Friday, August 5, 2011

The Centrality of Love

Thinking more about spiritual formation and how someone might appear to be well formed but internally they have been pushed into compliance and don't really believe what they are living and saying is true. So what is the answer? How can you be sure your formation program works deep down. The only way is to love them. If people are loved then they will be honest with you about their most politically incorrect thoughts. If people are loved they won't tow the line out of fear of the consequences. They will know whatever consequences happen are designed for their own good. This is why this blog is called Speak the Truth in Love. Because truth spoken without love can become a weapon that can drive people away. I never want to do that.

It seems that the Catholic church and the larger, entrenched protestant churches didn't have a good combination of truth and love. Certainly in the Catholic church before Vatican II we had truth and little love. After Vatican II we had love and very little truth. Neither really worked. Part of it has to do with size. When you need to teach a lot of youth with a few staff you can either drill it into them and allow no talk back or you can just discuss what they think the truth might be and have them feel good but learn nothing. Given the choice I would prefer the former. At least you learn facts. They might come alive for you later. If you just leave with a warm fuzzy feeling that is not likely to help you later.

But why choose? Why can't we have both? Develop some real relationships with youth and teach them the faith. OK, so you won't be able to process thousands of kids with a small group of volunteers. But if you make the ministry rewarding for both teachers and pupils then it will grow. Pray hard and God will send you enough teachers and enough kids.

The key is to go deep. The temptation is to keep it simple and fun. I have done youth ministry as in protestant and Catholic settings and that is the common theme. Too much focus on experience and too little on content. Many kids are very bright and they need to be pushed. Society tells them religion is for the weak minds. Real thinkers don't talk about faith much. Churches play right into that by dumbing down the faith. Not just intellectually but often spiritually too. Often the part about taking up your cross gets short shrift. There is an assumption that if we challenge people they will head for the door. Some will. But some will take up the challenge. Do we dare offend some to convert those who are willing. Often the big bureaucratic churches won't go there. They want fewer complaints instead of more saints.

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