May We See the Unseen

man holding box


A blessed Christmastide to you and Happy New Year.  This time of year always brings on a taking stock frame of mind.  Recently mine has revolved around pondering the dual aspect of reality – seen and unseen.  How does the seen give a glimpse of the unseen?

In Isaiah 6 we encounter the well-known vision of the prophet, who sees “the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.”  And seraphs sing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

“The whole earth is full of his glory,” a glory unseen, at that moment, except by the heavenly court and Isaiah.  The first five chapters of Isaiah show the other side of reality – the seen, the usual, the normal.  As we read, we get the impression of life very much like what we in our time have come to expect.  People are busy, working hard, gaining, losing, grasping, chasing the dream and terrified of being left out.  They work hard and they play hard.  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  And, oh, yes, there is the 2020 version of the plague.  And too many of God’s people carry on as if God isn’t present or concerned about the way things are going.  We’re fixated on the seen and forget that the unseen is real and present.

And then comes Isaiah’s vision and precisely here the seen Unseen gets interesting.  I can read it as just that, Isaiah’s vision.  We can describe it by how certain psychological factors may have produced this vision (assuming it to be an actual experience and not merely a literary construction).  We might read a neurological study.  We might dip into anthropological theories.  We could go on and on imagining and analyzing, using the best scholarly tools available to understand Isaiah’s experience.  We might, then, better understand human experience in general and be able better to make sense of ours.

Isaiah says, however, that he saw the Lord.  The Lord is the Holy One of Israel, the Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.  Isaiah shows repeatedly that the Lord spoke to him and through him to the Lord’s people, about real-life circumstances and the attitudes and actions of real-life people.  While we’re focusing on Isaiah’s mystical experience, Isaiah is focused on the one true God.  The Unseen appears, if only for a moment.  And Isaiah tells us about it.  He shows us.  Do we have eyes to see?

Our temptation is to be satisfied with understanding Isaiah 6 through familiar, but strictly human categories.  In Charles Taylor’s masterful study, A Secular Age, he names this tendency the “immanent frame.”  We have been schooled, literally, to think only in empiricist terms and that schooling has become so deeply embedded that we don’t  recognize it as a problem.  We have so habituated ourselves to the seen, to what we call “the real world,” that modern society now has a massive, self-imposed blind spot.

My general psychology class in college was typical for the time: a large, austere lecture hall with hundreds of students.  We read B.F. Skinner’s Walden Two and I don’t remember what else.  Fortunately, the professor was a very engaging lecturer, with just enough quirkiness to keep us interested.  For example, for two weeks, if I recall correctly, he wore a device that sat on his head, like eyeglasses, with two tiny slivers of metal, like pendants, hanging down in front of his eyes.  The contraption somehow responded to his eye movements so that those little metal slivers stayed in the center of his vision, no matter which way he looked.  When he went outside, he put a box over his head, with the smallest of slits just big enough so that he could see to walk.  The box protected the adjustment of the device from the near constant Kansas wind.  I can still see him in my mind’s eye walking across campus.  He was a sight.

The point of his experiment was to try to create a partial blind spot in his vision by interfering with how light went through the pupil to the retina.  And it worked.  He reported to us that, right in the middle of his vision, he could not see.  Not totally blind, just a blind spot.  And thank goodness, only temporary.

I’m sure I don’t remember the experiment accurately, but I swear, as Dave Barry says, I am not making this up.  And I find it an apt metaphor for our condition.  We have a kind of self-imposed blindness.  We’ve come tacitly to “know” that the immanent frame is all there is.  Yes, people have what they may regard as transcendent experiences of beauty and mystery, but we can understand these things to our satisfaction with tools that we have created.  In terms of how we experience life, the transcendent has collapsed into the immanent.  In the final analysis, Isaiah’s experience is Isaiah’s experience.  That’s all.

But of course, that isn’t all.  Much more is needed to help us make sense of that feeling of and hunger for transcendence, that doesn’t and won’t go away, and, in our quiet moments, we know it.  To our great blessing and, indeed, our salvation, the Unseen has become seen.  “No one has ever seen God.  It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart [literally, in the Father’s bosom], who has made him known.”  The Unseen is seen, known.  Not just a category of human experience that we call religious or spiritual, but God.  The real, one, true, God.

We need healing, not just a vaccination.  We need our sight to be restored, so that we can see more of the Unseen.  God is not coy, playing hard to get.  On the contrary, we have trained ourselves right into blindness.  As we turn the corner on a miserable 2020 and look forward to a fresh calendar, my prayer is that, through scriptural therapy, we gain sight.  We see the Unseen.  May the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ enlighten us.  And may that light shine through us to others.

The (Local) Church, More Important Than Ever

We are hearing from a number of quarters that American society is in trouble like we haven’t seen in a long time.  I share this worry.  We feel it locally, among our neighborhoods and acquaintances.  The blight of hatred spreads through our social media feeds.  Our divisions have become so sharp and so personal that talk of civil war seems not so far-fetched.  We do need to remember, after all, that it has happened before.

For these reasons, the church, embattled and battered though she be, is more important than ever.  To see the church’s value in the present age, we need to refocus.  This is a form of repentance, the kind John Wesley expounded in “The Repentance of Believers.”  Christians always need to demonstrate willingness to course-correct as we get knocked around and off track in the rough-and-tumble of daily life.  Right now is a good time for us to course-correct.

It calls to mind Nehemiah’s example.  He is in a foreign country enjoying a prestigious career, far away from his shattered homeland.  It has been long-enough after the exile (which began in 586 BCE/BC) that Nehemiah could be forgiven for thinking that that sad bit of history had nothing to do with him.  We find Nehemiah in the city of Susa, in the king’s court, almost a full century (ca. 440s BCE/BC) after the exiles began trickling back into Jerusalem.  By our standards, he is far removed from the problem, and, as I mentioned, he enjoys a really good job.

And yet, when Nehemiah’s brother, Hanani, shows up with news of the “trouble and shame” of the returned exiles, of Jerusalem’s broken down walls and burned gates, Nehemiah responds, “I sat sat down and wept.”  He mourns and fasts and prays, and in the prayer he confesses, “I and my family have sinned.”  Feel Nehemiah’s heart.  He is not directly culpable for any of the mess, yet he so identifies with his people that he shares their plight.  He takes responsibility for conditions with which he had had nothing to do.  May this same penitent, responsive, heart emerge and grow across the church.

Many church leaders already know this.  The question is, how?  What forms would our penitence take?

First, we need to know our communities.  This means more time getting to know our neighbors, which means we need to release people from so much church programming so that they have time to know their communities.

But second, we need to see our communities through our convictions about God’s nature and work, rather than through secular categories of interpretation.  Our core beliefs about reality, about God’s world-saving mission in Christ, are not optional accessories.  What we learn from secular sources, from the natural and social sciences and from culture criticism can be and often are a big help, but they must not replace thoroughly Christian perspectives.

Yes, I know, this is scary talk.  Isn’t “Christian” thinking precisely the problem?  Who doesn’t know about “the white evangelical vote?”  Notice the paradigm of political identity, not scriptural identity.  The problem is that Christians have forgotten who we are (if we ever knew) and how to think and see and function in the public square as real Christians.   We need to admit that we have let various forms of secular identity tell us and the world who we are and what we value.  The church’s true identity comes from the faith once delivered to the saints.  It does not trouble us that others disagree and have other faith commitments (the world’s peoples have always disagreed about ultimate reality.)  We serve others – of any faith and no particular faith – precisely because the one true God, who made heaven and earth, who in the Incarnate Son shares our nature, shows us how to love and serve our neighbors.

So, we American Christians need a mindset shift, which is to say, we need to repent.  We need to grasp once again that metanoia, biblical Greek for “repentance,” involves a change of direction, which also entails a change of mind, a change of perspective, a change in understanding.  In repentance, we see things differently.  That bit about seeing our neighbors – Republican, Democrat, Independent, Socialist, whatever – as God’s image bearers, which is exactly how God sees them, that bit is non-negotiable.  We will stand before the Great Assize and the Judge will evaluate how we treated our neighbors.

Recently I read an instructive piece in Hedgehog Review (a journal I highly recommend), called “Dissent and Solidarity.”  It’s written by James Davison Hunter, the founding director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.  Looking at the failure of secularized ethical humanism to accomplish human dignity and liberation it envisioned, Hunter finds the realization of that vision in African-American clergy, most notably of course, Martin Luther King, Junior.  They, and he, had a vision for social changed rooted in a Source that transcends human power.  It made his leadership effective precisely because of its theological vision.  Because King believed that all people are created in God’s image – the oppressed and the oppressor – then both dissent and solidarity needed to occur.

In our current climate, we have lots and lots of dissent.  Solidarity is alarmingly absent.  This is what prompted Hunter to go looking for insight into our present difficulties and to note the importance of having a vision of human dignity and freedom grounded in something beside ourselves.

I think Hunter’s insights serve as a prod for Christian leadership in local communities.  The concerns there are broader than Hunter’s focus, but inclusive of it.  Christian leadership in the name, power, and character of Christ, made visible in local communities, is now more needed than ever.  Because it is done by servants of Christ in his name, it cannot be the power-grabbing kind of “leadership” we see on display most of the time.

Some of you are already doing this.  Thank you.  Lots more of us need to join you.  Now more than ever.






The Transformation of Congregational Culture

In Hosea 2, we find a beautiful promise of restoration immediately after God’s judgment against Israel’s infamous infidelity. The language in the promise is that of the New Creation. “On that day” God will reclaim the adulteress Israel.  The Lord will make a covenant and she, in response, will call him “my husband” again.  The covenant includes the earth’s animals, the abolishment of war, and the establishment of justice so that God’s people live in safety.  All the effects of Israel’s “not my people” waywardness will be transformed.

It’s a beautiful and bracing vision.  More importantly, it is true.  God has been faithful.  God is faithful.  The Bridegroom has come and will come again and we will enjoy the wedding supper of the Lamb, provided that we resist Babylon’s oppressive allurements and stay faithful to our Husband.  Israel needed widespread cultural change.  So do we.  We need it in our nation, but first, we need it in the church.

I grew up among the people called Methodist.  Thirty-five years ago, I became a clergy member among this people.  Like many Methodists, I have grieved our losing our way.  We are torn asunder, yet the Bible teaches on virtually every page that Almighty God, full of mercy, patience, and love, makes all things new.  Therefore, we have hope, not about denominational survival, but about the destiny of the people.

The Lord’s discipline is severe, but it produces good fruit if we yield to it humbly and bear fruits worthy of repentance.  It means taking up the call to re-order congregational culture.  As I move into a new season of ministry, I hear the call to help in this work and have returned for guidance to volume 9 of Wesley’s Works, “The Methodist Societies: History, Nature, and Design.”  I’ve been reading and re-reading the General Rules, The Character of a Methodist, Advice to the People Called Methodists, and other reflections from Mr. Wesley.  If you risk reading this material, you will quickly see what I mean about the need to re-order congregational culture.

What do I mean by culture?  Borrowing generally from scholars Clifford Geertz and Robert Wuthnow, I mean that collection of beliefs, values, practices and behaviors,  material resources and artifacts, folkways and formal structures, that reveal to us and others who we think we are and what we care about as a people.   A congregation is a microcosm of the people of God and a culture.  If we take this definition, what would we say about our congregation’s culture?  If we need to change our culture – and we do – what should we ponder?

First, we don’t rush prematurely past the facts of our problem.  Israel had exchanged their loyalty to the one true God for economic and military security in that-which-is-not-God.  We have done likewise, seeking our security in the American dream, in American prosperity, in American dominance, in American politics, and, most of all, in trying to stay current with popular culture.  There is nothing cringier than watching a peculiar people trying to look cool.  We have been on  a long fool’s errand and we are seeing the consequence.

Lest you get the wrong impression that I’m suggesting that we stop worrying about understanding our context and how best to communicate in popular culture, I assure you, I am not.  Christians need to continue to think carefully and to study our context so that we understand and minister effectively.  I am not talking about some kind of blissful ignorance.  I am talking about our obsequious craving for and chasing respectability from popular culture and our bending the Gospel completely out of shape to try to make people like us.  God gives us discernment to know the difference.

We need repentance in order for congregational culture to change, but repentance cannot be manufactured or hurried.  People need time to mull things over, to think, to talk with one another, even to argue things out.  True cultural change cannot be forced.  As I have read through the Book of Acts recently, I’ve noticed how often it records Paul arguing with people in the synagogues, on Mars Hill, everywhere he went.  To argue does not mean to yell and fight.  It means to engage the issues, to give and take, to speak and listen.  This process takes time and cannot be forced.

When people’s minds change at the foundations, their actions start to follow suit.  This is the true beginning of culture change.  Culture change begins with repentance (a change of mind and direction), a characteristic that comes through clearly in reading those early Methodist documents.  There was only one condition to join Methodist society – the desire to flee the wrath to come.  Not a desire to shake off the feelings of guilt.  That is too subjective and surface-level a response.  Once the feeling is gone, the changed behavior goes also.  Real culture change happens when people begin (1) to understand that their accountability to God is objectively real and, (2) by their actions they demonstrate the desire to get right with God.  If you join the Methodists, you live like the Methodists live.  This is true with a sharp, doubled-edged quality.

You don’t need a majority vote or a decision by the church council to get this movement going.  Leaders lead.  They lead first by their lives, by showing that they are penitent, hungry, and obedient.  Revival happens when a core group reveals that they want nothing more than God.  They desire above all to have the mind of Christ and to walk as Christ walked and that, by God’s grace, they will do nothing less.  Not only is this slow, steady work, with glorious and dramatic moments mixed in, it is the rest-of-our-lives work.

Although we don’t need a majority to get congregational change going, we do need to raise the bar of church membership.  This means that pastors need to reclaim the teaching office.  Teaching is a function of pastoral care and of ordering the life of the congregation.  Teaching, too, calls for gentleness and patience.  It, too, needs time.  There are no shortcuts.  Teaching simply cannot be hurried because learning cannot be hurried.  Let’s give church members time to think about the true nature of church membership and to struggle with the cognitive dissonance between their (likely) current understanding and what they are now hearing from their teachers.  Let’s give them time and, while we take time, let’s not cave to the pressure to water down the vision of vital church membership from impatience or cowardice.  How many good efforts have been thwarted by these vices?

The heart of our teaching should include helping people understand sin and salvation.  No matter what theological label we like for ourselves, we have drifted ever closer to Pelagianism and works righteousness.  About “sin” we bought the well-meaning malarkey that “insider talk” no longer communicates to people outside the church and so we need to change our language.  It has brought partial and inadequate understanding of sin into all levels of the church and the related result is misunderstanding of justification.  By not teaching scripturally about sin and salvation, we are repeating the very mistake Mr. Wesley believed the Methodists were called into existence to reform.  The church is full of good people meeting basic cultural expectations for church membership and thinking that’s all there is.  We have left them bereft of living faith in a living Christ because we have not taught clearly and persistently about sin and salvation.  People intuitively know they are sinners.   They need the grammar to understand their condition.  Goodness knows that the world gives us a thousand other misleading words that hides our true condition while promising enlightenment.

Precisely here the contribution of the Wesleyan tradition re-emerges.  I hasten to say that I think this matters, not because it’s Wesleyan, but because it is biblical.  We are not only saved from judgment and damnation, which is where most evangelical teaching today stops. We are saved from sin and we are saved to holy living.  Holiness does not mean “dour, rigid, and condemning.”  Let us not go weak in the knees because of the word.  To be holy is to be happy.  Let’s show people how holiness and happiness connect.  Christian perfection is a positive good for others as well as for oneself.  It is loving God and neighbor.

Many of the Methodists reading this post recognize all that I’ve said.  I know that what I’ve included here is but a start, but starting is necessary and persisting is, too.  To reorder congregational culture, these points anchor us and give us a place to start.  May we persevere in this good work.

And if you’re reading this post and you’re not Methodist, it all applies to you, too.  It is, after all, scriptural Christianity.






Fixing Jesus

It now appears that an interpretation of Jesus’ being cured of racism in his response to the Syro-phoenician woman in Mark 7 has some real staying power among a slice of United Methodists.  You can read the story at Mark 7:24-30.  In this post I’ll concentrate on the core claim, that, to put it pejoratively, the passage reveals Jesus’ viewpoint needs to be fixed, that he needs to be liberated from racism.  Traditional Christians react strongly against this view.  Let’s take it seriously and examine the logic.

(Just in case you think that examining logic is an unnecessary distraction, you’ll have to face the fact that that opinion is itself a result of (somebody’s) logic.  Logic is unavoidable.  Doing it badly has serious practical ramifications.)

If you read the passage, verse 25 gets to the question.  Jesus responds to the request for healing with these words: “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”  The reading in question concludes that Jesus’s use of a common stereotype represent his actual opinion about Gentiles.  He needs to be freed from it.  The woman’s comeback, also taken at face value, is beautiful: “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”  At this point, Jesus’ eyes are opened and he sees the woman differently.  The woman, full of faith and willing to take the initiative, becomes the healer of Jesus’ racism.

For people with a traditional view of Jesus, this conclusion is completely unacceptable.  In fact, it’s heretical.  It simply does not fit within the church’s examined, tested, accepted, historic teachings about Jesus.  How is it, then, that Christians can actually hold such a view?

There’s a long and complex history in the background of this discussion, part involving the nature and work of Jesus Christ (Christology) and the other more generally ideas about scripture that became dominant in the late nineteenth century.  Behind both of these histories is yet another set of developments related to what we think of as true knowledge based in science.  As they say it’s complicated. The point I want to make here is that there is already a lot(!) going on behind the scenes in figuring out how best to understand this passage in Mark.

Back to examining the logic: To conclude that Jesus needed to be liberated from racist views is based on a prior view (a priori) of who Jesus is, of the nature of Jesus.  That prior view serves as the assumption, the premise, the starting point, and sets in motion a chain of logic leading to the aforementioned conclusion.  This premise itself rests on prior conclusions embedded in that complex history I mentioned a moment ago and most likely involves some version of an adoptionist Christology.  An adoptionist Christology argues in various ways that it makes the most sense to understand Jesus as ontologically (in his being) a regular human like the rest of us, exceptionally different in degree, but not in kind.  He had vastly more awareness of God than normal people.  He had amazing insight into God’s will and courageously committed himself singularly to fulfilling God’s will.  He is, in degree, an exceptional human being, but nonetheless nothing more than a human being.  Something like this view must be the premise for the curing-Jesus-of-racism conclusion.

Premises guide and limit subsequent thinking.  Once you have a starting point established, you follow the logic where it seems to lead.  This is the unavoidable chain of logic that we all use in some way or another.  If your premise about Jesus as of only (one) human nature stands firm, then your conclusion about his encounter with the woman in Mark 7 must fit within what we know of human nature, with all its glories and its horrors.  It is reasonable, if you hold this view of Jesus, to conclude that he shared all the prejudices that first-century Jews had about non-Jews.  And if you have been schooled in a long line of scholarship that has scrubbed the supernatural (theological) to get at the true (historical) core of Jesus’ identity, then you are also convinced that the idea of Jesus’ divinity is a needless and misleading human construct, unless held loosely as a symbol only.  If it seems to you that scholarship is on your side, the view grows stronger.  The conclusion that Jesus needed to be freed from racism becomes not only thinkable but, especially now that we know more about social structures and systemic oppression than first-century people did, it seems even more compelling, especially if you’re inclined to think that traditional theological beliefs about Jesus likewise are guilty of unwarranted exclusiveness.

Is there a way to hold to the traditional, orthodox, view of Jesus as fully divine as well as fully human and keep to this view about his being healed from racism?  Again, we would need to run the chain of logic, which, doing so, would make this post too long.  But I will say this much: if we believe that Jesus is also fully divine, then our problem with the story in Mark moves from how we think about Jesus to how we think about God and we are met with the implication that somehow God needs to have his [sic] views corrected.  And that we’re somehow in the position to do it.

These chains of logic have very serious implications about how we understand and practice our faith.  The work is too important to skip.  If you want to be a dedicated follower of Jesus, you are implicated in this work.



Guest Blog: The Purpose of Youth Ministry

(The following essay comes from the Rev. Wendy Mohler Seib, a PhD candidate in practical theology and Director of Faith Formation for Youth and Young Adults at the Institute for Discipleship at Southwestern College.  The American church needs to re-think its approach to ministry with youth, college students, and other emerging adults.  Wendy is a leader in helping us to do this work.  Her post is a review of an important book by Andrew Root.)


According to Andrew Root, “Youth ministry exists for joy.” His latest book, The End of Youth Ministry? Why Parents Don’t Really Care about Youth Groups and What Youth Workers Should Do about It follows Root’s quest to finish the sentence, “Youth ministry exists for ­­­____.” Root addresses the prioritization of youth ministry in competition with extracurricular activities consuming middle class youth and identifies the gulf between the priorities of parents and youth workers.

In his book, Root thoroughly dissects the history and cultural influences shaping the parental pursuit of happiness for their children. Using interviews, philosophy,[1] and sociology,[2] Root explains shifts in youth ministry from the 1980’s to the present. He demonstrates the effects of these cultural shifts on parental perceptions of the role of youth ministry. Root’s work gently and poignantly exposes “our misguided conception of a good life – namely, the need for recognized identity and the goal of happiness.”[3] Root contends parents push children to find a passion or “thing” (i.e. hockey, soccer, piano, theatre, etc.) as a means of identity formation without critically reflecting on criteria to establish what is “good.”

Root invites the reader to eavesdrop on his conversations and experiences with J and Lorena, a youth pastor and youth. By chronicling J and Lorena’s story, Root awakens the reader’s imagination to a ministry rooted in joy. When Lorena’s life was on the line, the hospital waiting room became the fertile ground for J’s local youth ministry to move from fun and games to a ministry of joy and friendship. Through a philosophical lens, Root analyzes the qualities of the good life and challenges modern notions of “good,” drawing the reader to historical moments when holiness and virtue constituted a good life. His thorough descriptions are an invitation to evaluate life choices that substitute happiness for joy. Intergenerational story-telling transformed J’s youth ministry, and Root explains how this communal practice gives youth the ability to discern between happiness based on goods and joy found in the highest good.

Root is convincing! He points to the Triune God as the greatest good and beseeches youth ministries to embody life together in community where joy is birthed when friends share in the suffering and glory of Christ. Root debunks the notion of numbers, programs, emotional responses, or sin management as fruitful youth ministry by prophetically calling youth workers to focus on the cross. He describes the changing context of youth ministry and offers a refreshing aim for youth workers – joy, Christian joy, rooted in the person of Jesus Christ and discovered in authentic community.

In 2011, I sat by Andy in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, where we attended the Association of Youth Ministry Educators gathering and went to eat with mutual seminary friends. Prior to AYME, I read his book, The Promise of Despair: The Way of the Cross as the Way of the Church. While star struck in Andy’s presence, one critique of his book lingered. I wanted an answer, “What about joy?” Andy was humble and kind as he listened to me make my case for joy. I don’t remember Andy’s exact words, I remember the sentiment of the conversation being something like, “Yeah…about joy…” (voice trailing off as we returned to discussing despair and suffering). He invited me to press in during times of suffering. He reminded me not to run too quickly to the resurrection without walking through Good Friday and Holy Saturday. He caught my attention. He urged me to encounter aspects of God’s character less known to me. And yet, I left unsatisfied. His response failed to address my uncertainties about joy amid suffering.

This book answered my questions about joy without compromising the invitation, and even necessity, to enter suffering. Root reminds us, as Paul reminds the Philippians, joy is birthed in suffering, which means the joy is not happiness based on subjective or circumstantial criteria. Joy is not recognition, passion for a “thing.” Joy cannot be acquired through the consumption of products or by avoiding negativity. A youth ministry established in joy invites young people into the complete gospel story whereby the living God invites Christ followers into friendship with the Triune God and one another. It is here where joy, not happiness, abounds.

In my estimation, Root’s book comes in the providential timing of God. This spring, my Adolescent Spirituality class read about identity formation from various authors. Over spring break, our lives were completely and utterly disrupted by COVID-19. When we reconvened online, we read Twenge’s book about iGen as people around the globe suffered and died. We discussed our pain, questions, disappointments, and losses. We wrestled through Christian ethics, and predicted ways COVID-19 may shift the attitudes and behaviors of iGen. We raised our laments through Lent and proclaimed Resurrection in the face of a pandemic.

Young people know suffering and loss. They knew it before COVID-19, but the pandemic has seriously altered their lives. They’ve lost loved ones, their parents have lost jobs, some have gone hungry, they’ve missed major life milestones. Beyond the mental health crisis already facing this generation,[4] the isolation, fear, anxiety, depression, and grief have been compounded. The future is uncertain. Young people yearn for peace, hope, and joy. Now is the time to read Root’s book, reflect on the good life, examine our ministry practices and priorities, and enter the “waiting room.” In the face of widespread suffering, may “joy in friendship and rejoicing in the [aim, focus, or highest good] be what youth ministry is for.”[5]



[1] Throughout the book, Root draws heavily on the philosophy of Charles Taylor.

[2] See Jean Twenge’s book iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy-and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood (New York: Atria Books, 2017).

[3] Andrew Root. Why Parents Don’t Really Care about Youth Groups and What Youth Workers Should Do about It (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020), Kindle edition, xiii.

[4] Jean Twenge, iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy-and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood (New York: Atria Books, 2017), Kindle edition, 74.

[5] Andrew Root, The End of Youth Ministry?, Kindle edition, 225.