June 12, 2013

book: Good Faith Hunting by Henry Stewart

I talk a lot about young adults. Due to my work, my own sense of calling and interest in it, young adult culture is something I'm always interested in. And it's something that the media has long been interested in–Douglas Rushkoff did a series for Frontline several years ago on youth culture called "The Merchants of Cool." But recently, Christians have taken a specific interest in young adults. The Barna Group reported on the numbers of young people leaving churches, providing some distinction as to how and why certain young people leave. But its not just young adults that are leaving churches. Nor do the cultural shifts that have led people to leave influence young people alone.

In his book, Good Faith Hunting author Henry Stewart addresses the changes in church and culture that have led another generation to leave the church in great numbers: Baby Boomers. Stewart begins by looking at the work of researchers, such as Alan Jamieson, who studied the reasons why Boomers were leaving church. Not so different than the findings of the Willow Creek's Reveal study–which I'm assuming was made up considerably of Boomers, Stewart finds that those that leave church often remain people of faith (similar to what Barna reports here). In Good Faith Hunting, Stewart argues that part of this has to do with the "stage of faith" many Boomers find themselves in which the church fails to address. Drawing from James W. Fowler's work in Stages of Faith (here's a chart), establishes that, in short, faith is a journey–far from static and acknowledging this, providing an environment in which people can name this and address this is necessary. People leave church when this kind of process is not provided. Stewart goes on to demonstrate faith-as-journey through several life stories of biblical and extra-biblical characters.

I had a conversation last week in which several young adults expressed their desire to be in community with people outside of their age group. This was part of why they found a church in the city–to be in community with folks at other life stages. Many things in life we learn best by watching others navigate those things ahead of us. Problems we face today may be due, in part, to the compartmentalization in Christian education programming established in previous eras. The need to connect with the spiritual journey of a younger generation does not equal abandoning your own. In fact, being able to understand and articulate your own spiritual journey is immensely helpful to others.

Some books should've been articles in journals or magazines. Some articles should've been blog posts. Some blog posts should've been tweets. What Stewart offers in this book is worth hearing, though I don't know if it needed to be bound in a book. That said, I'm glad he's started the conversation. The changes we're seeing in western culture effect much more than one age bracket–it effects all of us. But there's more to life than the culture we share. Attending to the spiritual journey–no matter what stage–is part of our work as Christians. It is what discipleship is.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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