Tuesday, February 20, 2007

How Should The Church Respond To The Exodus Of Our Youth? Part 3

The Conservative Voice Online recently posted and article about Britney Spears entitled "Britney Spears Backslid." In the article Grant Swank chronicles Britney's journey from Southern Baptist to Kabala to nothing to Judaism. Look at how he describes her church experience and her exit:

Britney Spears was reared in the Kentwood, LA Southern Baptist Church where "Jesus saves" is preached weekly. Her parents are James Parnell Spears, a building contractor, and Lynne Irene Bridges, a former grade school teacher.
Brought up Southern Baptist means Britney was reared in a fundamentalist environment — biblical morality, Scripture memorization, Sunday school. More: weekly attendance at worship, chaperoned youth activities, public services closing with invitations to accept Jesus as Savior. And still more: prayer meetings, Bible-carrying worshipers, plainly understood evangelistic preaching, and expectations that members live "separate from the world. "But Britney backslid.

I am not going to question Britney's former church and evaluate whether they could have done more or not. Britney made her choice to leave the church. However, I will question the terminology that Swank uses. He says that Britney backslid. Backsliding is a term that is often used in Christian circles of a Christian turning away from Christ and sliding back in to sin and worldliness. The problem is that there is no such thing, biblically speaking, as a backslidden Christian. There are just Christians and non-Christians. It is clear from looking and Britney's life that she is a non-Christian. How can I say that? Because I believe Jesus when he said:

John 15:5 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.NASB95

If Britney was ever a true Christian then she would be bearing fruit because Christ would be living in her through the Holy Spirit, but she does not bear the fruit of a Christian. At one time Britney made a big deal about being a virgin and being moral, but evidently it was only external and did not come form her heart.

This is a huge issue that we need to deal with in our churches and youth groups. It is easy to manipulate teens and see them get caught up in the excitement of events or the groups or all sorts of things, but do they really have a heart for God? What is it that produces a heart for God? Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.NASB95 This is why it is the word and not the world that needs to be central in our youth ministries.

Let's go back and look again at #1 in the list of biblical principles that we looked at last post.

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.

I have found that in youth ministry I have often been encouraged to focus on the particular issues that our teens are facing. I don't have a problem with addressing key topics from time to time. However, I do feel that a steady stream of topical messages focusing on teen issues encourages teens to become myopic or self focused. The real question for both older adults and young adults (teenagers) is what God wants to say to me, not what do I think I need from God. The Bible is unmistakably God centered and not man centered. Notice what Paul says in Ephesians 1.

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

This text tells us that God's sovereign work of salvation has a purpose: the praise of the glory of His grace. In other words our salvation is to cause us to focus on God and His grace and not on ourselves. It couldn't be clearer then Paul puts it in 1 Cor. 10:31:

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

Even in the minutest details of life the glory of God is to drive what we do. When we are structuring our youth ministries are we concerned with doing the things that bring the most glory to God, or are we more concerned with what will please our youth and attract more to come? We can sure impress teens by wowing them with our programs, but only God and His God-centered word can awaken with in them a true heart of worship through the gift of faith.

If the glory of God is to be central to and permeate all that we do then the Word of God must be central to and permeate all that we do because God reveals His glory through His word.

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