I’m more grateful than I can say for the response to yesterday’s blog post regarding the protestor I briefly saw at Chik-Fil-A. Over 6,300 shares have gone out as of this writing, which is surely a first for this blog! I know the subject is volatile, relevant, and in some ways very complex, so I hope all of us keep a prayerful attitude when discussing it. Thanks again for taking the time to read it, and for your participation at this site.
The Gay Marriage Debate: Winning, Losing or Dropping Out? (Part 5)
Since public opinion on homosexuality has so dramatically shifted, it’s inevitable that views on same sex marriage would likewise evolve from majority disapproval to a fairly even split between naysayers and advocates (Click here for Part I of this series) a split that’s likely to morph into majority approval. That spells cultural change, a fact the Body of Christ can’t ignore without likewise ignoring Her role as salt and light. (Click here for Part II of this series) We can’t with integrity celebrate widespread approval of what God condemns, nor can we affirm that all change represents positive progress. (Click here for Part III of this series) But to my thinking the question shouldn’t be “How do we stop this change from happening?” (If the horse left the barn five hours ago, discussions on how to keep him in seem silly.) Better to acknowledge what is, then ask ourselves where we go from here. Last week of this series I suggested five responses:
- More Logs, Less Motes (Let’s examine ourselves first)
- The Kids Aren’t Alright (Let’s not leave the education of this next generation to Lady Gaga)
- No Church Left Behind (Let’s equip, and let’s get equipped)
- From Apologies to Apologists (Let’s move beyond apologizing for past mistakes and move towards defending the truth)
- Buckle Up (Let’s be prepared for widespread, volatile resistance to the Biblical position and meet it with bold love)
We looked at the need for self-examination before addressing cultural ills last Friday. (Click here for Part IV of this series.) Next week we’ll tackle points 3-5. Today, let’s talk about the need to educate the upcoming Christian generation.
The Kids Aren’t Alright.
No one can accurately say how effective all youth ministries are, but some statistics indicate that parents dropping their kids off at their church’s Youth Group may be indeed sending them to a gathering of Christians, but not a gathering for Christian growth. One survey reports 80% of Christian teenagers don’t believe in absolute truth; another notes 63% don’t believe in Christ as God’s Son; 52% deny the resurrection; 65% don’t believe in a literal Devil; nor do 68% acknowledge the reality of the Holy Spirit. Not surprisingly, 58% surveyed also claimed to believe all faiths taught equally valid truths.
Of course those stats can’t be applied to all Christian adolescents, so instead of running numbers, try something more to the point: Ask some of the teens in your own Church who Jesus claimed to be, whether they believe His claims, how to be born again, whether all religious beliefs are equally valid, whether there’s such a thing as absolute truth, and how one is received into heaven or Hell. You might get some reassuring responses, but I suspect too many of us would also get an alarming kick in the stomach.
I’ve seen this firsthand in countless churches I’ve spoken to. When addressing how to bring Biblical truths into our conversations, I’ve noticed time and again the adults in the congregation assumed the same truths I did about the Bible, the family and sanctification, yet many of the teens (and I’m talking about teens in Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God, Reformed and Nazarene churches) often held completely different assumptions about the basics, human sexuality included. During Q and A, when these differences became plain, I’d ask them how they came to their conclusions about sex, love and, if the topic was under discussion, homosexuality.
Their answer? “We have gay friends. I have gay parents. We know lesbian and gay teachers. They’re all great people, so why’s it wrong?”
I’m glad they recognize the worth of their lesbian or gay friends and loved ones. Thank God so many of today’s kids don’t harbor the “kill the queers” hatred so common when I grew up, though no one can deny that hated still festers in too many places. But since when does a person’s worth, likeableness or personal virtues justify all parts of that person’s life? More to the point, since when does sin become less than sin just because the person practicing it is, in so many ways, nice, great, worthwhile?
The problem isn’t that so many of our youth approve of homosexuality. That’s a mere symptom. Trouble is, too many of the kids who’ll become tomorrow’s church leaders currently derive truth from experiences, cultural resources and secular icons. Not the Bible as a final authority; perhaps not the Bible at all. And apart from Scripture as the final word on all matters, a growing though friendly-faced spiritual anarchy seems to be spreading among too many churches who assume their kid’s attendance guarantees their discipleship as well. A terrible, worse than rude awakening may be in store for all of us within the next decade.
We are, more than ever, in dire need of didactic, disciplined verse by verse teaching of the Word. And while programs that creatively present gospel truths are desirable, the fact is our kids will rise or fall to the level of mental adulthood we expect of them. If our youth groups are dumbed down to the level of games, videos and outings, apart from teaching and disciple-making, it’s not because our youth are capable of no more, but because we’ve expected so little.
Personal soap box time; please bear with me. When I was saved in 1971 at age 16, under Chuck Smith’s ministry at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, CA, I became one of many teens who’d extensively used drugs, scorned authority and generally dropped out but was now growing in Him. Night after night, we rag-tag hippies who previously equated homework with prison camps, were now quite capable of sitting at Chuck’s feet for up to two hours, listening and avidly taking notes while he taught us whole books of the Bible, verse by verse. No videos, no power point, no skits, no props – just a middle aged guy opening the scripture. We loved it; we kept coming back; we thrived. And who can say human nature has changed so much in 40 years that today’s young are incapable of sitting still long enough to absorb the concepts we burned out kids of the 70’s so avidly gulped up?
The next generation of Christians, if not properly equipped with truth, can hardly be expected to live it, defend it, articulate it or pass it on to their own. And here let’s admit, sorrowfully but plainly, that although truth is by no means dying, nor is it capable of dying, it is still in fact and practice largely being ignored. Worse still, it’s being given short shrift by too many of the people who claim it to be theirs, yet value it so little they neglect it’s teaching, protection and promotion.
I hold out hope, as do you, I’m sure, that our kids will be more than nice, religious people. God grant that they become disciples having a deep intimacy with Him, a working knowledge of His Word, and a zeal for bringing others to that same knowledge and relationship. And God grant that we be both equipped and zealous to lead them into what we hope for them as well.
Hope you have a great weekend. God bless.
Check Out the Entire Series, “The Gay Marriage Debate: Winning, Losing or Dropping Out?”
DebbieLynne | Aug 3, 2012
And approval of homosexuality is only one problem generated by the lack of sound Biblical teaching in today's Church.
apronheadlilly | Aug 3, 2012
Great series, Joe.
Shirley | Aug 4, 2012
I love what you write Joe. But this one has to be one of the best. As I go out and about speaking to churches and to youth, I am finding the same thing. We need to find a way to communicate in ways that they can hear truth. Truth has become relative and is almost a dirty word these days. My true belief is that we need to cry out for a fresh revelation of the word. I remember the 'Jesus' days of my hippy youth too and it was a true move of God. We need this.
Laura | Aug 19, 2012
I have 6 kids ages 4 to 17 - all girls (yes, God does have a sense of humor!). In our church the structure of the youth group is purposefully parent-participation and heavy doctrine and equipping with solid, biblical truth. The problem I face is that my older girls are bored with it. Sigh....at the church down the street they have a blast with the much larger, "fun-oriented" youth group. They have some close, godly girlfriends who go there so my husband and I have allowed them to be in both youth groups. They have noticed themselves, however, the gossip and mean-spiritedness among youth group members in this larger group. I've challenged them to speak the truth in love and stand up for loving, biblical communication. They will, too.
I think the burden of preparing the next generation for being Christian leaders in this counter Christian culture is for parents to realize that it is OUR RESPONSIBILITY to share with them scriptures, biblical principles and have many, many conversations about applying biblical principles to our current culture. Our church has done a wonderful job of equipping us as parents with good resources to do just that. Do you have resources for parents on your website or this blog? I'm sure you do. I'm a new reader. Anyway, thought I'd weigh in because this is a very relevant topic for me.