[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”0310670810″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Os8Oe-KlL.jpg” width=”237″ alt=”Andrew Root”]A Joyful Maddening Contemplation
A Review of Four New Books by Andrew Root on Theology and Youth Ministry.
Unpacking Scripture in Youth Ministry.
Hardback: Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2013.
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Unlocking Mission and Eschatology in Youth Ministry.
Hardback: Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2013.
Buy now: [ [easyazon-link asin=”0310670810″ locale=”us”]Amazon[/easyazon-link] ] [ [easyazon-link asin=”B008EGUE80″ locale=”us”]Kindle[/easyazon-link] ]
CLICK HERE for Part 1 of this review…
Reviewed by Jasmine Smart
The most frequent complaint I’ve heard from fellow seminarians about studying systematic theology is that it doesn’t seem to matter. The people I meet every day in my ministry just want to know that there is something to live for, and that Jesus can work in their lives. In the words of a popular internet meme: “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For” something like the Trinity, or Atonement, or other theological jargon like that.
Andy Root continues to impress me with his ability to take theological issues and contextualize them into a contemporary ministry setting. The implication is, even without recognizing it, everyone is working from a theological perspective, and because of that, it is better to be aware of your own theology (and those theologies others might have which might clash with yours).
In the final two books of his four book series A Theological Journey Through Youth Ministry, Root tackles the issues of Scripture and Mission/Eschatology. Once again, we pick up the story of Nadia, a fictional character who is working as a youth minister in a congregation of about 500 members and a youth group of 30 high schoolers and 50 middle schoolers. In the first book we meet her and come to know she went to a few courses in seminary (which the church paid for), but didn’t find it that relevant to her ministry work. Yet she realizes she needs to answer some pretty foundation questions about what youth ministry is, and what God is up to in the world, and to do that, she needs to draw from a theological framework. She defines youth ministry as participating in God’s own action. In the second book, Root has Nadia then start to contemplate about the cross, which is a natural extension. As disciples participating in the action of God, we are called to take up our crosses, and to contemplate why it is that the cross is the climactic place God chooses to act. Youth in particular can respond to the metaphysical struggle between what Root terms “possibility and nothingness.” Root says ultimately, youth ministry can be understood through the lens of the cross because it is about “encountering God at the cross, where God takes on nothingness, and from nothingness brings forth new life, new possibility, an all-new reality” (Taking the Cross, 56).
*** [easyazon-link keywords=”Andrew Root” locale=”us”]Other Books by Andrew Root[/easyazon-link]
At the end of book two, a pastor on staff with Nadia raises the question: “What about Scripture? I mean honesty and seeking for God’s action in the areas where God feels absent seems important. But what about seeking for God in Scripture? Or maybe I would say it this way: Doesn’t reading Scripture have something to do with discipleship?” (Taking the Cross, 120).
That’s where book three picks up. Nadia finds herself in a meeting with various church members over a maintenance issue, but the conversation soon turns to biblical literacy. Mrs. Richards, an older woman, recalls her experience as a young person in the church filled with testing and accountability, and she thinks the answer to young people’s moral depravity is more Bible quizzes! Root (through Nadia) discusses the difference between retaining knowledge and interpreting it; as hermeneutical animals [think of the film Memento, if you’ve seen it] we are constantly interpreting everything, young people especially. The reason films like Twilight and the Hunger Games have become so authoritative for young people is because they are able to interpret and work out their own identities through the narratives’ lens and create meaning for themselves (Unpacking Scripture, 38). The Bible is authoritative however, unlike other narratives, but it is authoritative because God has chosen to act through it in a unique way (Unpacking Scripture, 83). Ultimately, the Bible is a witness to the Living God and an encounter with the Word [Jesus Christ] through the word [Bible] (Unpacking Scripture, 41). The Bible is not something to believe “in” as if it’s a magical book whose principles will save us; instead, it points us to the saving work of God in our lives and the world around us as a sign and witness. There is also some helpful practical examples for what ramifications this has for youth group Bible studies (although Root would prefer they be called “Bible reading groups” since often not much reading is done in comparison to the amount of impersonal “studying” we do about the past, instead of an active reading of God’s present actions in our lives).
At the end of book three, Nadia and her youth bible reading group are discussing the passage of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Many have concerns about why Jesus would just feed them and leave; why not establish a food shelter or something more long term? They contextualized the story into their own lives, since their high school youth group went to Mexico every year for a week; but does that really help? What is God doing on those mission trips, they want to know? (Unpacking Scripture, 113). This introduces book four on mission and eschatology.