the first sentence of the forward of "Jesus Creed for Students" makes it perfectly clear why this book was written: "this book is about following Jesus." the authors (Scot McKnight, Chris Folmsbee and Syler Thomas) explain that this book is to be read alone but dissected in a group setting. the "Jesus Creed" is straight from Matthew 22, "love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." in short: life is about "loving God and loving others."
this book has been rewritten from the original version specifically for students to connect with, and it does an incredible job of being relevant, stylistically conscious, and, ultimately, very applicable for the life of every teenager.
relevance: this book takes questions that ever student deals with and packages them in a way that students can understand and wrestle with. questions like,
- who am i?
- who does God want me to be?
- how does God want me to live?
- is there more to Christianity than just being "good"?
- how do i talk with God?
- what is life all about?
but even more than providing accessible answers to those and similar questions, the authors are contextually relevant to today's teenagers. topics like social media, respecting parents, school life, labeling and judging. there is so much insight that can be gained from so many books, but very few books are written so that students can connect with them. students pick up a book, read the first couple chapters (maybe) and then put it down because it never connects with their world. this book does that very well and is very relevant for youth. my personal guess is that this book would be perfect for the 8th-11th grade age group.
the answers to these questions also push against the religious stances of today's American teenager. in the book, "Soul Searching", sociologists Christian Smith and Melina Denton study the religious life of the American teenager in ways no one has before. they concluded that rather than the true Gospel of Jesus, today's youth are following what Smith and Denton call "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism". this idea affirms the existence of God as a Creator and supreme being, but that he is only essential in hard times and that the most important parts of life are being nice, morally good people and to be happy about oneself. clearly, this is an incorrect view of the gospel, but it is a reality of today's students. the questions that "Jesus Creed for Students" asks are exactly what is relevant.
writing style: this book is a quick read - students won't have to stumble over cumbersome wording like they may when reading a book written for adults. the authors do an amazing job of articulating the Jesus Creed in a way that is accessible to youth, but also that it doesn't lose any of its overall message. the book paints what the true Gospel is all about in a way that students can read and not be bored or turned off.
it does this in a few different ways: first, the book uses this generation's lexicon. words like "wannabe", "grunge", and "popularity" - subtly, the authors have inserted the language that students can understand and connect with, thus, making them more effective in reaching their target audience. they avoid complex language and colorful sentences and instead employ hyphenated descriptors and culturally conscious creations.
- instead of "disciples" it's "Christ-followers".
- instead of the "second commandment" it's the "love-others statement".
- instead of "material possessions" it's "iThings", "iWants", or "iNeeds".
they're youthful enough to connect more effectively, but not childish enough to lose focus or impact (or to become overly silly with their creativity). students will connect with this book - with the concept of "loving God, loving others" - because it is written in their vocabulary.
practical application: in my opinion, application is the easiest way for students to connect well or to not connect at all with a certain concept. if i say, "pray more," then students may or may not actually pray more. but if i give them a exact prayer to pray with guidelines and a terrific explanation of how to pray and when and why, then they are absolutely going to apply "praying more" in their lives. this book's greatest strength is providing practical application points for the concepts introduced.
at the beginning and the end of every chapter it either states "Recite the Jesus Creed" or "Say the Lord's Prayer". it encourages this repetition as a way of establishing a spiritual rhythm in life. they suggest reciting the Jesus Creed every morning and every night and upon both coming and going from their home. and then add to it by reciting the Lord's prayer with it at the same times for a month solid.
the authors also encourage students to get involved serving somewhere without anyone else knowing: a way for students to grow strictly with God, and to develop their desire to serve for the right reasons.
they are also very specific when it comes to asking questions. there aren't any vague or unclear questions; they are focused and intentional:
- "what do you think 'whenever you pray' means?"
- "how are you doing on reciting the Jesus Creed daily?"
- "what is your biggest temptation when it comes to branding yourself?"
- "what do your possessions reveal about where your heart is? are you serving two lords?"
questions like these interrupt the text so that students can think about them as they are reading the next paragraph - simultaneously reading and applying the text. students need this sort of dialogue within the text if they are going to process what they are reading. the application is consistently the most effective aspect of this book.
cover to cover, this book is a home run. students can connect, comprehend, and have perfect outlets to apply the Jesus Creed. i would 100% recommend this book - in fact, in the season of planning summer activities and curriculum, this book will certainly find its way into the conversation.
buy the book: paraclete press.