This is the first post of a series on Walt Mueller’s book, Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture. I hope that you find his thoughts(and mine) helpful and insightful. It’s one of the best books on youth culture that I have read in a very long time.
The introduction lays out some key thoughts for us to think about. First, “We haven’t kept up in our ability to listen to and understand our world and its cries for redemption (11).” This is one of those sentences that begins to create a splinter in your brain. It challenges our assumptions about we live in our everyday lives. Will we engage the culture or are we going to take our heads and stick them in the sand? Will we open our eyes and see what is happening all around us?
Mueller wants us to do just this. He wants us to realize that the youth culture is a cross-cultural and very real mission field. You see, if we are going to be serious reaching the world with the gospel we must become uncomfortably familiar with this world and the things that are in it. Imagine if Jesus had spent all his time at Synagogue pot-lucks and programs. The gospels would be awfully boring. Jesus was disruptive and culturally transformative. He loved people where they were. He gave people truth too. He looked the status quo in the eye and told it shove off.
There are four guiding principles that Mueller wants us to keep in mind as we explore the world of youth culture (and our culture if we are honest about it). First, he has made an effort to stay true to the “written and incarnate Word (13).” Second, he seeks to avoid “false optimism and habitual pessimism” by adhering to “biblical reality (13).” False optimism says, “everything is fine.” Habitual pessimism says, “the world is going to hell in a hand-basket”, as my Grandma would say. Biblical reality says, “the world is broken and beautiful and needs redemption.” Third, we have called the emerging generation to a minimalist gospel and we need to re-evaluate whether or not we are calling them to the biblical gospel. Finally, we will not walk out with new methods but a challenge to live a lifestyle of engagement through listening and loving.
I invite you to join me as I travel down this road over the next few weeks.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed a song called, “Lost Children”. It hits on the same ideas that we are going to be looking at. Mueller hits this song to open the book.