Countercultural Advice for Young People

30 October 2023 by Wes Bredenhof

Do Not Be True to Yourself: Countercultural Advice for the Rest of Your Life, Kevin DeYoung.  Wheaton: Crossway, 2023.  Softcover, 66 pages.

This is one of those books to keep in mind when it comes to gifts for graduation or profession of faith.  It’s biblical wisdom directly addressed to young people.  The author’s clear and engaging writing style will keep their attention – along with the fact that it’s on the shorter side. 

Dr. Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor of a PCA congregation in North Carolina.  He also teaches systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte.  He’s written many books, articles, and blog posts.  I have a simple rule for DeYoung’s books:  if I see one, I buy it.  With this book, the rule has again been proven correct. 

Do Not Be True to Yourself is a collection of sermons and commencement speeches directed to young men and women.  In the Introduction, DeYoung writes, “If there is a theme that holds the chapters together it is the simple exhortation to serve God faithfully and counterculturally in the next season of your life” (p.xii).  While the intended audience is mainly younger folks, the advice in this little book can really benefit anyone of any age.

Chapter 3 addresses the trend of young people going off to university or college and then becoming lax about church attendance.  This chapter especially stood out to me because it’s addressing a problem that’s multi-generational.  DeYoung convincingly demonstrates from Scripture that the church can’t be optional for a Christian.  He quotes John Stott:

An unchurched Christian is a grotesque anomaly.  The New Testament knows nothing of such a person.  For the church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God.  It is not a divine afterthought. (p.23)

Quite right!  At the end of the chapter DeYoung writes:

…if you want to be much less of a follower of Jesus Christ five years from now, make church marginal in your life.  If you make church an afterthought, you won’t be thinking about centering your life on Jesus five years from now. (pp.27-28)

That’s the kind of approach elders could bring to home visits to both old and young:  “Do you want to be more or less of a follower of Jesus Christ five years from now?  If more, how is that going to happen?  What are you going to do to make it happen?”

One last thing I appreciate about the book is the appendix entitled, Twelve Old(ish) Books to Read When You’re Young.  DeYoung writes,

Talk to almost any mature, vibrant Christians, and they will tell you about Christian books that have been instrumental in their lives.  In fact, one of the best indications I’ve seen of the Spirit’s work in someone’s life is that he (or she) develops a newfound love of reading. (p.57)

The list includes books by (among others) John Calvin, Herman Bavinck, and R.C. Sproul.  I’d be happy to second that list — and add DeYoung’s book.