With the question, “Who Am I,” Dr. Andrew “Andy” Root began the 2012 Wallace Chappell Lecture Series at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. Through his research, writing and work as the Carrie Olson Baalson Chair of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary, Dr. Root brings a fresh approach to evangelism for reaching today’s youth and young adults.
Among the fascinating topics of the day was a lecture on the emerging question of “Who am I” that is impacting our young adults. So often we read that 18-35 year-olds are lost to the church. Dr. Root has found that they are not repulsed by it – they just do not find it relevant to where they are in their lives. It is not that they do not believe in religion; they simply understand that religion is something you do when you are conventional. They do not self-define as conventional.
In his lecture, Dr. Root shared that the culture of the United States has changed. In the not too distant past, young people committed to a lifelong career, fell in love, married, and began a family in their 20’s. There was no question of “Who am I ?” You were defined by your career, your position in the community, and your family status.
Today, young adults do not, and in many cases cannot, make a lifelong career commitment. The transition into a family of their own on the average happens in their early 30’s. Therefore identity – answering the question of “Who am I?”- must be answered in a new way. The emerging pattern shows this demographic self defining through consumption. Don’t like how you feel about yourself, purchase the latest smart phone and you are a new person. Likewise, relationships during this period are more about intimacy, a feeling of intense closeness, rather than love, considered a lifelong commitment.
Here is where the Church comes in. We may look at that information and see the fleeting nature of these life measures. However, this is where Dr. Root sees the opportunity for the Church. The Church’s challenge is to fill the void that comes when these measures of self fail you by sharing the truth of a Christ who is there in the darkest, loneliest places offering life in a place of death.
To read more from Dr. Andy Root, visit www.AndrewRoot.org.
The Wallace Chappell Lectures, awarded annually to a United Methodist-affiliated seminary, enable the selected institution to bring to its campus a national or international leader in evangelism for a series of inspirational lectures and classroom appearances.