IVP - Online Pulpit - September 2011 Archives

September 27, 2011

Scripture and the Reformers: Retrieved for the Sake of Renewal

by Mike Gibson, series editor for the Reformation Commentary on Scripture

Martin Luther once remarked that the Reformation took place while he and Philipp Melancthon “drank Wittenberg beer. The Word did it all.” What Luther was suggesting, in his characteristically wry sense of humor, was that the incredible revolutionary movement of the Reformation was not the product of a human being, a personality, charisma, or the result of strategic planning, calculations or effort.

Rather, the Reformation unfolded through the cities, villages and hamlets of early modern Europe as an act of the Spirit—an act centered concretely in Scripture. Luther was not alone in this evaluation. The course of the Reformation occurred as men and women read, contemplated, proclaimed and acted upon Scripture. Above all else, the Reformers and their parishioners were immersed in Scripture. The Reformation was an event grounded in reading and exegesis of the Bible, in preaching the word of Scripture and living out its message in the world.

rcsOP.jpgThe Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS), a new series from InterVarsity Press, attempts to capture this dynamic. A twenty-eight-volume series, edited by leading Reformation historians Timothy George (Beeson Divinity School) and Scott Manetsch (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), the RCS places in the hands of readers the writings of a wide array of Reformers on Scripture, collecting their comments across the whole canon of the Bible. Many of the quotations contained in the RCS are here made available in English for the first time. With these volumes readers enter the world of the Reformers gathered together around the Scripture, such that contemporary audiences are invited to read, think, discuss, debate and interpret Scripture in concert with the host of men and women who changed the course of history.

The unique nature of this series is not merely the historical interest of Reformation-era commentary, though readers will be introduced to a constellation of figures virtually unknown to most in the English speaking world, and they will also see the diversity of thought represented within the Reformation traditions (even disagreements over the proper rendering of passages!). Rather, above all else, the RCS is about renewal—renewal constituted by contemplation of Scripture within the folds of tradition. Pastors, preachers and teachers will find in these volumes resources drawn from the deep wells of the Reformation that can produce living springs within the church today.

The voices of the Reformation call to us to look at Scripture anew with different eyes, providing fresh insight and tools for hearing Scripture in bold and startling ways. As the Reformers themselves sought to renew the church through the reading and preaching of Scripture—which they did in conscious alliance with the ancient traditions of the church—so the RCS provides an opportunity to read and preach the Scripture with the Reformers, retrieved here for the renewal of the church and the world.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 11:39 AM

September 8, 2011

The Theological Cure

by Andrew Root

I have a hunch. It is totally anecdotal, but I do think it is based in a reality, one that I’ve sensed over the last decade of talking with youth workers and speaking at pastors’ gatherings.

Here is my hunch: all pastoral ministry has gone the way of youth ministry.

What I mean is this: Almost since its inception youth ministry has been trying to make a case for why fickle people should come to church. Sure, I know that youth ministry has been about much, much more than this (and thank God), but it is a fair assertion to state that Protestant churches began funding in-house youth workers in their congregations because their children were no longer coming or were not all that interested in the church. So we hired young (at times hip) youth workers that could make a case for religious participation.

This meant a number of things: good looking, athletic young workers, big youth rooms, cool events, relational contact, new worship experiences, the blending of technology and Christian practice. And this has had a huge impact on the church (and this isn’t anecdotal); youth ministry people have shifted the direction of the church more than almost any other group of people in the last fifty years. After all, Billy Graham was a youth preacher, then Bill Hybels and Rick Warren were old youth workers, and a good number of emergent church folks, both leaders and participants, are either present or former youth workers.

So pastoral ministry has gone the way of youth ministry. And so far, this is positive—I think. But here is the wrinkle. As this process has happened and as our context has become more detached from Christendom, pastors, like youth workers in the past, have had to concern themselves with how they were going to get fickle people to come to church. At the beginning of youth ministry it could be assumed that people would show up on a Sunday, the only question was, would their children? Now there is no guarantee that anyone will come.

So the pastor has had to take on the entrepreneurial spirit of youth ministry, using programs, events, relational contact, new worship experiences, hip clothes, and the blending of technology and preaching to make a case for giving participation a shot.

But there was a bacteria in this youth-ministry entrepreneurial movement that has now been passed on to pastors. Because the focus was on winning participation, there was a little need or desire to reflect, especially to reflect theologically about the practice of ministry. Thinking was okay, but what won esteem was action. The hyperpractical, scaled down and digestible now became essential. I think this bacteria is now in the bloodstream of pastoral ministry, and unfortunately I think that youth ministry was the original carrier.

theoturnOP.jpgBut here is my historical hunch, and where my book The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry comes in. In the last ten years I have watched youth workers want (yearn) to think theologically. They’ve been at this winning participation perspective too long and know it is a dead end. They are ready to think theologically about what ministry is and how human action in ministry participates in the action and being of God. They still want action—that is, they still want to take kids on mission trips—but they would also like to reflect deeply on what a mission is and how it participates in God’s own ministry.

But here is a further problem: As youth workers have sought to take this theological turn, their pastors haven’t always been that helpful or supportive. The pastor simply wants the program to continue, adding some more kids and keeping the energy high. So as the youth worker turns to theology, often times her or his pastor is ambivalent.

But this is the gift that the youth worker can give back to his or her pastor: the youth worker can remind you, pastor, that theology still matters, that deep thoughts still have a place.

It is only a hunch, but if youth ministry is guilty of being the carrier of this thoughtless ministerial perspective, then maybe we can become part of the antidote, inviting the church back into a theological conversation on the very practice of ministry.

rootOP.jpgAndrew Root (Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary) is in the Baalson Olson Chair as associate professor of youth and family ministry at Luther Seminary (St. Paul, MN).

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 11:55 AM | Comments (10) are closed