Last Sunday was the final day of a 4-week class on recent evangelicalism (since 1960) that I taught at West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. The topic for this last class was the history of evangelical youth culture.
As you may recall from my previous posts, my “students” in this class are all evangelical baby boomers. Many of them had very positive experiences with Youth for Christ. One family said that they knew Jack Wyrtzen personally and credited Youth for Christ for sustaining their ongoing commitment to the Christian life. Others felt that I (or perhaps Bergler) was being too hard on evangelical youth ministry. Sure the theology was shallow and the focus was more on fun than deep Christian thinking, but many insisted that the cultivation of mature Christians was not the primary purpose of Youth for Christ. The goal of the YFC clubs was to win young people to Christ and then let the local churches handle their maturation in the faith.
As much as I affirmed the way that Youth for Christ changed and transformed young lives, very few people in the room were willing to admit that their favorite youth ministry had been partially successful because it preached a rather undemanding version of the Christian faith. Because so many people were bothered with how I (using Bergler) portrayed Youth for Christ, I fear that the class may have missed the larger historical point that I (again, using Bergler) was trying to make about how YFC’s philosophy of ministry has influenced today’s megachurches.
It was an interesting four weeks. Some of the people in the class seemed to really enjoy it. Others seemed a bit uncomfortable discussing subjects like evangelicals and politics (I used James Davison Hunter’s argument that politics may not be the best way to change the world) or evangelical views of the Bible (I implied that one did not need to believe in biblical inerrancy to be a committed evangelical).
After finishing this class I realized that I am still learning how to bring good historical scholarship to the church.
That's the same response I get when I argue that certain hymn writers say shallow, trite things about God. “Sentiment is anterior to reason.”