Thursday, September 22, 2005

Yoga and Youth Ministry

Some folks will see this as a big problem. To them, when "a leading Christian publisher of youth ministry material" is teaching youth leaders to incorporate New Age activities into their churches in order to invite "direct experiences with God," it's a big problem.

Forgive me, but I'm not that concerned about it.

Why? Simply because I doubt that very many churches that are now committed to the sufficiency of Scripture are likely to abandon it impulsively in favor of yoga, transcendental meditation, and centering "prayers." I suspect that this sudden love for ancient exercises of "spirituality" is simply a reaction to the already-present-but-only-now-recognized emptiness in youth ministry grounded in feelings, felt needs, friends, and fun. Is yoga bad for the Church? Sure, but it's just a symptom, not the cancer itself.

I wonder if this trend is arising because young people are bright enough to figure out what their purpose-driven youth pastor is only beginning to sense—that their shepherd has no clue how to find clean, thirst-quenching water. That their shepherd only seems to find stale, putrid pools of storm run-off. That their shepherd has never learned for himself that his soul must thirst to know and worship the God of the Word, not the god conjured by the imaginations of the fallen mind. The bad news is that these New Age shepherds are only taking the sheep to another dirty puddle.

This might be a good thing. Maybe—just maybe—a few pastors will sprout some discernment when they see that some of the leaders in youth minstry are leading, but in the wrong direction. Or maybe I'm just an optimist.


anoninva said...

You need to do more research. Some churches won't ditch the scriptures for this, true. But this isn't just a few youth pastors trying to find something unique to make youth group more fun either. There is a definite movement by some in the church toward contempletive spirituality. Notice I didn't say Christianity, because it isn't Christianity but a counterfeit. People are seeking spiritual experiences, they aren't scripturally literate, and in their ignorance they will bring in, accept and practice any sort of spiritual exercise outside Christianity which appeals to them. At the best, this road will lead to Roman Catholicism. At the worst, it will lead them to paganism. See this website:

Ben said...

You'll notice that I never said this is an attempt to make youth group more fun. Just the opposite, in fact. Read my post, and you'll see that I believe that this trend is a reaction to the prevailing mindset that a youth pastor is a semi-sanctified entertainment director.

That doesn't mean I think it's a good reaction. Perhaps I didn't make my point clearly. THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING FOR THE CHURCH. It's just one more attempt to conjure spirituality without the activity or perhaps even the presence of the Spirit. In other words, I'm in wholehearted agreement that this is not Christianity.

My point is that many people will see this as a horrible watershed moment when Youth Specialties abandons Scripture. But that's ridiculous. YS abandoned the sufficiency of Scripture long ago (when so many professing gospel-preaching churches did).

For one representative illustration, read this previous post. Or subscribe to their e-mail list and evaluate whether Scripture or pop culture is at the helm of the ministry.

John said...

Not to hijack your topic, Ben, but trying to correct a little libel by anoniva, harmless though it may be.

Perhaps anoninva needs to do more research him/herself. Do "yoga, transcendental meditation, and centering "prayers,"" actually lead a person on the road to Roman Catholicism? How do these things do this? Can you explain or back up what you said? I'm not asking for a response, especially when conversation on this topic may not be welcome on the blog, but I am asking anoninva in the future to reconsider posting things like he or she did about the Catholic Church when there are no grounds to do so.

anoninva said...

John, you say I have no grounds, but in fact I do. I worked for a time in a christian bookstore plus I have friends who are members of the RCC and I am judging by their personal practices and the authors they read (Henri Nouwen, St. JOhn of the Cross, Teresa of Avila to name only 3) all of which focus on contempletive spirituality and centering prayers, and lecto divina. There is a huge focus on the part of many in the RCC toward contempletive spirituality. Conservatives would perhaps choose Teresa of Avila, newcomers might read Brennan Manning (ex-priest). BTW, I didn't say yoga could lead one to the RCC, I said contempletive spirituality could.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the point that you are making. I think that greatest hinderance/challenge to the modern church is the culture of entertainment that we have accepted. That somehow, we must compete with television to be "relevant". I also think that the greatest diffrence in strength between the early church and today's church was the seriousness with which they approached their faith. Then again a date with a lion will do that. I also hear stories about churches in China, Africa, and other 3rd world countries experiencing great revival. I am willing to bet they also have an attitude that is serious when it comes to sin, salvation, and revolutionizing their surroundings. Meanwhile, our ministries preach to felt needs, train us in yoga, and set up poker weekends to strengthen our faith. And we wonder why our churches lack power.
Thinking about your post helped me to crystalize my feelings on this matter. Thanks.

anoninva said...

...then again....take note:


"The Rev. Annette Jones, pastor of St. John's On The Lake First United Methodist Church, became interested in Buddhism while working as a pastor in Houston in 1990. A counselor to people dying of AIDS, Jones turned to Buddhist philosophy, where she found practical ways of dealing with death, particularly the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence and the meditation on dying.

''I remembered from my seminary days that Buddhism used dying as an entrance into meditation and self growth,'' she said.

After getting a Ph.D. in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy at Rice University in Houston, Jones moved to Miami Beach in 1999 to take the pastor's post at St. John's, where she began teaching a course on Buddhism and Christianity.

On Monday nights, Jones and up to 12 students squeeze into the church office to practice a form of Tibetan Buddhist meditation that includes mantra recitation, yogic breathing, and concentrating on the Tibetan letter ''A.'' There's little mention of Christianity.

''As far as I'm concerned, what has to fit is the inner experience,'' she said.

Some seekers have entered Christianity through Buddhism. After 15 years of Buddhist practice, Susan Postal was baptized as an Episcopalian in 1985 after she experienced ''a reconnection with Christianity'' during meditation. Postal, who continues to act as a Zen meditation teacher, said a number of her students are practicing Catholics, and several are lapsed Catholics.