I love geeking out on research. And when that research is related to youth ministry, it’s even better. For that reason, I was excited to read David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock’s Faith For Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon.
This book builds off previous research from Barna and explores five practices that contribute to the development of resilient faith in emerging adults. For Kinnaman and Matlock, “resilient faith” is defined like this: “The goal of discipleship today is to develop Jesus followers who are resiliently faithful in the face of cultural coercion and who live a vibrant life in the Spirit.” In so many ways, Faith For Exiles offers the good news regarding the faith formation of this generation.
Faith For Exiles is an engaging and compelling read based on the premise that today’s American Christians have much to learn from the exile stories found in Scripture. As Kinnaman and Matlock explain, “Christians whose understanding of the world is framed by the Bible can think about our experience as living in a shift from Jerusalem to digital Babylon… In digital Babylon, where information (and any thing we could ever want or need) is instantly available at the godlike swipe of a finger, Almighty God has been squeezed to the margins.”
As someone who does ministry in the local church, I found myself not only informed by Faith For Exiles but also challenged by it – especially the questions posed by Kinnaman and Matlock. I’m still contemplating what my answer to this question means for my ministry: “What if we envisioned culture as a character in the story of a person’s faith formation?”
Thanks to my own research regarding what high school teens believe about Jesus (published in The Jesus Gap ), I was particularly interested in Kinnaman and Matlock’s finding that to form a resilient identity, you need to experience intimacy with Jesus. While this sounds simplistic, it jives with my own findings – especially the idea that “the church has responded to the identity pressures of our culture by offering young people a Jesus ‘brand experience’ rather than facilitating a transformational experience to find their identity in the person and work of Jesus.”
Without a doubt, Faith For Exiles should be required reading for anyone who cares about the faith formation of young people. It would also be particularly helpful to read and discuss this book with a team of youth workers… Although as a youth worker, I would like nothing more than to also get Faith For Exiles into the hands of my senior pastor. Its findings have the potential to not only shape my youth ministry – but our church as a whole.
I was honored to receive a copy of Faith for Exiles from Baker Books and chose to review the book. All opinions are my own.