‘If my followers are silent, the rocks will cry out’ says Jesus (Luke 19:40).
Have you ever considered that maybe the rocks are screaming? 95% of young people have no contact with the church. To these young people the church IS silent. So what are the rocks saying? It’s not a big leap to assume that Jesus didn’t literally mean talking stones – but maybe that the world, nature, the artefacts around us, would tell the story without us. In fact, all around us we observe a pregnant creation. The whole of creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth (Romans 8:22). Everything God created is good (1 Timothy 4:4). Nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. The question for us is: if the rocks are crying out, how do we hear them? What are they saying to young people? And what do they say to us?
Youth work is contextual mission, and that requires listening ears. Sally and Paul Nash offer some helpful tools in listening to (and reflecting on) culture and context. They suggest that we can listen and hear God speak through any media: songs, books, plays, stories, pictures… I’m sure they’d update that to include Youtube, Netflix, Memes, Podcasts, Fashion etc. They argue that we should consider both the origin and form of media, and it’s reception (audience, impact, social value). And they offer some helpful questions to discern and engage with the things we find in culture:
· What genre is it and what are the implications of that?
· What other texts does it remind you of?
· What was happening in the world when it was created?
· Who is the target audience? Why do you think that?
· Is there genuine perspective?
· Is anyone being left out? What perspective would they bring?
· How does our experience and understanding of God answer questions raised by the text? What does our faith tradition say?
· In what way does the text support or undermine our faith beliefs?
· Be aware of feelings. What surprises, moves, disturbs, challenges, excites?
· What are your final reflections?
Look around. What culture and media are young people immersed in? How is God speaking to young people through this culture? When Paul heads to Athens (Acts 17: 16-34) he listens to what’s going on there: debating, discussing ideas, talking. His response is to join in and debate with the stoics, philosophers and council of elders (the Areopagus). He picks up on one of their idols – essentially a cultural artefact – and uses this idol called ‘The Unknown God’ to connect their story with his experience and understanding of God.
The rocks are crying out. What are they saying?
Frontier Youth Trust is building a movement of pioneering youth work – encouraging youth workers and churches to take mission risks to reach young people. Contact us for help in exploring this thinking in your practice.
This is not really my own work. Try reading Paul & Sally Nash’s Tools for Reflective Ministry (SPCK, 2009) for a really helpful guide to reflection, theological reflection, reflective practice, and listening to context.
Photo credit: Yiran Ding on Unsplash