At Fuller Theological Seminary, the notorious pop culture theologian Barry Taylor offered a theology class titled: Theology of U2. I never had the privilege to take it, but I had a few friends who did and we had many conversations about the theology within U2.
Bottom line: I am convinced (from my very brief studying and listening to U2), that U2 creates an emotional space for individuals to contemplate the spiritual life. There is something just in the music and in the lyrics that takes you somewhere. And it should be the goal for youth ministries to have the ability to do the same as U2.
Bono rarely comes out and makes overt Christian messages in their songs, but at the same time their music is directly inspiring people to connect with God all across the world. Inherently there is something spiritual in their songs. Bono has greatly achieved at getting Americans to do what Jesus taught us to do more so than all of the pastors in this country combined.
I think some times our youth ministries are overly direct in always trying to proclaim Jesus. Obviously, our youth ministries reek Christianity every which way, which may be hurting us. Seemingly, we are trying too hard to be spiritual in our teachings, YM philosophies, small groups, and programmatic structure.
I think some times it is safe and wise to adopt the U2 type of methodology in how we talk about the spiritual life with Jesus. What if youth groups some times created spiritual spaces that facilitated a spiritual transformation and experience? There would be no speaker directly giving a salvation talk. There would simply be a space for students to emotionally and spiritually engage and reflect about the themes of God.
I think it is really interesting that Bono doesn’t explicitly state he is Christian, but yet he is a remarkable prophetic spiritual leader and voice for the American church. U2 uniquely is spiritual and is contributing to the spiritual conversation of the world. What if youth group functioned like this? What if youth group created and facilitated such a sacred and emotional environment for students to align with God without directly broadcasting “WE ARE SPIRITUAL”?
Mike Yaconelli makes this beautiful statement in Messy Spirituality: Spirituality rarely looks like what we think it looks like.
Unfortunately the label of “being Christian” has many negative connotations, which many American youth ministries and youth pastors only reinforce and add to. In my experience I have found that an atheist student who starts to smells the Christian label, will immediate detach and not be open to Jesus. So how do we be followers of Christ that lead youth ministries, without fueling or adding to the negative Christian label?
Because something is “Christian” doesn’t necessary mean it is good and true. And it especially doesn’t not mean that all followers of Christ claim it as good and true. There is a lot of cheesy and crappy Christian stuff out there.
My point: Youth pastors–lets learn from U2 methods. U2 has the amazing ability to use metaphors to tell a redemptive story and to create an emotional space for its participants to engage in the spiritual life.