This is a book intended for young people who ‘feel that no one quite understands what you’re going through’, but also for parents, youth workers and pastors. He doesn’t promises to provide all the answers, but to give insight into his own life – the son of Clive Calver (a ‘preacher man’), who grew up with an ‘inherited faith’, and fed up with the ‘eyes and expectations’ on him – abandoned faith altogether.
Born 1979, he is now on the leadership team of Youth for Christ, and is keen to see the Church develop in ways which will make it appealing to youth – apparently 75% of Christians were converted before the age of 20. I haven’t yet read all of it, but the bits I’ve read have been fascinating as a biography, but give much insight to life in a Christian home (familiar enough to me, and my parents aren’t famous preachers!). His writing style – as you may expect from someone who regularly works with youth, and aims this at ‘young people’ – it’s easy, direct and engaging.
So here’s a few extracts:
P22 : Fun
Why shouldn’t church be fun? Surely a Jesus who desires His people to be joyful would hope that His church would be described as ‘fun’, at least from time to time. What do we do as we grow up that makes church so boring and irrelevant to those who aren’t part of the Christian community? Why must we be so sensible? We lose people this way!
Many churches seem to set about things the wrong way. Congregations drone out protracted hymns on a Sunday morning about how happy they are to have a friend like Jesus, and yet they look as if they are starring at a funeral. They talk about sharing their faith with their community with love, and yet they look as though, if they smiled too quickly, their faces would crack in two. Is this really “contagious Christianity”?
Supporting Wimbledon was heaven. As a teenager I felt free only on the terraces at Wimbledon. It was the one place where I felt no burden of expectation. I could be anonymous in an environment that I was desperate to be a part of. I felt no need to rebel, as I was part of a community. We were heading in the same direction. It was easy to go with the flow when your lives and destinies are so mutually entwined. If Wimbledon won, we would all celebrate. If they lose, we had one another for support in our mourning. For the first time I experienced what I perceived to be true freedom and happiness.
Being part of a community of football supporters wasn’t that different from going to church. The same optimistic and faithful remnant would turn up each week without fail. Within the group that gathered on the terraces were the usual characters, just as there were in the church hall sipping coffee every Sunday morning. Included in this group were the people who remember the ‘good old days’ when everything was perfect and who hankered after a return to such times. So too were there those who had to seek attention by being very vocal, who were desperate to be heard, no matter how trivial the issue, they had a view on everything! Finally, in both establishments there were those who were utterly convinced that everything had to change immediately or there was surely no point in carrying on.
The subject of worship also threw up striking resemblances. Now this was uncannily similar. Communal singing, in which adoration was poured onto the players on the pitch, was the order of the day. The crowd had their favourites songs, which they would sing with extra gusto, just as those in church do when they sing their favourites hymns. I was from a charismatic background, as it seemed even more like church when the arms went up in the air and people closed their eyes at particular heart-rending moments. The belief in football certainly seemed as authentic as any faith in Jesus.
I used to go to a church where a young girl who lived with her boyfriend, took drugs and abused alcohol walked into the building one day and gave her life to God almost instantaneously. The church accepted her and didn’t tell her that her lifestyle was wrong and that she couldn’t be part of the community until she changed it. Instead the young girl simply got on with it and pursued a relationship with Jesus. She read the Bible, prayed a great deal and just tried to learn for herself. [He follows this with a description of how she then came to her own conclusions about what she wished to change, but in the meantime she was accepted by God as she was.]
Prepared for use as an Oak Hall Leader.
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.