It doesn’t seem that long ago that Josh Harris ruined my summer by writing “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and my girlfriend subsequently broke up with me, but now his little twin brothers have gotten in on the book writing scene. Their first offering is a branch of their ministry “The Rebelution” (link on the bar to the right). It’s a book for teens, written by teens. The main argument of the book is that teens are to rebel against the low expectations that the world has for them.
It wasn’t until 1941 that the term ‘teenager’ was coined, and the Harris brothers do a wonderful job at explaining that the idea of ‘adolescence’ is really a myth, not a biological truth. Our culture has communicated to teenagers that nothing is really expected of them, and that the teen years are meant for wasting and ‘having fun’. This mindset leads to what they call ‘kidults’, people of adult age, but not adults that offer anything to society. We’ve raised a generation of consumers who are not ready to become providers.
One sad things, is that if there are any expectations given to teens, it generally is a negative expectation. We expect them to get in trouble. We expect them to fail, to mess up, to get drunk, to party, to do drugs. We expect them to waste their teen years, and if we find someone that actually stays out of trouble, we praise them, even if they actually haven’t done anything positive. They’ve just managed to stay out of trouble. Wherever you place the expectations is where you are most likely going to find the teen. If you keep them low, then you aren’t pushing them to accomplish anything.
I was speaking with the father of one of my Jr Highers, and he was echoing this idea. He said that he’ll see parents really push their children to excel athletically. They’ll drive them to practices at 6am, push them to work out, to prepare, and to give their full effort to succeed in sports. But then they have no expectations when it comes to their spiritual development. They put the cookies on the low shelf and say, “You can’t get or don’t want the cookies on the higher shelf.” There’s no encouragement to stretch them when it comes to studying theology, reading their Bible, or becoming comfortable with praying.
The call is simple: to encourage teenagers to do big, hard things. Do things out of your comfort zone. Do things you don’t think you are capable of. Do things that seem too big for you to do on your own. Things that challenge the cultural norm, and things that don’t earn an immediate pay off. I Timothy 4:12 says that youths are to strive to be examples to others in conduct, speech, love, life, faith, and purity. Paul encourages the believers to stop acting like children, to give themselves to strict training, and compete as one would to receive the crown at the end of the race. (I Cor. 9:24-25)
The book is part autobiographical, as the twins write quite a bit about what God has done in their own lives. It is also biographical, in that they write about many of the teens that they have met/inspired/or inspired them throughout the last few years. They provide many examples of ordinary teens doing extraordinary things. These small examples serve as encouragement to the students to do hard things themselves. To follow the footsteps of those who have gone before.
If there is a weakness in the book, it would be that it, at some points, lacks an awareness of a sovereign God who makes us capable of doing these things. There is a chapter where they deal with the truth of God working through our weaknesses, but I think it could stand to have a more biblically founded view. Nothing presented was unbiblical, but as the book went on, it seemed to be less dependent on that. The reason for that was somewhat cleared up in the Epilogue, where they said that the book isn’t just for Christians, but for any teen. They do go one to share the Gospel to those that may not be Christians, but its at the very end.
Overall, I recommend this book to any teen that you would like encourage to take a step up in their lives. It makes a great graduation gift (I gave it to our seniors), and it’s a great book to encourage teens to read this summer. I’m very excited about going through this book with my students. I’ve told them about it and previewed them a little about what’s in it, and we’ll be going through it at our Coffee Talks this summer. Every student at our Servant’s Retreat next weekend will receive a copy for themselves. I can’t wait to see what God inspires them to do!