“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
How do we bring good news to our youth? How do we proclaim release to our youth and the recovery of sight? How do we let our oppressed youth go free or proclaim God’s favor to them? These are the questions that arise when we begin to understand youth ministry as proclamation.
Proclamation is the act of injecting the good news of Christ into the life of another person. This happens in many ways.
Some consider proclamation to be the word of God preached from the pulpit by an ordained minister. Others do not limit it to the office of ordained ministry but do limit it to the reading or preaching of God’s word in worship. Others expand it beyond that to include any event of speaking God’s promises into the life of a believer, but it is still speech. And still others expand it to something resembling the quote often attributed to (but never actually written by) St. Francis – “Preach the gospel at all times; use words if necessary.”
Proclamation in youth ministry must contain both speech and action because actions without speech can be misunderstood and speech without action is not trustworthy.
The lives of our youth are filled with words and messages. The American Psychological Association claims they process more than 40,000 television commercials a year. This does not include print or on-line adds which would (of course) drastically increase that number. When we proclaim Christ’s good news it might only be heard as one among many sound bites – another slogan that might be intriguing but not necessarily transformative. That is, until we also act out Christ’s good news in their lives. Our young people are not in need of one more disembodied word or slogan posing to be good news. They need good news to engage them as word and flesh (John 1:14). This is our call as the body of Christ – to proclaim good news, release, sight, freedom and favor in word and deed.
But proclamation is not the simple process of reiterating age-old biblical stories and values in catchy new ways. It is the long hard process of sinking deeply into the bad news of our young people. The gospel of Jesus Christ becomes good news when it directly confronts and defeats those aspects of our reality that threaten our humanity, our future and our drive towards life (John 10:10). We cannot proclaim good news prior to understanding the bad news.
This is why proclamation is one of three core practices of youth ministry. Without interpretation and discernment, proclamation is nothing more than words and slogans vying for the allegiance of our youth. Without proclamation, discernment and interpretation are arrogant attempts to know the mind of God.
These practices of interpretation, discernment and proclamation feed and challenge one another. Separated, they remain meaningless and possibly dangerous. Together, they become the substance of a life of discipleship. All interpretation, discernment and proclamation must be relational, theological, ecological, experiential and vocational. These are the five foundations of this youth ministry anti-model to which I will turn in future posts.
This post is the fourth post (of 9) in this “anti-model” series.
- Part 01: youth ministry anti-model
- Part 02: youth ministry is interpretation
- Part 03: youth ministry is discernment
- Part 04: youth ministry is proclamation
- Part 05: interpretation, discernment and proclamation are theological
- Part 06: interpretation, discernment and proclamation are relational
- Part 07: interpretation, discernment and proclamation are holistic
- Part 08: interpretation, discernment and proclamation are vocational
- Part 09: interpretation, discernment and proclamation are experiential