Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How Should The Church Respond To The Exodus Of Our Youth (Part 6)

Time magazine featured an article last October entitled "In Touch with Jesus" about modern trends in youth ministry. Interestingly the article focused on a shift from entertainment oriented youth groups to substance oriented ones. Here are a few excerpts:

Youth ministers have been on a long and frustrating quest of their own over the past two decades or so. Believing that a message wrapped in pop-culture packaging was the way to attract teens to their flocks, pastors watered down the religious content and boosted the entertainment. But in recent years churches have begun offering their young people a style of religious instruction grounded in Bible study and teachings about the doctrines of their denomination. Their conversion has been sparked by the recognition that sugarcoated Christianity, popular in the 1980s and early '90s, has caused growing numbers of kids to turn away not just from attending youth-fellowship activities but also from practicing their faith at all.

...teens at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., are embracing the big doses of Bible study youth pastors now recommend. Teen ranks have tripled, to nearly 600, since the mid-1990s.

The Calvary kids say they too are happy with the more traditional approach. Priscilla Balcaceres, 16, believes she would still be holding grudges and feuding with friends and family were it not for Bible lessons and sermons on forgiveness. "Before attending Calvary, I believed in God and prayed at night, but I was still very bitter and unhappy about many things in my life," she says. "I've learned what it really means to be a Christian, and now I wake up smiling every morning." Meanwhile, Amanda Sinks, 16, spouts verses from Timothy, Corinthians and James the way other teens recite rap lyrics. "There's nothing boring to me about reading the Bible every day," says Sinks, who became a Christian 17 months ago and counts a heightened ability to withstand peer pressure as one of the benefits. If things keep up this way, hanging out with God might even become cool.

Do teens actually want more Bible teaching and less entertainment? Are they bored with the hysteria that youth ministry has offered for the past few decades. Do they want something more? Having been a youth pastor for the past 6 years, I have found that teens do in fact want substance. I have found that teens embrace being treated as young adults and rise to the challenge when asked to truly think about deep spiritual truth from God's Word. If a youth group is used to an entertainment based program it does take some time for them to become accustomed to serious Biblical teaching, but I have found that, when they are under this kind of teaching for a while, most do not want to go back. Recently I spoke to a student in our group whose parents attend another church in town that has a very entertainment oriented youth group. I encouraged the student to try to be a part of her parent’s church's youth ministry, but the student adamantly insisted on being a part of our group because we were challenging our students through serious biblical teaching.

Often youth pastors try to be sure that each of their talks are on "relevant" pop culture issues. If they refer to the scripture it is just by grabbing a verse or two out of context and using it as a spring board into a "relevant" discussion. This, they might say, is the only way the teens will listen. It is true that teens have unique issues they are facing and unique needs to be met, but I believe that these issues and needs are best addressed through the straightforward teaching of God's Word: the Bible. So that brings us to the fourth biblical principle that applies to every discipleship ministry including youth ministry,

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

In short, this text tells us that God has supernatural provided in advance for all the issues and needs we will face a human beings. How has he done this? He has provided everything through the true knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord! Christ is the answer to everything! It doesn't matter what the issue or problem is: the answer or solution is knowing Christ and all that we have in Him more! When we know Him more we trust Him more and we believe His promises and we obey His word and he solves our issues and problems by His word!

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

We know Christ through the Word of Christ: the Bible. Every word of the Bible is sourced in God and breathed out through His Spirit. Because He is God He is able to reveal to us all that we need to know, all that we need to change, all that we need to grow, and all that we need to live as God intends us to live!

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

God promised Joshua success if he would live by His word. God promises the same thing for us today (see 2 Pet. 1:2-4 above & Psalm 1:2-5). This isn't a big "easy" button, but instead it is a prescription to true eternal success in the eyes of God.

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

This text tells us that God's word is the means of our salvation, wisdom for living, happiness & clarity. It is never outdated it is never false and it value is incalculable. it warns us away from sin and brings us reward. We can please our creator if we think about it, speak it and live it!

If the Bible can do all of this, perhaps we should make it central to all we do? Absolutely we should!

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