and then, may it spill over into our ministries and into the lives of those we are ministering to.  And may our students thrive!  May they live holistic lives, learning how to feed themselves with God's word and His presence.
Amen?  Amen.

I started listening to the Post-Christian Pastors podcast a few months ago and I've loved each and every episode.  What they are trying to do is dialogue around subjects that are pertinent to those who are trying to live in and love a world that is not necessarily sympathetic to the Christian faith.  What this looks like is not easy and its rarely black and white.  As christian pastors, they are talking about the hard stuff rather than running away from it all.  So recently they asked me to come on the show - I of course was honored and enjoyed my time with them.  I hope you do as well :)
Here is the Interview

Below is a small portion for my book, Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World.  Now I realize that the title of this post will immediately draw both praise and criticism, depending on who you are.  My point though, is that students today need to know the truth - and that is that orthodoxy is really broad and deep and wide.  There's room for all of us and there's room for their questions, thoughts, and wanderings.  When we tell them the truth and show them that there's more than one way to express our faith, we offer them a big yard to play in, a big body of water to jump in.  They don't feel like they need to leave the faith in order to explore a bit.  At any rate, here's a small section from my book and I hope that it is food for thought.   (heads up - this section is in the middle of a chapter, so you're entering into the middle of a story about a student and I talking about whether or not he feels like he could become a christian based on how he sees christians)

Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World
I’d like to offer some food for thought, so please just hear me out. First of all, we have to begin by embracing what I’ve termed “Christian relativism.”

“Whoa, Brock! What are you saying here?”

I know, I know. Just hold on a minute.

Years ago we did a series for our high school students called “Pick One.” We took controversial issues in the Bible and taught all the different orthodox positions on the topic. For example, we taught on the topic of homosexuality. We looked at the Scriptures together, and then we talked about all of the different views and interpretations of those passages that are accepted by orthodox Christians. We also looked at hell, women in ministry, the end times, and many other issues.

The funny thing is—well maybe it’s not so funny—this discussion brought a lot of heat my way. As you can imagine, both the church leaders and the parents wanted me to just tell the students what to think. However, I was more interested in teaching them how to think. I wanted them to know how gracious and big the faith was. I really don’t care all that much if a student believes in the rapture or not.

So now back to that student who’s chatting with me on the park bench. He’s ultimately asking, “Is there room for all of me in this faith?” Embracing Christian relativism is, as Brian McLaren wrote in his brilliant book by the same name, a generous orthodoxy. What if Christians were seen as being generous? Generous with ideas, generous with theology, generous and patient and tolerant with each other and with the world. Another word for this would be gracious. What if Christians were known for showing grace to each other and the world, first and foremost? Right now the world looks at us and thinks, Christians aren’t even gracious toward each other. I hate to think what they might think of me!

People need to know that the faith is big enough for them. That our orthodoxy is generous and allows for all kinds of positions on all kinds of issues. We need to remember to keep the main thing the main thing. Some things in the Christian faith are just relative. They are minor issues that can sometimes, mistakenly, take center stage. You can be a Christian, a follower of Jesus, and land in a different place on a host of topics and issues. It’s what makes the faith so beautifully complex. And I believe the mystery of such things is a purposeful, sovereign act of God. We must show the world that we can disagree yet still love and respect each other.

To embrace Christian relativism is to embrace a unified faith. It’s to embrace each other. Followers of Jesus must see the beauty in our diversity. To embrace Christian relativism is to actually live out Philippians 2. Check out verses one through four in The Message:

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Does agreeing with each other mean we agree on everything? I think not. It means we agree to love each other, to embrace each other, to honor each other’s perspective. We must show students who are struggling in this post-Christian world what unity really is, what Christian relativism can look like, that we will cherish whatever they faithfully bring to the table as followers of Jesus. Now, I want you to know that I am aware of the danger here, but let me talk about that after my next point.

About a year ago I received an email from a parent telling me that her ninth grade daughter would no longer be coming to our youth group. The family doesn’t attend church, although they consider themselves religious, and the parents felt their daughter’s regular attendance at our church would end up confusing her. In the middle of her email, the mom basically said their family doesn’t believe the things we believe. I wondered which of our beliefs would cause them to pull their daughter out of our group. So I called the mom and asked. Her response was that we probably didn’t agree on hell, homosexuality, and other issues like that. I told her our group focuses on Jesus, and Christians hold to all kinds of positions on those issues. I also stressed to her that all are welcome in our church—but to no avail. We haven’t seen that girl at youth group since. The perception that Christians are closed-minded and not welcoming was just too great for me to overcome in a phone conversation.

To read more from, Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World, click here


The Youth Cartel and Generation514 are teaming up on some projects, one being our NEXT curriculum.  Recently they asked me to write a blog for them about our conference and how it might help be a contributing factor in helping students thrive into adulthood.  I'd love for you to take a look at it right here.