Friday, January 26, 2007

How Should the Church Respond to the Exodus of Our Youth (Part 2)

The video above was produced by Teen Mania which is headed up Ron Luce.

Last post I surfaced the issue of young people leaving the church by providing excerpts form a NY Times article. Someone pointed out that the poll from Denis Rainey used by Ron Luce and others and cited in the article is somewhat suspect. I am still tracking that down, but I did find a more trustworthy poll done by the Barna group that indicates a similar trend. Below are some excerpts from a Barna Group report entitled "Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years."

A new study by The Barna Group (Ventura, California) shows that despite strong levels of spiritual activity during the teen years, most twentysomethings disengage from active participation in the Christian faith during their young adult years - and often beyond that. In total, six out of ten twentysomethings were involved in a church during their teen years, but have failed to translate that into active spirituality during their early adulthood.

the most potent data regarding disengagement is that a majority of twentysomethings - 61% of today’s young adults - had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually disengaged (i.e., not actively attending church, reading the Bible, or praying). Only one-fifth of twentysomethings (20%) have maintained a level of spiritual activity consistent with their high school experiences. Another one-fifth of teens (19%) were never significantly reached by a Christian community of faith during their teens and have remained disconnected from the Christian faith.

"When and if young adults do return to churches, it is difficult to convince them that a passionate pursuit of Christ is anything more than a nice add-on to their cluttered lifestyle."

Loyalty to congregations is one of the casualties of young adulthood: twentysomethings were nearly 70% more likely than older adults to strongly assert that if they "cannot find a local church that will help them become more like Christ, then they will find people and groups that will, and connect with them instead of a local church." They are also significantly less likely to believe that "a person’s faith in God is meant to be developed by involvement in a local church."

This survey might be skewed a bit as well because it represents and examination of "churched" or "unchurched" people and did not necessarily focus on evangelicals. However, as we look around and ask where are the youth that were active in our youth groups 5 & 10 years ago, we are likely to find that many have left the church. The questions is what, if anything, we should do about it? Ron Luce and Teen Mania have responded to the statistics in the video above by launching a nation wide campaign focused on empowering Christian youth to take a stand in their culture. As I mentioned last time, though I feel that Ron Luce's efforts are valiant, I question the big teen rally approach. However, I am more concerned with how we should handle this in the local church.

Since the industrial revolution father's have by enlarge worked away from their homes. With the influence of feminism now many mothers are also out of the homes. This has left children to be raised in great part by schools and day care institutions and extra curricular school programs. In the last 100 years many well meaning folks have reached out to teens whose parents left them behind. In doing so they created a whole new teen culture. The result is that we have a large segment of the adult population (teenagers) segregated from the rest of the adults. Hence the youth culture of our day. In our society adolescence has been embraced as an age between childhood and adulthood. For this time period not much is expected out of these young adults. Rick Holland of Grace community Church in Sun Valley, CA has written a great article on this called "The Myth of Adolescence."

I think that when we treat teenagers as neither children or adults we do them a great disservice. In other words when we ask ourselves how we should reach teens, we should be asking how do we reach young adults. If we think of them as adolescents then we will always be trying to figure out what adolescents need, what they want, what they are in to and we will be trying to structure our youth groups around them. However, if we think of them as young adults we will evangelize them, disciple them, instruct them, equip them for service, and engage them in service. They will become and important part of the adult congregation. Then when they graduate from HS the adult services and the older adults will not be foreign to them.

As we search the scriptures we find nothing that looks anything like the youth ministries that are prevalent in our day (we don't even find the title "youth pastor!"), but we do find a clear picture of how we should reach adults. As I have been thinking about this I believe that their are some key biblical principles that will guide us as we minister to any adult group. All of these principles indicate that the simple, straightforward, systematic teaching of God's word should be central to all that we do. This is the only means of discipleship that we have been given. This teaching is done through instruction and example.

  1. The church should be God centered and not man centered. Even youth groups should be God centered and not youth centered. This is why we call our youth group a youth ministry. Human need is not the central purpose of the church. The central purpose is God’s glory.

Ephesians 1:5-6 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.NASB95

1 Corinthians 6:20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.NASB95

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.NASB95

2. God has not commanded us to preach to felt needs. He has commanded us to preach His Word.

1 Thessalonians 2:4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.NASB95

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.NASB95

2 Timothy 4:2-5 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.NASB95

2 Corinthians 4:1-2 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.NASB95

Ephesians 4:11-13 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.NASB95

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.NASB95

1 Timothy 4:11-16 Prescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.NASB95

1 Timothy 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.NASB95

1 Timothy 6:20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”—NASB95

Hebrews 13:7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.NASB95

3. The great commission tells us to make disciples. The only way to make disciples is to faithfully teach God’s word.

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.NASB95

1 Thessalonians 2:13-14 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews,NASB95

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.NASB95

2 Timothy 2:2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.NASB95

James 1:18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.NASB95

1 Peter 1:2-3 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,NASB95

Acts 2:42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.NASB95

4. The Bible is supremely relevant and addresses every genuine need.

2 Peter 1:2-4 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.NASB95

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;NASB95

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.NASB95

Joshua 1:8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.NASB95

Psalm 19:7-19 The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.NASB95

Psalm 1:2-5 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.NASB95

1 John 2:14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.NASB95

John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.NASB95

5. The Bible teaches that we don’t go to the world to find out how we need to relate to people. Instead the Bible tells us to bring the wisdom of God to the world.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.NASB95

2 Corinthians 10:5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,NASB95

6. Making disciples and instructing believers involves intensive teaching over long periods of time.

Acts 20:18-21 And when they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.NASB95

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.NASB95

1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.NASB95

Titus 1:9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.NASB95

Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.NASB95

7. Every person’s one true need is Christ Himself.

Colossians 1:28-29 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.NASB95

Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”NASB95

2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.NASB95

Colossians 3:1-4 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.NASB95

James 1:25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.NASB95

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,NASB95

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.NASB95

Philippians 1:19-21 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.NASB95

In Part 3 we will begin to flesh out each of these principles as they pertain to young adults and we will begin looking at the role of the family in these things.

Please share your thoughts.

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