Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JDFM 4:1 (Fall 2013) p. 38
Brian H. Cosby. Reclaiming Youth Ministry From an Entertainment Culture. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2012, 160 pp., $12.99.
For years the model in youth ministry was to pursue the shock effect, eat copious amounts of greasy pizza, play games, and if possible connect Jesus through that with a simple message. Attendance in youth ministries was seen as the prize to pursue, from not only church leaders but also youth ministers. The idea seemed to have been, “If they come, we have reached them,” or at least that’s how it seemed to many of us (28). Moving from one high to the next was a never-ending pursuit, mirrored in the culture-at-large by the constant stream of “I’m bored” posts on Facebook. More so, youth ministries were segregated from the greater life of the church, removing the students from regular contact with senior adults and even their parents. The strange irony is, through Cosby’s experience in youth ministry, students are hungry for truth, doctrine, fellowship with the church, and challenging discipleship. This book is a response to the entertainment culture in many churches, with a plea for youth ministries to be foundationally about the gospel and to redefine “success” from numbers to faithfulness in ministry.
Cosby’s book is well-organized, with the middle chapters structured around the “means of grace” that he lays out in Chapter 2 as foundational for student ministry: the Word, sacraments, prayer, service, and community. He defines them as the ways that God works as he sees fit for the building up of his church (24). They are not ways of achieving salvation, but instead are seen as ways to build up students to be conformed to the imago Christi. For Cosby, the centrality of every youth ministry is the gospel, which he outlines as justification by faith. Service and ministry are seen then, not as paths to heaven by themselves, but a means of “strengthening our faith in His sufficiency, not ours” (31).
The Word preached and taught stands against a culture that is driven by what it can see. The response has been to diminish the role of exegetically-driven preaching and replace it with a casual story time with Scripture references throughout, even with visual cues on the screen behind the speaker. The premise is that because students are visually-saturated, this should be reflected in how they are taught. Cosby, however, is quick to point out that many students are able to memorize songs, so the transition to memorizing and treasuring Scripture should be natural.
Prayer is likened to the need of teenagers for authenticity, honesty and relationship, which are promoted in culture as coming from entertainment. The difficulty for many students is that they are exposed to passionl...
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