2012 February: Rev Carver Anderson
The Oliver Lyseight Annual Lecture
Rev Carver Anderson – February 2012
New Testament Church of God, Leadership Training Centre
Challenges of Black Pentecostal Leadership in the 21st Century
Youth Culture: Friend or Foe?
I count it an honour to greet you all today, as friends, workers, ministers, pastors, theologians, men and women of God, seeking to make a difference in your respective contexts. It is indeed a privilege to be invited by Rev Phyllis Thompson and her board to deliver the fifth Oliver Lyseight Annual Lecture. As I understand it, these lectures are intended to explore issues and themes that confront Black Pentecostal leadership in the 21st Century. Of course, these issues can also be pertinent within a white or ecumenical leadership framework. So it is today. This lecture seeks to explore issues of youth culture and its expressions that may impact churches and communities across this country…
This lecture seeks to build on that legacy. It seeks to develop a framework that will enable us to seriously consider how we engage young people (churched and un-churched) during these times, where competing values and moral challenges bombard us on a daily basis. I intend to map this by reflecting on the past, assessing the present context, developing a greater understanding of both and proposing strategic interventions. This will enable our theological reflection and exploration to suggest a strategic framework for revised practice and action associated with young people. My approach here draws on insights gained from a consideration of what has been called Practical Theology.
Setting the Scene: Do Young People Matter?
As we share this time together, I wish to acknowledge the many families and friends who have lost young people. These young people were taken from us through senseless violence and attacks. We remember Rhys Jones (Liverpool ), Anthony Walker (Liverpool), Ben Kinsella (London), Stephen Lawrence (London), and Charlene Ellis and Latisha Shakespeare (Birmingham), just to name a few. Some of you here may still be grieving the loss of a youngster also “gone too soon” – I am. It is not easy to bear, I can assure you. I can also assure you that, whether these young people belong to our communities or not, their loss is our loss and the pain of their families should also be our pain. Many of us saw Doreen and Neville Lawrence express their grief at the sentencing of the two men accused of Stephen’s murder, albeit eighteen years on… There are times when I reflect on my own history and the issues that I encountered as a youth and have to thank God for life. There were times when my family thought they had lost me to the culture of the “streets” or the “world”. Our fellowships and churches are not immune to the threats and impacts of the world “on road”. So, how then do we as Christian leaders and concerned individuals seek to make sense of a street culture that is more confusing, conflicting, violent, engaging and secular?
I would be very naïve to suggest that there is a simple answer to this. However, a first step needs to be to understand the world we’ve described as the young people themselves see it and experience it.
…Given the real and tangible challenges facing young people, their families and communities, I suggest today, that we are at a critical point right now. If our churches’ influence and impact in communities becomes further diminished, we are faced with the increasing possibility of greater disaffection and marginalization, especially with those who are associated with the Luke 4: 18 text:
||God’s Spirit is on Me; He’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the burdened and battered free. (MSG)
I am mindful that many of you may be attached to groups and churches with active youth programmes, which seek to develop relevant and meaningful spiritual and physical activities that engage primarily with young people who are church affiliated or are at least responsive to what the church offers. These young people may not have been seen in the uprisings or riots that ravaged our towns and cities in August 2011. However, it does not mean that the influences and temptations to be involved were not present for them. I am aware of families and friends of church leaders and members who are attending court because a young family member has been involved in criminally orientated activities and lifestyles.
I suggest to us today, that the riots across this country should be seen as a wake-up call for our churches. We need to wake up in terms of our theological responses to the issues that daily impact individuals, families and communities whom we seek to serve…
The critical question at this juncture is: Has the church or the Christian Community got a responsibility to engage with young people associated with our churches and those that are un-churched or marginalized?
…We are faced with complex inter-connected issues, which require us to consider carefully how we should approach them.
Reframing: a conclusion as a new start
The first step is to talk honestly and openly. In our discussions and conversations, we need:
||To remain open to new thoughts and ideas, as these may be catalysts for developing a more engaged and community-orientated church, where help can be asked for or offered regardless of their membership status;
||To remember the empowering nature of Pentecostalism in the pursuit of relevance and effectiveness;
||To work towards an evidenced-based theology and mission that reaches out in partnership and a spirit of engagement to the wider community;
||To establish and reaffirm youth engagement forums within the church, so that young people and their contemporary expressions of faith can influence church policies, procedures and projects.