Stirring The Cultural Soup -- By: Walt Mueller

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 13:1 (Spring 2016)
Article: Stirring The Cultural Soup
Author: Walt Mueller

Stirring The Cultural Soup

Walt Mueller

Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, and can be heard on CPYU’s daily radio program, Youth Culture Today.

Editorial Note: Walt Mueller has been a personal friend and cultural advisor to the Youth Ministry Institute at NOBTS for over 20 years. No other voice could contribute better than Walt to the discussion on youth ministry and theology as it relates to culture. When we contacted him about contributing to this issue of the journal, he suggested we draw from his book, Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture. The following are excerpts from the book, pasted into a narrative on the soup of youth culture, what it means, and how it intersects with biblical truth and theology. We are grateful to Walt and to InterVarsity Press for allowing us to include his thoughts.

Culture is what we believe, what we do, and how we live our lives from day to day. It binds us to those who think and live in a similar manner. John Stott describes culture as “a tapestry, intricate and often beautiful, which is woven by a given society to express its corporate identity.”1 Bill Romanowski offers a simpler and more direct definition: “culture refers to the way that we define and live in God’s world.” It is “a collection of ideals and beliefs, values and assumptions that makes up a kind of master plan for living and interpreting life.”2 For our purposes, culture is the “soup” the emerging generations swim in every day.3

As a child I loved to spend afternoons swimming in my friend Stuart’s pool. Jumping out of the steamy summer air into the cool, clear water was heavenly. We’d swim for hours on end. When I’d head home for dinner, the effects of the pool were obvious. My body was dripping wet. My eyes were reddened from the pool’s chlorine. And my fingertips were shriveled like raisins.

Swimming in the soup of today’s postmodern culture isn’t any different, except for the fact that our kids are in it twenty-four hours a day. To assume that culture has no influence or effect on them would be to misunderstand who they are and ultimately forfeit our ministry

effectiveness. Consequently, if we want to engage the young for the sake of the gospel, we’d better take the time to know what’s in the soup.

In one of our local restaurants, the soup bar typically features three selections. I’ve watched how people cho...

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