October 18, 2014

Learning From Retired PC(USA) Pastors

Check this: A white 72-year-old PC(USA) pastor who used to participate in civil-rights activism in the 1960s told me this story about Young Life in Alabama in the 1970s during his years doing youth ministry in the North Alabama Presbytery:

As the Presbyterian Church got more and more involved in social justice and introduced more and more of their youth to connect the gospel to social action, Young Life came to town and pulled the middle and upper-class white kids out of the Presbyterian (what became the PC-USA) church-based fellowship groups and would meet separately with them to focus on individual salvation and personal spirituality and to keep them out of getting involved in social justice. The goal was to get them to camp. They would keep these teens Christianity separate from the social issues of the day. (He also mentioned that at camp the Presbyterian kids would then loses their Presbyterian commitments and when they graduated high school would join non-denoms and be introduced to all kinds of muddled theology).

In his part of north Alabama, the Presbyterian churches would hold their youth fellowship meetings on Sunday nights. When Young Life came to town, many of them would set up their meetings on Sunday nights as well. Yes, the same night at church-based youth events. This pastor was explaining to me why it is that whenever he hears “Young Life” he gets angry.

I just sat there. I didn’t know what to say. These conversations are blowing my mind.

3 response to “Learning From Retired PC(USA) Pastors”

  1. It’s apples and oranges, really. Young Life is parachurch organization concerned chiefly with getting kids saved and discipleship into the church. Social justice isn’t a part of that mission. The pastor may not like that, but it wouldn’t be the first time a para church ran afoul of a local church pastor. But they have a different mission, a different calling.

  2. Interesting. I was involved for a couple years with Young life in the mid 80s and had a similar experience. I was a committed member of a local PC(USA) church and also participated as a lead member of YL (I attended Camp Saranac for 2 years). By my JR year of high school i started to recognize a dilemma of having Church worship, youth group and then YL on the side. While i appreciated YL’s ability and desire to get into the HS and reach kids, i also saw YL making *no* attempt to lead young believers and “seekers” to any local church. there were young YL “believers” with no church membership or attendance. When I challenged a YL leader on this I was told that it was due to the local churches not preaching the gospel. Hmm.

    I stopped attending YL with the main reason being that YL had falsely advertised itself. Their leaders would approach churches for funding and claim they were working with the churches but in my experience I discovered something different.