What if God’s Plan is to use the Teenage Brain to Reform the Church?

Posted: August 12, 2009 in Uncategorized

Some back and forth ramblings on the teenage brain and reformation:

What if? Recently in a class taught by Dr. Nancy Going at Luther Seminary on Adolescent development and Spiritual Formation we discussed recent discoveries about the teenage brain. Particularly how adolescents literally think in the part of the brain where we experience emotion. It’s not until the early 20’s that frontal lobe becomes the guide. Teenage passion is part of their creation. Could it be that God intends for teens to be the part of the Body of Christ that remind us of Christ’s passion, emotion, and zeal for us?

Isn’t it interesting that many scholars think several of the apostles may have been teenagers? What if God desires to us frontal lobe thinkers out of our rut of complacency by the passion of teenagers? Instead of thinking of it as a stage that will pass, what if God intends for this part of the Body to us to move?

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes that passion is misdirected, not steeped in wisdom. It’s one of the weaknesses of the Emergent conversation (though I love it). The truth is the gift of teenage passion is a gift of God that can enliven the church or can be manipulated and misdirect God’s people. We are sometimes guilty as Youth Ministers of taking advantage of it with the mountain high camp experiences without any real help for living in the reality when we get home. We need the head and the heart in the body of Christ. Martin Luther seemed to be able to maintain his zeal while tempering it in a conscientious bound by the Word of God. In an age that glories the now, it’s easy to glamorize that side of teenage passion.

I still believe God wants teenagers compelled by God’s Word to reform His church today. What if we live allow their passion to connect us with Christ’s passion? What if we do that in the fullness of the body of Christ with mentors like Paul for evangelist’s like Timothy? Group Publishing likes to remind us that it comes back to the “One Thing.” We need the wisdom of elder’s to tether us to the truth of what that one thing is, and we need the passion of youth to feel it, live it, and remind us of what the power of the Spirit feels like when we focus on the “One Thing” in the sea of the everything else.

Never-the-less the gif of passion created in the teenage brain still leads me to ask: What if?

  1. Matt Cleaver says:

    Interesting thoughts. Wish I could have taken that class.

    On Emergent, are you saying that their passion does not have enough wisdom?

    • Jerry Watts says:

      Thanks Matt. Actually I think the Emergent folk have helped us think about important questions. I love that, and appreciate that. As you know the discussion about ecclesiology is important to me. But I was critiquing emergent folks who have moved beyond Scripture and allowed the need for change to be their lens of wisdom. Sometimes teens move out passion without wisdom. I recently heard a commentator talk about our generation being the first in history to think we are smarter than the history of our own religion.

      There are tons of emergent folks who combine both passion and wisdom. I’m saying we need both. I’m challenged and convicted by people who are able to live in both realities.

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