Youth Ministry Booster Podcast

187: Mark Matlock Faith For Exiles And Hope For Youth Ministry In A Digital Babylon

October 15, 2019 Episode 187
Youth Ministry Booster Podcast
187: Mark Matlock Faith For Exiles And Hope For Youth Ministry In A Digital Babylon
Youth Ministry Booster Podcast
187: Mark Matlock Faith For Exiles And Hope For Youth Ministry In A Digital Babylon
Oct 15, 2019 Episode 187
Youth Ministry Booster
Mark Matlock talks about Faith For Exiles the legacy of resource based youth ministry and the hope for the future of student ministry
Show Notes Transcript

What is the future of youth ministry? What hopeful work should we as youth ministers engaged with today?

YS NYWC19 In Tampa
We are going to be there? Are you?
The Youth Ministry Booster team is going to the biggest conference in youth ministry to hang out with all of our YM friends and we can't wait to see you there!

Friday Night Late Night: YMB is the late-night podcast option for all NYWC goers so make your plans now to be a part of the special live recording of episode 200 as we play games, tell stories, interview friends, and give away prizes.

We are also crowning a comedic champion of NYWC so you won't wanna miss that!

About This Episode's Guest
Mark Matlock is one of the leading voices in youth ministry and has deep and storied experience serving youth ministry leaders globally. His most recent work Faith For Exiles co-authored with David Kinnaman is an important read for those reflecting critically on the important work of youth ministry.

Faith For Exiles Book

Show Notes:

  • Mark The Magician (did everyone but me know this?)
  • They gave me a shot to do this before I was probably ready. 
  • "I fell in love with working with youth and the church. The parachurch was serving the local church and it gave me opportunities to see ministry in a variety of places."
  • 14:00 Are You Helping Or Hurting Youth Pastors?
  • If you see youth ministry as a game and easy creativity then you are unprepared for the hard work.

  • 14:48  The resource you provide could actually cause them to atrophy in the ways you are trying to free up
  • Putting the program together has never been more convenient. 

  • 16:38 What We Lost In the 90s

  • 18:00 The Millennial Gap In Leadership
  • "We stayed in our spots too long..." Jim Burns
  • "Youth Ministry is a very small niche and there were just not enough spots to go around to span the generations"

  • 22:02 Youth Pastors are starting to get seats at the table. This is a good thing. 
  • "Begin to learn to leverage the cumulative wisdom of your life."

  • 26:04 Faith For Exiles Book Discussion
  • The Way We Weren’t by Jill Talbot 
  • “It’s about bending and not breaking and in the bending, it’s about growing stronger” 
  • God has designed us to be resilient.
  • We don’t need a robust faith, we need a resilient faith. 
  • We need assimilation of the right belief into the rest of our life. 
  • There is a danger that we are socializing people to Christianity rather than meeting Jesus. 
  • Their understanding of faith extends beyond just attending weekend church and into the work, they are about during the week. 
  • “Redefine Faith: live on earth as it is in heaven” 
  • Rethinking the word vocation for young people today
  • We must rethink our work as a vocational coach. We should be about people development. 
  • What every Christian parent wants for their kids: 

1. To have a relationship with Jesus.

2. A healthy and loving family and kids.

3. A sustainable career that they will enjoy.

  • Vocational coaching would redefine not only our work at youth ministry but redefine 
  • Codename: Bowstring- the untitled and unfinished YS project that Mark left be

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Speaker 1:
Speaker 2:
What does have everybody, this is episode one 87 of the youth ministry of booster podcast, an interview with Mark Mattlock, a guru and youth ministry who has a new book, faith exiles navigating digital Babylon that's out now. In this episode we interview Mark, we talk about his new book and we talk about maybe some of the things related to the current state of youth ministry that you wouldn't have thought that Mark would have to say a a man of deep insight and big connections in the shape and phase of youth ministry over the last several years. I appreciated Mark's candor and Mark's insight about the ways in which youth ministry has a vital role to play in this shifting landscape that we now find ourselves in navigating as youth ministers. It is a definite new kind of Babylonian age and he points out in the book and you'll get to hear about in this episode, but until we get to that interview stuff, wanted to share a couple booster updates with you.
Speaker 2:
We're going to be at Y S this year in November we gave away some tickets to members. We gave away some tickets to those in the youth ministry community, but we want to invite all of you who are coming to [inaudible], WC 19 in Tampa to hang out with us Friday night of the conference. Friday night. Youth ministry booster is the Lake night podcast option. It's going to be our 200th episode. It's going to be a live show with a lot of friends, guests, surprises and treats. Our booth this year is going to be extra fun as we're going to crown the comedic champion of all of you've finished dream. Oh yes. We're crowning a champion and the final round of the comedy champion of youth ministry will be decided at the live show Friday night at Y S in Tampa, treats giveaway prizes, games. It's going to be the most fun live podcast you've ever been a part of. So come check it out in Tampa this November, but until the end. Here's my new friend Mark Mattlock talking truth about you. You've
Speaker 3:
been a straight, you know it's interesting. I didn't choose it. It chose me. I started out in high school thinking that I was going to be a movie producer and was looking at going to USC or UCLA for my kind of career, my college options. And for variety of reasons, God led me to buy Ola university. And while I was up by Ola, I really connected with the missions and I went to India on a trip there and kind of decided that maybe the trajectory for my life was to be an anthropological consultant for Wycliffe Bible translators. And so I kinda started pursuing that kind of a career path. And in the process of doing that, went to and got into doing magic tricks, uh, you know, like illusions, David Copperfield, David Blaine, Chris, angel, Douglas kind of guys, that kind of stuff. And I, uh, Penn and teller, all those things and started getting asked to do stuff for youth groups.
Speaker 3:
And that led to me getting pulled into more and more youth ministry. And then how did I not know that? Yeah. And then just before you keep this hidden, do you like not tell people this? I, I mean like, look man, I could show you right here, you know, on video I've got, these are like collectible items that I, that I keep around. Uh, Mark the Mark magician. What the heck dude know what at that time of Houdini's chains over here, not [inaudible]. So, uh, I, uh, literally tricks in the office. Oh yeah. And that was kind of how I got started working with teenagers was this was like a thing where I would get up in front of them and I would do this stuff and they would see, you know, obviously teenagers are kind of challenging and I enjoy that kind of back and forth a little bit.
Speaker 3:
And a guy that was doing these national conferences today was Dawson McAllister. He these big discipleship events for teenagers. He was looking for somebody who could be a backup for him if he got sick. And if anybody was a speaker, you know, a pastor where they didn't want to wait around for DAS to get sick. So they were out doing their own ministry, but they were looking for a young person who could teach but also could maybe do something. While Dawson was well, and I happened to have this magic thing that I did, so they asked me if I wanted to come and do these conferences. So I came right out of my time at Viola, my fourth year at Viola, right into traveling around the country with Dawson doing this huge arena. That's, I mean, I, let me tell you is that I had no business being in front of teenagers at that point in time.
Speaker 3:
I live on that scale. Like I was absolutely not qualified for that role, but they believed in giving me a shot to do this and I learned as I went and what happened was I really fell in love, not just with, with working with teenagers, but with the church and youth ministry in the church. And a lot of what we were doing in the parish church was serving the local church. And I would go in and youth pastors would invite me to come in and do magic shows. Like on a Wednesday night and then you know, and some kind of outreach rally. But what I really valued was the time after when we go out for a late night dinner with their, maybe their husband or wife and we'd sit and talk about just the pain they were going through, the challenges that they were going through. They would have problems and I'd help them strategically think through what they were doing for greater impact. And I just realized, man, I love serving the church, especially youth ministers. I just loved it. And so while the magic was a fun thing, I never wanted to be a magician. I just want to be strategic in ministry and God kind of gave me this opportunity to do that.
Speaker 2:
That's awesome. Now from there, I mean I think for a lot of us, we know you from maybe from Y S days and planet wisdom stuff and wisdom work stuff. What was kind of the time in between working with Dawson? Were you serving in various churches and some different roles? Or how did, what was kind of the arc of, you know, you feel called to both the local church but also the local youth pastor. What was kind of the trajectory for you in some of those different kinds of phases and chapters of your career?
Speaker 3:
I am kind of unique in that I've never actually been on staff at a church. Okay. I'm ordained a, I serve as like a lay pastor at my church that I'd been at here in Texas for, uh, 28 years. Um, I was a volunteer in the youth ministry program for about 20 years of that time. Um, but I never actually served as a youth pastor or on staff at a church. I was always in a parish church. Yeah. Very cool.
Speaker 2:
Very cool. Okay. What, what is, um, so we're gonna get into some of the book stuff here in a little bit. Uh, cause you have a great new, uh, handbook out with David about some things related to this in the next generation for stuff. Um, what along the ways, um, kept your focus to young people? Cause that's one of the things I think for a lot of youth ministers, you know, they turn 35 or they start having some kids of their own. And so they just kind of naturally roll into you, you know, family concerns or associate pastor or just kind of other varied interests as like in the same way of young people. Like you go from being a youth to a teenager to kind of moving into the next thing. What has kept your interest and your vocation and your happening, uh, tuned into, dialed into, uh, this, this now and next generation kind of stuff?
Speaker 3:
Well, I've always seen working with teenagers, even college students as just, they're the most malleable. They're at a time where they're really looking for direction, they're hungry for it. They have time to really focus their lives on being shaped. Uh, you know, there's kind of an, in the field of adolescent development, there's kind of these idea that there are these direction setting questions that teenagers are asking questions of identity, questions of belonging, questions of autonomy, questions of epistemology. Um, and those questions are really critical to shaping who they become and to be able to work with teenagers and walk with them while they are trying to find the answers to those questions if you're setting an entire direction on a trajectory for the rest of their life. And I think that's where my work intersected with David Kinnaman because he was very concerned about that as well.
Speaker 3:
And he and I had been friends for a couple decades now and we've been doing research in the area of just young people in faith for a long time. And uh, [inaudible] I've always felt it was important to try to people working in youth ministry to think more broadly in terms of movements and trends that are larger in Fe. The intersection of faith and culture on just the kids in front of them. Yeah. And what you're dealing with. I mean, let's face it, I mean, as a volunteer it was just enough, like as soon as one week was over, I was staring the next week in the face. Same thing for those of us that are working in the church, right. You're, you get one week then and boom, the next one, the clock's ticking on the countdown for the next one. So Wednesday to Wednesday to Wednesday. Yeah, that's it. And one of the kind of the advantages that I felt God gave me, um, or, and not necessarily because it's better than being in the church as much as it is, it's more, um, a responsibility to steward this was the ability to fact I was moving around the country kind of experiencing youth ministry in all kinds of different contexts and could see some of the big picture.
Speaker 3:
And I asked myself, what's my, what's the responsibility that God gave to me? You know, not everybody who's doing youth ministry gets the opportunity to see that that's been placed on me. I have a responsibility and that's why I doing research and kind of looking at national trends, I felt that was something that God wanted of me to serve the local church for people who can't get that perspective because they're doing something I couldn't do, uh, which is be there every day for these students.
Speaker 2:
Well before we get into the questions that the book kind of proposes, I wanna I want to in that theme of, of our audience, uh, of, of many of youth minister that may be catching this on, uh, on a Thursday morning after one of those Wednesdays and already their mind is set on what am I going to do next week? Am I gonna make a difference? How am I gonna make it to next week? W what, what are some of your reflections in traveling around, speaking and doing over the last couple of decades? What are some of the questions that help elevate a youth ministers thought life from the Wednesday to Wednesday stuff? I mean there's the research out there, there's the things that you guys find and kind of sharing the book, but on a very personal level, if you're meeting with a youth pastor for coffee, like what are some of the questions that you're trying to like pull out of them to keep them from kind of like falling into their own thinking inward on their own. Like, you know, everything becomes my group, this church, this situation, this moment. How do you kind of encourage and lift them out of some of those like maybe spirals of questions?
Speaker 3:
Yeah, I mean, I think what's really cool right now about being in youth ministry is youth ministers are able to connect more than they've ever been able to. Right back when I was starting in youth ministry, we didn't have the internet. Um, our, our ministry planet wisdom was one of the first mobile sites for teenagers. We were doing podcasting before people even had bandwidth to receive a podcast. Uh, we had literally artificial intelligent chatter bots that could counsel with teenagers that became so expensive as the technology was sold. We couldn't even afford it ourselves anymore. Um, and so there was a lot of really cool stuff watching the trajectory of technology and how it's brought us together. Um, but it also has some downsides to it as well because while I can connect to the world, um, it can also be a huge time suck away from the work that I need to be doing locally.
Speaker 3:
And so there's kind of this, given this take I think youth pastors have never before been able to connect with one another, been able to think more broadly globally than ever before. Uh, just because of the tools that we have to not be isolated yet. There is this kind of alone together thing that I think affects youth ministers to where we are experienced even more isolation in in some ways and we size don't leverage all the opportunities that we have because we are connecting online sometimes more than we are with our physical presence locally in the geography God's given us to serve. I don't know if that makes sense, but,
Speaker 2:
no, it makes a 100% sense. And I'd say for somebody who even youth ministry booster, like that networking element to connect in a meaningful kind of learning, growing experience is a really important asset facet of what we're trying to do. What do you feel like? I mean, I, and I hear it talked about in kind of like a different kind of metal level that we're, we're so aware that we're, you know, we're like paralyzed to do much like there were, we're so aware of everything happening that we almost feel like paralyzed or useless to do much good in our own kind of local situation in our own kind of local setting that whatever's happening so broadly, uh, almost like over informs us for like being courageous in our own local context. Like do you feel like that's like a growing trend and alarming trend? Like what, what was something you would speak new to that?
Speaker 3:
I remember when I first sat down with a tic long at youth specialties, and this is before I joined the team and I had never really met and had a relationship with anybody on that as before I'd published any books with them and tick just said, what's your impression of you specialties? And I said, you know, I can never figure out whether you're hurting or helping youth ministry. Okay. Okay. I'm a, I'm being really honest here. Okay. That, that was a question I asked. Yeah. I think tick was actually kind of impressed that I was so honest. Laid it out there. Yeah. Uh, what did these guys kind of laid it out there? And he said, well what do you mean by that? And I said, well, you know, there's a a part of me that says, you know, part of the reason that we want to provide resources to youth pastors is so that you can get the best of the best of that. You, if you can spend less time worrying about gains and creativity, that gives you more relational time with a teenagers. But if what you start perceiving is that youth ministry is games and easy creativity, then maybe you don't invest in the relationships. So it's kinda a two edge sword, right? Because the, the resource that you're providing to help somebody get ahead could actually cause them to atrophy in the areas you're trying to free up. Does that make sense?
Speaker 2:
Oh, I see. Okay. Now. Now you're, now you're about to start a conversation because I, uh, I worry man, like I know he'll, here's the real, here's the real deal. Like I worry that we've made so many of the aspects of youth ministry so easy that when it comes time to do the hard work, we get confused why it's not as easy as some of the other aspects, right? Like, like figuring out what I'm going to teach or what game I'm gonna play or what I'm going to put together, uh, has never been more convenient. Like I, I started in youth ministry like early two thousands, so it was right on the cusp of like having the internet but not having any like centralized hubs for anything. So we could like, we were having to like Google image, our own PowerPoint trivia games that we thought were so cool with.
Speaker 2:
There was no like easy hub to access all of these things. Or like, you know, may be somebody in our, in our convention or denomination was emailing out like sermon notes or whatever, but there was never this like easy network of accessing so many different resources. And if we had any kind of that stuff, it was like quarterlies and like Sunday curriculum that we were like furiously like editing and like copying and cutting clip art out of books or whatever. And I wonder if we've made so many of the different facets of ministry so accessible and so convenient and so candy bars that when we get into the hard work of preparing the relational meal that we just don't know way our way around the kitchen. Like is there a way of coming back from that? Is that, I mean, I guess maybe this is the segue a little bit into the book of resiliency or grit. Like what is, uh, is, is some of the tools, some of the questions for, for young people start first and those, that pastor young people,
Speaker 3:
you know, it's interesting, you know, you say, I think we, one of the things we lost in the 90s is the church planting movement started picking up steam. We lost a lot of really talented youth pastors and they all went into church planning and there was kind of energy around just missionally reaching people and discipling people that moved into church planning. And the way I perceived it nationally as I came in to lead Y S and, and help all that was that we really had like a, a talent gap generationally. Um, you know, we had this kind of baby boomer segment of talent in, uh, in ministry. Doug fields would be like on the, the line of that between the true boomers and the gen excers and he's kind of like, you know, you need elders and in that generation, yeah, yeah. But then, but then there's like this huge like void of, uh, of, of people.
Speaker 3:
And it's not that there aren't talented people in that generation, I don't want to say that at all. But there is, uh, a sizable population that decreased and diminished. The baby boomers then owned that space a really long and made it harder for gen Xers to move into that space. And so a lot of them got frustrated and moved out into, you know, church planning or some other field that had an opportunity. Millennials are coming in, they've got really strong ideas, vision, new energy. But there's like a, there's just a gap there that's not completely connecting between generations that were having to recover from a little bit in my opinion, in, in youth ministry. Um, you know, I was talking with a, I remember Jim burns, Walt Mueller, uh, Duffy, Robbins chap Clark, Marv Penner, who else was sitting around rich van pelt, some of these guys that are like the godfathers of youth.
Speaker 2:
That's the true like boomer generation of the, yeah,
Speaker 3:
yeah. They were on the cutting edge and we're sitting in Atlanta in a hotel lobby and I just said, why does it my generation have the kind of friendships and camaraderie that your generation does? Like they have a, I mean, like they are really deep friends and um, Jim burns just said, you know what, we stayed in our spots too long. We didn't make space for you and we didn't hand off the Baton soon enough. And man, I the humility of, of that statement, but the, uh, awareness of it was really interesting and I actually, you know, went to a couple other gen X people that were leaders in youth ministry, one of them being Greg Steere and I just said, Hey, we need a, we need to start supporting one another better. We need to start building friendships. We need to really figure out how to leverage our generations wisdom and experience. But I thought that was really an insightful thing for Jim to say. Um, and it's not that I would want any of the sages who I love and respect so much to no longer be speaking into things, but there was a sense that there weren't a lot of spots. You know what I mean? Youth ministry is a very little small niche of ministry and um, we lost a lot of, a lot of talent generationally and we're, we're, we're recovering from that.
Speaker 2:
That's interesting that he talked about it being a Baton passing cause I feel like that in so many ways in youth ministry at least nationally is that the kind of underlying frustration for a lot of youth ministers that maybe had gone and planted churches or had gone and done other things is they felt like they had hit a lid in their own church and their own context. Uh, I think this is the, the not so quiet revolution of youth pastures for right or for wrong, hoping that they had a chance to preach or speak more because they just don't feel like they've grown into an authority. Like they feel like they've been kind of, you know, in the same way that the youth group has been sequestered off to one end of the building. They feel like maybe their own kind of leadership and authority has been kind of like had a circle drawn around it or something. And it's interesting to hear folks that have been close to it for that long and had been instrumental in so many of those things growing and doing would offer some of the same stuff. Well, what, what does, what does that put you now as someone who is maybe like living into that reality, thinking about that? Or what are some things that you're doing to Baton pass to, to hand off, to equip, to raise up, to make space for younger leaders? Was it looked like in your, in your own life, in ministry?
Speaker 3:
Well, it's a great question and um, I, I've, for myself, it's been trying to make myself as available as I could for the younger generation. I'm the longer leading a large organization, so there's not a lot of spaces for me to, to fill. But being very mindful of this Baton pass that we have to be preparing the way for the next generation, helping them think about it. Um, I think that there's like, so one of the other sides of this is that youth ministry was something that happened in isolation in the church much more than it does now. It still happens. Sure. But one of the things that we started seeing happen and just kind of a trend within the youth ministry culture while I was at Y S was it youth ministers were being included in the larger ebb and flow of the staff.
Speaker 3:
So the, the pastoral team at a church was thinking more strategically as a team, not in every church situation, but that was becoming more of a trend. So the youth pastor going off to a convention or an opportunity to hang out with other youth pastors more in isolation with other youth ministers was happening less because they were being included in a larger part of the leadership team of the church. I think that's a healthy trend. Um, I think that's a, a wise thing for churches to think more holistically about how all of the players integrate one another. You know, how has children's ministry handing off to youth ministry handing off to college ministry? And I think that allows youth ministers to make more healthy transitions. You know, back in the, in the 70s and early eighties there was a huge movement of being a youth pastor for life.
Speaker 3:
Right? I'm not gonna see this as a stepping stone to the senior pastorate. I'm a youth worker for life. And you know, people wore that as a badge of honor. That was, I believe, a generational calling. Um, I think that as we've all gotten older, we've started to realize that there are times when it is time to matriculate out of youth ministry. And if we're, if we're really being shepherds in a church environment to shift our shepherding role from one generation to the next, uh, that's a healthy thing. That's not necessarily a bad thing. And that's leveraging the cumulative wisdom of your life to be able to be even more influential. And so seeing a youth pastors grow up to become family pastors, next generation pastors, even to see so many of our great pastors in our, in our country that youth pastors at one point in time in youth ministry.
Speaker 3:
Yeah, yeah. And they, they, they came to understand more of a holistic way of living out the faith. It's appealing to kind of a new generation in our country. I think that's all really positive. And so I, I've always said, you know, people always said, Hey, how do I get to do what you do or how do I, I want to do what you do? How do I get to do that? And I said, man, I don't know. The only thing I know how to do is be obedient. Just God, what do you want me to do today? And sometimes that means that we go somewhere else when, you know, some people have asked, why did you leave, why ass? And it literally came down to looking at some things and realizing God was calling me to be obedient. And he was telling me it was time to step out.
Speaker 3:
Just a few months before I made that decision. I told some people that I was planning to retire at you specialties that that was as long as you know, as long as there was a place for me there, I was going to retire there. I fully believe that. Yeah, I fully believe that. And then little did I know that God was going to say, Hey, it's time to step into some new things. And in doing so, you know, the board even asked me, what do you want to go do? And I said, I don't know yet. I have to step out. I just know this is the part that God's asking me to do. And for a lot of people that didn't make any sense, you know, why would you step away from this, this role, uh, to do you don't know what. And that's sometimes what God calls us to. And literally within a few days, David called me and said, Hey, let's write that book we always wanted to write. Okay,
Speaker 2:
well let's talk about that book because, uh, so faith for exiles, uh, is your new book with David Kinnaman from, from Barna stuff? Uh, is he's the CEO there for things and written several different books on the topic of, of reaching this generation. Young people, obviously a lot of overlap, not only in your friendship but in both your shared interest and expertise. Uh, but I, I want to start with a question that's maybe maybe benign, but I'm just, just wanting to ask and that's, uh, do you have a date? Cause the, for all of our seminary folks, exile is a very keyed up date in the life of, of old Testament understanding and living for you in writing in this book and working on this book is is there a pinpoint a date or a move or a seismic shift that moves us out of whatever it was like to live in the promised land into this moment of exile? Or what do you see as like the, the primary shift until living in this new era of exile in Babylon or digital Babylon?
Speaker 3:
Yeah, I think it's really important that I don't think that we are ever truly in the promised land and we're no longer there. But that's I think the experience that people are having. Um, if their lived experiences that, and I want to make that real in the mindset of the mindset of the promise has shifted. Yeah. Well, I mean I think if you look at the new Testament, Paul always referred to believers as resident aliens, right? Our citizenship is now in heaven a, we are Christ's ambassadors as though he were making his appeal through us. This idea that we are living as ambassadors, as aliens in a foreign culture. I think that's always been the case. The experience of the United States though has been very unique because, uh, Christians have typically seen the United States as a new Jerusalem. That's part of kind of our country's narrative.
Speaker 3:
And I think when you look at just this whole move globally, not just in the United States, but globally toward nationalism, um, it's really, uh, in the United States, it's had a unique expression because of this, this idea. And so, um, when, when I say that about talk about us moving out of Jerusalem into exile, ship or digital Babylon, it's really more the perception of the live experience. But I think from a theological reality, we've always, since the Holy spirit came on Pentecost, we've always been living in a form of exile. We just haven't always realized it. And I think what's happening in this digital Babylon is just that we have moved, um, technology has caused us to move from more of a monotheistic homogenous culture into a pluralistic poly Theatro theistic culture. Um, and we are in an accelerated and complicated culture that were changes happening to get unprecedented rates. And that's very disoriented for people. And it's not just in the United States, almost every country around the globe is having some nationalists UPSer uprising. Uh, because there's a sense of disorientation that's happening.
Speaker 2:
And do you think trying to revive a certain kind of narrative that is, um, simplified or nationally aligned oriented is, is a rebuke of trying to navigate the complexity? Is that, is that, is that kind of the, the sense that I'm feeling is that everything's happening and changing so fast. So let's just simplify it down and rally around a few check points because it's easier to have like one or two concrete villains, uh, than it is to have maybe like just the complexity of everything.
Speaker 3:
Yeah. There's a great book called the way we weren't, and it's kind of a look back on, on, on the style GIA and how we've deceived ourselves to believing that life was actually better, you know, in the past. So sociology book, it's, it's rather old. But, um, but uh, yeah, I think there's a perception of that. I think that it's kind of like a dinosaur sinking in a tarpit going for its last breath of air. This movement. I don't think it's going to last. I don't think it's the way, the future. I don't think there's, it's going to go backward. Um, I don't know that it should go backwards. Um, just like, you know, living in Babylon was part of God's sovereign plan, right? And so the question is, is how do we, how do we live in this culture? How do we express Christ? How do we Jesus and how do we help a younger generation follow Jesus in this culture rather than longing for it to be a situation back to a situation that it's probably not going to return to
Speaker 2:
some, it may be. There's not a there, there for us to return to the more navigation of where we are here in this kind of age that we live in. So
Speaker 3:
God used people living in exile to accomplish great purposes in their time. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego literally proclaim the goodness of God to the leaders of every foreign, uh, government that was under Babylon's rule at that time. Every one of them saw the power of God displayed at the furnace. You know, that they were all assembled to worship this image of gold and they saw God perform a miracle on that day. And then they returned to their countries, right of origin as leaders saying, we just saw the one true living God do this amazing thing. God uses exiles to do some unbelievable things. So we need to be encouraged by that. We're living in that kind of a time where I think God wants to use a generation to do some extraordinary things. And as leaders and youth pastors, we need to be stewarding that responsibility really well.
Speaker 2:
Well, okay, cause that's one of things I want to get into because you do outline five key practices that we could spend maybe an episode talking about each one. Um, but resiliency is kind of the theme, at least for me, reading through it, the resilient disciple is kind of the move that you all want to make. That what we're looking for in this next and now generation is not any one key, um, intellectual pursuit or one kind of like virtue or ideal, but it is the whatever it takes in the whole kind of composition, composition and matrix of discipleship that makes us more resilient. But one of the things related to that is the ways in which we have to operate out of a power when we're not in power. And I think that's one of the things that, that you all tackle a fairly head on at least.
Speaker 2:
But I read it. That's what immediately while I was resonating with, when you're talking about resiliency, what you're talking about is being strong underneath a certain kind of pressure or expectation. Um, that is not the strength that's fueling you. Like when, when I hear resilience it's the people are saying you can't do this and therefore I will try to do it all the more, which means that in a lot of ways we are on the outs. And so, uh, I would love to hear more from you about that because I think for so many people, what we're talking about on this side of exile isn't just a post-Christian age, but as a Christian persecuted age, which is a very different kind of youth group experience and a very different kind of youth ministry leader.
Speaker 3:
Yeah. I mean I always want to be careful about how we talk about persecution in the United States because a lot of times we're not, a lot of times we're not persecuted, uh, for being like, Jesus, we're persecuted cause we're, we're stupid.
Speaker 2:
Ah, well, right, right. Which is deep friending a lot of people on Facebook because we're being persecuted. Right, right, right. Yeah. It's a, yeah. Careful nuance to those that are listening. Yes. Yeah.
Speaker 3:
Yeah. I've seen, I've seen the actual dead bodies of believers who were killed because of the gospel. And so I haven't seen anything quite like that in the United States. I want to be careful about that just from my own perspective cause we do talk a little bit about, you know, the pressure of living in a post-Christian, post-truth culture, but we're still haven't quite reached those levels of persecution. But let's face it, the culture is not kind to Christianity, uh, in the way that it used to be. So that there is some realities to that. I just wanna make sure I set the bars, they're a little bit on that word
Speaker 2:
and sometimes the Christian resilience is to be unkind back. And I think that's the important other nuance is that like resiliency isn't just, you were mean. So therefore I'm going to be meaner because that's, I don't hear that. And you're riding like, it's not like if you're throwing stones, we're throwing rocks or whatever. Like this is, you know, it's not, we're trying to Rob each other auntie that, that like this, this, it's resilience. It isn't necessarily the gritty like, well, if they're going to curse, we're going to curse harder or whatever the oneupsmanship might be. For some folks that are living into this like shift in power in regime of what it means to be the call, the vocational, the faithful to whatever. Yeah, it's really about bending and not, not
Speaker 3:
braking and in the bending actually growing stronger. And so, um, you know, for a lot of people that may be unfamiliar with the idea of resilience, uh, it's often described this way. If a pyramid is something that is very strong and stable, it's lasted for, you know, hundreds if not thousands of years. Uh, and we would say that's a very robust structure. Um, and sometimes when we think about our faith, we think about it as we need to build this robust structure. It's built on truth and it's built on, you know, the person of Christ. It's very robust. The only problem is that we think about our faith as being a robust brute force type of thing that we bring into existence. Let's just say that, uh, an explosion where to go off, uh, by a Vandal at a, a pyramid, it would destroy that pyramid of um, all those years.
Speaker 3:
And that pyramid is never going to rebuild itself. However, if you take that same explosive force in like a rain forest, it will destroy it. But that rain forest is resilient in such a way because it's a very complex ecosystem. They will actually reforest, you know, in Mt Saint Helens went off in Seattle, they said it's going to take hundreds of years for any life to come back. And already they're seeing life return, you know, not that long after, you know, the place was covered in Ash and everything was level because it's resilient and God builds us to be resilient in our faith, not robust. So if I'm robust, I can easily be destroyed and torn down. And what we've done in some situations, and the reason I think we're seeing this, um, dropout problem is we've tried to build a robust faith. We haven't built a resilient faith and a robust faith says, we've got all the answers.
Speaker 3:
We've got all the arguments. We've got all the systems and the structures and we've gotten you to live a life that's filled with these good habits of things and all that. But all it takes is somebody coming in and asking a question, raising a doubt, and it all falls to the ground. Whereas for resilient person stone removed. Yeah. Yeah. For that resilient person, that resilient disciple, they're challenged. And it actually, it actually leads to their faith becoming stronger. Right? They take that question, they take that doubt and they explore it and they have relationships that they can go to. They have a structure, they have a real relationship with Christ. And what we see is that that doubt actually makes faith stronger. That question actually makes, makes the faith more resilient. And that's what we're talking about when we talk about. And so what we did was we looked at, we looked at, uh, 18 to 29 year olds who had identified themselves as being Christians at some point in time in their life.
Speaker 2:
And that's your categorization, a of the nomad of the, of the, the X Chronicles, the unchurch, the [inaudible] protocols, the uncharged. Uh, the church goers and the disciple are the resilient disciples, which I want to touch on you. You have these categories laid out. But I think again, some of the intersections that I think are so really fascinating is it's not just a call for a, a better kind of theology or apologetic necessarily. Like, like I didn't get a sense in reading what you all have put together that what we have here is a, is a doctrinal issue. Like this is not a question of right belief. It's almost like a question of the right assimilation of belief into the rest of our life. And maybe that's just where I'm at when I'm working with our students. But that notion of a vocational discipleship, the notion of like curved entitlement, like just there's something that really spoke to that.
Speaker 2:
It wasn't just about a, like if we just were clearer in our theology, if we were just more articulate in our persuasion that we could just explain away a complex age. Cause when I first read the introduction I'm like, okay, we're in a complex age, we're just going to make sure everything is a lot more clarified and what we're sharing and we're communicating. But it doesn't seem to be a communication problem that seems to be a certain kind of like assimilation problem that not for us assimilating students into the church, but for us assimilating faith outward in student's beyond whatever youth group comes to be.
Speaker 3:
You know, what we did was the asset, a ton of questions of these different people in the research and found this sure enough, these four criteria that we, these four buckets that we identified among this group, there were real significant differences between them and how they answered these questions. And they were more integrated issues, more than they were, okay, here's a better process. Here's a better, you know, here's a better, here's a better set of steps to helping bring somebody to faith. Um, it, it, they were really were more integrative, holistic issues of helping develop, um, disciples. You know, one of the first one, it was just experience a real experience with Jesus. And, um, you know, we see a lot of people walking away from the church, but they're walking away from the church. They're not always walking away from Christ. And one of the things that we realized is that among those that were resilient, uh, that fit our profile for that they actually have a kind of that personal connection to Christ. So they don't see Christianity as a system of beliefs or a, a religion. It is a real relationship with the one true living God.
Speaker 2:
Something's been transformative in our life experientially. Yeah. Well that's one of those that I think that that's a jumping off point for a lot of youth ministers. Um, but, but again, you're, you're getting into in these later chapters that it's not just, it's not just the Jesus movement. It's not just the camp high experience. Cause I think for a lot of youth pastors, they would stop there. Right? Like for a lot of youth pastors like we had been trained in so much is that we hope our students have a conversion moment, an altar call experience. I camp high. But the thing that you're laying out after that, those, those are the ones that I think that man, I, those are really telling because inside the scope of a four to six year youth ministry program, we can do our best to try to deliver the atmosphere conditions for Jesus experience. But the thing that y'all are layering in as resilience is a lot of stuff that we're not doing. It's a lot of stuff that we don't have in place. Um, because we were just trying to put a check on that they had a really fulfilling transformative, like Jesus moment on a Sunday night or Thursday night at camp.
Speaker 3:
Yeah. I think that's, I think that's right. You know, in fact, we even found that resilient disciples came to faith a little bit later in their childhood. Uh, so, you know, that was an interesting kind of thing. We just did some averages and some means and stuff. Uh, looking at that because there is always that danger that we're socializing people to Christianity rather than actually introducing them to Jesus. And if I'm socialized to Christianity, then I can be unsocialized from Christianity. Uh, if I really have met Jesus, I can't not know Jesus. Right. And nothing can separate me from him. So it's a very interesting, you know, way of thinking about that. I've been encouraging parents as we've been unpacking this book with moms and dads. Don't try to rush your kids to conversion, um, be okay with them on a journey of faith that we're, we're Christ is going to meet them along the way, but don't try to get to that moment where you can announce to the family, Hey, Johnny, just, you know, yeah. Prayed to pray Jesus into his heart, you know, on Wednesday or whatever.
Speaker 2:
He's seven. He saved. We're done. Yeah, yeah, yeah,
Speaker 3:
yeah, yeah. It's uh, you know, it's, we want them to meet Jesus and sometimes that doesn't happen on our kids' terms. It happens on Jesus' terms.
Speaker 2:
So what, what do you, what do you think, and again, there's a lot of great stuff here in the book to unpack and there's some things maybe even to follow up with as this kind of plays out over the next couple of years for things, but what are some of the turning points for, for a youth pastor that hearing this, that maybe he's identifying with, you know, I have students that, you know, they come to church, they're a part of youth group, but I do worry after they graduate, I do worry as they become young adults in this world. Like what are some of the things that y'all have found in the research or in asking some of the questions that helped move us from a socialized into a, you know, a Jesus club, a youth group, a youth ministry, even the healthiest church can be guilty sometimes of just creating an environment that's nice and pleasant and loving. Like, what are some of the things that are inside the scope of a youth pastors, um, processes or leadership or sphere that would make you think some distinguishable difference is from just having a, a pleasant Jesus experience in a good church home in towards some of the hard work that it takes to kind of embed the resiliency in, in a faithful disciple?
Speaker 3:
I would say that of the five, five kind of themes that we found in the book, only one of them is kind of like a hug. I'm not so sure for most leaders. Most people though, when we share this with them go, Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, we do all that. And the reality is if you were, our research wouldn't show what it's showing. Sure. So the first thing that we have to do is we have to be humble and ask ourselves, are we doing this? Are we really doing this or are we fooling ourselves to believe that we're doing this? We're talking, you know, experiencing Jesus obviously, Oh, of course we experienced Jesus. How do you know what, how are you like, tell me about that. Um, meaningful relationships. Well, our church is all about relationships. We're a community and all that. Okay. So how are people really connecting?
Speaker 3:
We have lots of small news. How are we really connecting with people in some of the most painful ways in our, in our existence? Uh, and so this idea that we can always do these things more and more. Um, you know, Paul wrote to the church of vessel Odians and he said a vessel, and I can, he said, Hey, you know, I see you guys are loving each other and all this, but I wanna encourage you to do it more and more. In other words, you can't exhaust these things. And I'd say that's true with these five disciplines that we see here. Um, yes, churches may be doing this to some level, but the question is, are you doing it to the depth that it's actually bearing the fruit that you hope to see? Um, too, one of the things I think is really powerful for youth pastors in this is this idea of vocational discipleship.
Speaker 3:
This idea of helping young people identify who God made them to be. Like, what is their soul print? Um, not just their spiritual gifts, that's important too, but their national talents, their natural passions and desires, and then really helping them think about how do they, how do they use those things to glorify God and make him known in their life so that their understanding of the Christian faith is not just about attending church, but it literally goes into the work that they do. So if you're interested in the science, how would, how would God use science to create, um, you know, to increase the food supply, to feed the poor and the feed the hungry, uh, to, to use it, to heal, right? Uh, how would he use science to, uh, create better lived communities and cities? There are so many ways that we can take these things that we're interested in and use them to make the world, uh, like to live on earth as it is in heaven.
Speaker 3:
If every young person starts thinking about their faith in terms of how do I live on earth as it is in heaven, we will live a transformed life because it will be changing the world around us with everything that we're doing, not just a little bit of time on Sunday and Wednesday nights. And so getting kids to think that way at a young age in terms of where they're going vocationally is really, really powerful. And uh, and will help them be resilient, um, because there'll be carrying their faith into where they're going to be spinning the majority of their time and energy as they go into their adulthood. And so, uh, that's a really important thing. And I think youth pastors have a really unique opportunity to, I would encourage every youth pastor to think of yourself as a vocational coach. I would explore that field.
Speaker 3:
I would learn. Well, Mark, that's very different than a program director is, it's about people development, right? But the, think about this, every, every Christian parent, I fundamentally believe every Christian parent wants a couple things. They want one for their kids to know Christ too. They want their kids to be in a relationship that leads to marriage and family. And then third, they want their kids to have a sustainable career that they enjoy. I think that's true of every Krisha parent. I think for non Christian parents you just have to remove that. They want their kids to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and they'd say, I want my kids to have a healthy family. I want my kids to have a career that they enjoy, but that's also sustainable. Okay, so how are we doing youth ministry? We do a lot of evangelism. Let's introduce them to Jesus.
Speaker 3:
We talk about relationships and purity and all that kind of stuff. Um, and our teaching can only go as far as their, their will on that. But then what about that, that career piece you want to talk about increasing your value in your community to where if you could give advice to people about their career and help them find it, you'd have non Christian parents coming to you saying, how can I connect? In fact, one of the last ideas I had at [inaudible] was working on a program. It was code named bowstring. Um, and the, this idea was about, uh, how do we help youth pastors live into this idea of vocational discipleship? And, uh, we were developing a program around helping train youth pastors to like imagine on Saturday being able to send out something to all the parents in your community and say, Hey, we're gonna have a career workshop at our church for your kids.
Speaker 3:
Yeah. Without doing any proselytize, you said, Hey, look, we're obviously believe in faith. We believe that God has a wonderful plan for your kid's life, but you may not believe that. We believe that. We want to help them today by talking about some things that can help you as a parent, set them up for a really incredible successful future. And then you have, you know, some regular meetings that the their students can participate in. They help them explore that. I'm telling you, it could be revolutionary for youth pastors if they were able to embrace that. And we were able to see, bring that kind of value to communities. You're getting me, you're getting me all over the place on things.
Speaker 2:
No, no, no, no, no. I like it. And once we will have you back again, we'll talk more about it. Um, if folks, if folks want to obviously read the book and dive into it, uh, what, what are some ways in which they can kind of engage with you some more about some of these conversations and dialogues, uh, around things related to vocational discipleship and resiliency in their young people? What are some ways they can connect with you? What are some things, um, that you would encourage them to check out and look into?
Speaker 3:
Yeah, if you go to faith for, uh, that's the book site and I would encourage everybody to, to look at the book. I think there's a lot of really good stuff in this book that will just inspire a lot of thinking. But one of the things that we know is that the way you apply these insights to your church will be very different based on the community you're in. The gifts, talents, and calling of your community. So we actually put together some easy tools for church leaders that give you some tools so that with your team, um, you can actually work together with post it notes and some canvases and maps and evaluations that we give you in this e-course, uh, that you can actually use to help implement these insights in a context specific way. So it's not a one size fits all for your community, for w so that you can be as obedient to God as possible. Leveraging these insights and those tools are some of the best things that we, we have to offer.
Speaker 4:
We'll post that link in the show notes below in a, again, Mark, thank you so much for stopping by today to talk with us and hopefully we'll get you back soon and we can talk even more about resiliency in this new Babylonian and yeah, it's really great to be with you. Today's act. Thanks for having me on.
Speaker 4:
There you go. That's episode a one 87 with the man Mark Matlock. Mark. Thank you so much for Sharon. Again, I hope that you caught all the wonderful things that Mark had to say. Uh, do check out the book. There's some really helpful and insightful framing for the ways in which youth ministry and young adult ministry has some hope moving forward and Mark and David, thank you for your work there. Uh, check out the tools linked below. You can learn more about how faith for exiles might be a helpful book and resource and toolkit or your staff team or your volunteer leadership team that you guys think through the ways in which this might help shape and reshaped Nathan she stuff. If you're looking for some more collaboration you past youth pastor, do check out. You've for your coaching and collaborative network as we equip and encourage youth ministers nationwide. Again, thank you for listening this episode. If you liked and you hadn't rated and reviewed, give us that, but until next time we'll talk to you real soon.
Speaker 5:
I don't remember [inaudible]
Speaker 6:
how are you? Are you asking me the question? Okay. Oh, yeah, I was, I was getting ready for this. All right, let's go. Let's record this thing. Okay. Okay. I'm like all waiting for waiting.
Speaker 3:
First started like an intro or something. Okay, great. Okay. All right, so cue me up again and I'll, I'll, I'll, I'll, I'll hit.

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