I admit I (Melissa) was a bit skeptical.
When I heard about Jaquelle Crowe’s new book, This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years, I wondered what a 19-year-old could have to say about living out faith in the teen years. She was barely at the end of her own teen years, right? I figured this book would be high on exuberance, low on substance.
I was completely wrong—100 percent. And, I’m glad to be so.
Crowe—editor-in-chief of The Rebelution—offers fresh encouragement to expect more, not less, from teenagers. These years provide opportunities for teens to learn how to study the Bible, memorize Scripture, serve in the church, and read books about faith. Too often as parents we’re lulled into complacency by focusing on what we want our children to avoid (alcohol, drugs, sex). If we only evaluate a teen’s faith by their resistance to evil, we inadvertently communicate moralism instead of a wholehearted pursuit of God. Crowe’s book faithfully inspires teens (and parents) to something more, to what real faith is all about: every iota of their life.
While Crowe’s advice is directed toward teens, her faith encouraged me as well. She understands theology, memorizes entire books of the Bible, and reads widely from church history. I found myself thoroughly rebuked for my earlier skepticism, and was reminded of 1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Crowe is an example not just of what I want for my teens, but of what I want to be myself.
This Changes Everything is a book I plan to give many teenagers, and I began with my own. So here’s a review of Crowe’s book from the audience she’s hoping to reach—my 16-year-old daughter, Emma.
As a teenager with Christian parents in ministry, I (Emma) have heard the gospel a lot. I go to church every Sunday, do devotions at home with my family, and play on Christian sports teams. Not only that, but each day I hear the gospel preached at school. I’m surrounded by teachers and other Christian friends and families.
In the midst of this, it’s still easy for the gospel become a separate sphere of my life. I check off different boxes each day: one for family, one for friends, and another for school and sports. Too often faith becomes just another box to check off, and once it’s marked, it’s put aside, forgotten, and isolated from the rest of my life.
This Changes Everything challenges teenage believers against compartmentalizing their faith. Crowe quotes Jim Elliot early in the first chapter and sets the theme for the book: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
This quote demonstrates the boldness with which we should live our lives—for the sole purpose of glorifying God and furthering his kingdom. Our goal isn’t a life of happiness, success, and fun, as we teens often think. It’s a life of sacrifice, but sacrifice with a humble joy that can only be found in Christ.
If life is meant to be a sacrifice, as Paul so clearly states in Romans 12, then our whole life must be laid down. God is righteous, and just as he required the best of the lambs, he wants all of us offered for the glory of his name. Every aspect of our lives must be shaped by the gospel. And as we sacrifice the things of this world, we gain what is so much better: we truly live.
Life of Faith
After establishing our identity and purpose, Crowe divides her book into six sections to address how faith infiltrates all of life. She considers the impact of faith on how we grow in community, fight sin, discipline ourselves, grow as believers, spend our time, and develop strong relationships.
While reading these sections I was moved by the questions she uses to help us see our apathy in pursuing godly relationships, Scripture reading, church service, and more. Not only does Crowe help us grasp the need to live as Christians in all aspects of life, but she also provides practical resources and methods to help us grow.
Scripture Memory and Evangelism
One of my favorite insights is her method of memorizing Scripture. Crowe provides a list of different websites to help memorize verses, and recommends memorizing entire books at a time. She also suggests memorizing with a partner to keep each other accountable. She goes on to explain how this helps a teen in other aspects of their Christian life, including evangelism, worship, and prayer.
One area of the Christian life I find hard is evangelism. There are so many opportunities to reach people with the gospel, but I struggle with what people will think or how they’ll react to what I’m saying. Crowe confronts these fears throughout This Changes Everything, but specifically in her chapter on disciplines. “Don’t put the pressure on you,” she writes. “God changes hearts. He works through our mistakes and blunders.” All we must do is faithfully share what God has done, and he’ll do the rest.
It’s totally worth the little bit of awkwardness that may follow when we try to share the gospel. “Aren’t souls worth more than comfort?” she asks. This question moved me deeply, and helped me view evangelism in a new light. This is just one example Crowe weaves into her book to help teenagers understand how to live in light of the gospel.
Gospel Living for Teens
As I mentioned, the gospel is something I’ve been hearing about since I was a baby. So often I push aside chances to grow due to the familiarity of whatever I’m reading. Crowe provides a renewed lens for teens to grasp once again how amazing the gospel truly is. From the start, she reminds us the gospel isn’t boring, and it isn’t normal. It’s a story of amazing mercy, unending love, and incredible sacrifice from the Son of God who came to die for us. What an amazing Savior we have!
This Changes Everything is applicable to any teenager. Whether you or a teen you know is in public school, private school, drama, sports, or anything else, Crowe has a way of reaching you. She speaks as a peer who understands the hardships of the teenage years, and who wants to help teens seek the purpose and fulfillment that can only be found in King Jesus.
Jaquelle Crowe. This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017. 160 pp. $14.99.