Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review of As You Go by Alvin Reid

Alvin Reid, professor of evangelism and student ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, is "tired of meeting young adults who tell (him) that what they remember from their youth group experience is 'invite a friend' and 'Don't have sex.'"  He wants students to begin living their lives enamored with the risen Christ as ministers of his Gospel of grace and love.  He wants to see young people living their Christian lives in a distinctly Christian way, as missionaries and ministers of reconciliation.

Me too!  Reid offers a lot of practical wisdom for leaders and parents.  He says we have spent so much time on the imperatives(the "do's", commands, law) and lost sight of the indicatives(the "Christ has done", Gospel).  This leads to what Christian Smith coined Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and it fills youth rooms and pulpits all over the country, if not the world.  The idea that God, an impersonal force more than a relational being, is here to make me feel better as long as I act good is as pervasive as it is perverse.  Reid's advice, ditch this and focus on the Gospel.

Focus on the Gospel in its grandest presentation.  The typical Roman Road Gospel presentation drops the hearer in the middle of the story, assuming that Romans 1-3 is known and understood as we kick off at Romans 3:23.  Reid's point is to see the Gospel from beginning to end, the good news of God from creation to consumation and restoration.  He encourages the reader to teach students the "metanarrative" of Scripture, the big story.  And see that the Gospel is not the "door to Christianity" that one enters and leaves behind, but rather it is the focus of all of Christianity.  Allow the student to see who God is and what He is doing and let these truths be applied to them by the Holy Spirit.

Reid makes a great point in line with this when he says,

Much of what we do in student ministry focuses on the lowest common denominator: What truth can we teach that will apply to all?  In an attractional, event-driven ministry, this approach is necessary to keep people coming. And, if your ministry focuses more on the how of Christianity (how to date better, how to witness, how to be happy) than on the why (focusing on God and his plan), it will thus be more focused on truth that applies to the widest possible audience.  But the more we focus on helping students see the big picture of who God is and what he is doing and why he is doing it, the better they can learn to make application to the unique aspects of their lives.

This leads to another one of Reid's big points.  He seeks to see a more relational, mentor, discipleship type of model grow in student ministry as opposed to the typical, pizza-party+lazer tag= little-to-no spiritual growth model that seems to reign supreme.  Not opposing events and pizza per se, Reid sees the role of the minister as that primarily of disciple maker and mentor, someone investing in the lives of individuals and seeing these individuals do likewise and so on and so on.  I think there is something quite biblical and quite Christlike to this mentality and this model.

Reid also invests an entire chapter on the role of the family in student ministry.  This could be one of the greatest weaknesses in many student ministries, and in many churches, is the compartmentalization of the church into almost little parachurch organizations.  Nursery, kid's church, youth group, young adults, middle adults, adult adults, really adult adults...you could go your entire life and never have to really know anyone much more than 5 or 10 years off of your age.  The need for the entire family to be involved in the growth and discipleship of students is crucial and I am glad Reid gave it a good section of his book(even if the age-integration soapbox is likely more me than him).

This is a good book and well worth parents and youth leaders to invest the time in reading and seriously consider the points that he makes.