We are losing the battle of the mind with our children in the church, and as a result, they are leaving in droves.
Before I go any further let me just state, emphatically, that the only way unto salvation is the gospel. There is no secret formula that, when applied correctly, brings sinners to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We must preach law and gospel to our kids and pray God would deliver them. This should go without saying, but unfortunately many youth ministers miss this approach in lieu of pizza parties and skinny jeans, hyped up laser shows and super rad music, with no depth to understanding what the gospel is, how sad.
We should consider Paul and his methodology, ” As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah’, he said.” Do we do this with the youngsters? Do we reason with them? Engage their minds? Challenge them to critical thinking? Or do we try and adopt their language, whip up their emotions with totally cool music, and ask them to say a prayer to be saved? The latter seems to be the mantra in most evangelical churches today.
21st century kids are being inundated with information. With the advances in technology everyone has a forum to promote ideas and those ideas are the trenches where the battle for eternity is being fought. Why, then, would the church resort to shallow tactics when the scope of ideas being touted are deep and nuanced? My answer? Because it’s easy. Apathy and an unwillingness to engage the tough questions our children have regarding the most important subjects of our lives is dwindling their interest and leaving the pews empty moving forward. Theology is not important anymore, a focus on the meat has disappeared and this has left our youth seeking answers to life through post modern self exploratory and self help mediums. No wonder Joel Osteen is such a smashing success. If our children are not being taught that Christianity is the only viable explanation for the origins of the universe and the meaning to life then they will, inevitably, seek these answers from the secular realm. We shy away from subjects like philosophy and epistemology. These are vital areas of study. Why is it that we believe in God? Why is it that I know something rather than nothing and that there is existence rather than non-existence? These issues need to be prompted and explained. These are the issues of today.
The biggest mark we miss when ministering to our youth is this: God is sovereign. How do we tell a young person that our God, the God of the bible, controls every molecule that moves? Can this be explained in a hip new method by a thirty-something hipster sipping a mocha from Starbucks and talking about the latest sitcom on T.V.? Of course it can, but it’s not.
The doctrine of God takes a back seat to more fashionable and aesthetic means that deliver us a Jesus that is our homeboy rather then the Creator and sustainer of the cosmos. Our focus needs to be brought back to the God who controls and has foreordained whatsoever may come to pass. When we engage the minds with these doctrines then it begs the questions that need to be answered. Why do bad things happen? What about natural disasters? Why is there evil? We trigger a domino effect of deep and critical thinking when we present God properly to our children (or anyone for that matter). Conversations shift from the mundane to the extraordinary. This is where we bring our youth. We bring them to the point of realizing the majesty of God, to the point of understanding they are wretched sinners in need of a savior. This is what will keep our children faithfully committed; the gospel.
In the final analysis we will be judged on how we cared for the young people that God has brought into our lives. We will be held accountable on whether or not we presented the gospel accurately and unashamed. My answer to the the youth issue in this country is not flannel shirts and summer getaways centered around feel good self esteem enhancement. It is the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It is through engaging the minds of tomorrow in deep and constructive dialogue about the truths of our world and our lives. Challenge them. Show them that without God there is no truth. Encourage them to, oh I don’t know, read! Help them explore science, sociology, archaeology, medicine. We are not at war with science, we own it. Ready their minds for battle in an ever increasing intellectual society. Give them the confidence to stand against the tides of western culture and the so called progressives. Show them the the only truth in the world is the truth of the cross. Christianity is not a religion for the simple minded. We stand on the confidence of the cross. We stand for ultimate truth. Now get out there and act like it.