I have seen this book referenced in many places. Though its research is now somewhat dated, its conclusions continue to serve as a wake-up call to pastors and student ministers who want to make sure their young people at church hear the gospel of Christ crucified and raised and not merely moral instruction.
One reason I'm excited to be involved in the development of The Gospel Project for Students is for the opportunity to counter this moralistic deism with challenging, theologically robust materials that are grounded in the good news of Jesus Christ. I've got two videos to share along these lines.
The first video is a brief discussion between Matt Chandler, J.D. Greear, Ed Stetzer, and me on student ministry and the need to "go deep." The second video is by the hip hop artist Propaganda, in which he reminds us that God is the central figure in the Bible, not us.
Trevin Wax: What kind of trends do you see in student ministry that may be pushing people to a curriculum like this?
J.D. Greear: It seems like, for a while, there was a reaction against certain kinds of preaching that went to an extreme - a big divergence between "Do we go for depth?" or "Do we go for application?" "Do we go for relevance?" or "Do we go for theology?"
What I've found with students on up through college is that when we say "depth," we're not talking about the obscure nuances of Greek verb tenses. We're talking about depth in the gospel, showing how the gospel addresses the problems that are presented by society, the problems that are presented by their own lives. And if you're not deep in that way, you're not really relevant for that long because there are too many competing answers out there.
We are dealing with the encroaching secularization of our entire culture, which means that pat answers---"Just do these three things"; "Everything's going to be fine"---are not working anymore. The gospel has a more comprehensive and a better answer to the issues that are rising from within the heart of man and that are being assailed from secular universities, from places that don't agree with us. What you're seeing is this need to bring this together.
If it's not deep, it's not relevant.
Trevin Wax: That's a great point. One of the frustrating things that often happened when I was a teenager was that it seemed so many student ministers, or at least the vibe from teachers in student ministry was that they were talking down to us. Teachers at school expect a certain level of us, but then at church it really wasn't there. Why is it important for us to raise the bar so that students really rise to the occasion and meet a challenge?
Matt Chandler: They go to school and they're taking calculus and theory. And then they come to church and even as teenagers, they're getting morality. There's a real desire to control their sexuality. There's the drug and alcohol question. And there's a real desire to conform them to this picture.
Then you use the wrong tools to get them there. You end up with the fear of addiction or the fear of a sexually transmitted disease as kind of your ace in the hole trying to get them to do what you want them to do. Whereas, really, the gospel is the transforming work of God in the heart. And so, if they can do calculus, they can understand the depth of who God has revealed Himself to be.