Monday, February 26, 2007

How Should The Church Respond To The Exodus Of Our Youth? Part 4

What's On The Menu?

Have you heard any of these things lately: "Teens have a short attention span and can only listen for 15 minutes"; "Teens need discussion groups not sermons"; "We have to make the Bible relevant to our teens"; "We must used modern media to connect with youth"; "teens can't sit through plenary church services"; "we have to find out what teens are thinking about and teach on those topics."

In just 6 years of youth ministry I have heard all of these things and many other things like these. So how do these things impact my ministry? They don't! Why not? Am I just a maverick who won't listen to anyone and things he has it all figured out? I hope not. I believe that I am only doing what I have been called to do. I am called to "preach the word" (2 Tim 4:2). There is nothing wrong with using modern technology and using appropriate language that communicates with youth, but none of these should replace the straightforward teaching of God's word. Right now preaching the word happens to be out of season, particularly in youth ministry, but that does not change my calling. Last post we looked at the first biblical principle that guides any discipleship ministry:

1. The church should be God centered and not man centered.

Here is a second biblical principle to guide us:

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

We don't have to go looking for new material because we have been given the material already. We, like Paul, have been entrusted with the gospel.

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

How does a pastor know that he is a a workman that doesn't need to be ashamed? If he accurately handles the word of truth.

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

No matter if people want us to preach the word or not is the only thing that we should be doing! In other words we should ignore requests for something else.

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

Now what is important in these verses? The teaching of God's word. It is pretty simple really: read it, teach it, live it, read it, teach it, live it!

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

How much would be left in our evangelical youth ministries if we cut out "worldly and empty chatter"?

The ironic thing about all of this is that I have found that just teaching the Bible in a straightforward way is not only the right thing to do biblically but it is also effective. God generally blesses a ministry centered on His word. I am not a mega youth ministry pastor. I have never seen explosive numerical growth. However, by God's grace, as much as I have endeavored to faithfully preach the word we have seen steady spiritually growth amongst our teens. God's word has produced true conversion in a number of teens, and God's word has produced spiritual growth in number of teens. One of the most encouraging things so far is that those who are genuinely impacted by the word are not flash in the pan Christians. Instead they continue to grow and stay with the church! Praise the Lord! May He continue to add His blessing to His word!

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