Tuesday, March 07, 2006

We (I) have failed

I should be more burdened than I am right now. I witnessed the state of our future first hand Sunday night. We have lost our grasp on the gospel. There is an entire generation of "Christians" who do not understand and thus cannot believe the gospel. Let me tell you what happened so that you can have a context for what I am saying:

At my church Sunday night, we hosted a youth choir festival for all the area youth choirs. About 150 students participated (none of mine). Since I am the youth minister, they asked me to deliver a short devotional as the students were eating to help prepare them for the evening. I decided to preach the gospel and tell what God was doing in my student ministry in helping students understand and believe the gospel. I asked, "Who is confident enough in your understanding of the gospel to stand up right now and tell us in just a few sentences the essence of the gospel?" I had no intention of actually asking someone to do that, I just wanted to see how many were that confident. Honestly, I figured about half of the hands would go up. Much to my surprise, only about 3 or 4 students raised their hands and some of those only because their friends were prodding them. I was shocked.
Now, I know the question may have been intimidating to many teenagers. They would never think about standing in front of their peers to say anything, much less talk about God. I am confident that if given the opportunity to talk with me one on one, some of them would have been able to articulate the gospel. However, this rough survey says something about the state of the church today. THINK ON THIS: It is possible to attend church regularly for years and never be challenged to understand and believe the gospel. Tragic.

It is not the students' fault (mainly). It is my fault. It is your fault.
I think it is only going to change when we admit to God and to the students that we have failed and we intend to change.
Your thoughts on this would help me greatly.


Chase said...

Thank you Justin.

When we keep and gain students by seeking to entertain them. We cannot keep them long. We don't have the budget, or the ability to appeal to their sin nature like MTV does. Thus, we cannot keep most of those we draw, and of those who are there, like the crowd in Ephesus of Acts 19, most do not even know what they are doing. As a firend of mine says, "We need to invite students to change their major from undecided to understood. Thank you for this bold and accurate assesment that would indict student ministries all across our land. Now, what must we do to change this sad reality?

justin said...

Chase, thanks for the comment.

Here is what I have just found out that may shed some light on these things:
One weekend of focus on the gospel has done more than 2 years worth of Wednesday night "talks."
Now, that weekend was only 2 weeks ago so I cannot speak to the lasting fruit of it just yet. But, I know this: I have a lot of students who now have an understanding of the gospel and can articulate it. This is true not because we had a great program. It is true because students were confronted with thier lack of understanding and were asked to articulate the gospel.

chase said...

"This is true not because we had a great program. It is true because students were confronted with thier lack of understanding and were asked to articulate the gospel."

Based on this reality, if ministries might focus not so much on program, but more on confronting Christians with their lack of understanding of the Gospel, perhaps transformation would begin to take place. I know I am simply restating what you've obviously just said, I just like it so much I want it in the blogosphere as much as possible for the record.

Mark Redfern said...

At two levels it is not we who have failed. Let me explain.

1. The primary responsiblity for gospel instruction lies with the parents of these teens. I say this sharing the burden for teenagers. But, the reality is that God does not hold me accountable for teaching the gospel as much as he does those who are commanded to instruct their children - the parents, and particularly the fathers. Now, does this mean we just jump ship? Absolutely not. But, our hearts should break for parents as much as for teens.

2. The other level is the level of the teen's own remaining corruption (if a believer) and (if an unbeliever) darkness of understanding. How my heart breaks for people who have been taught the gospel and do not believe it! How my heart hurts for kids who know a thin gospel in their heads but no robust, biblical gospel in their hearts!

So, let us keep responsibility on the teen and the parent as well. God commands us to grow in the knowledge of Him (2 Peter 3). Let's make sure we are calling people to that, and preaching it as clearly as we can.

chase said...


I can say Amen to this. Parents do hold the primary responsibility, this specifically applies to those students whose parents are believers, obviously. I think the Church will be called to account, Church leaders that is for poor teaching about salvation and a lack of clarity concerning what exactly is the Gospel. Perhaps the "we" we have used was speaking to a "they" who serve as babysitters, bus drivers, life coaches and entertainers, but do not take seriously the task of guarding what has been entrusted to them and passing it on to faithful men.....

justin said...

Mark, I TOTALLY agree. I am coming from the perspective of a student minister who has wasted a lot of time on non essentials while the essentials have been assumed.
I don't have many parents who are actually teaching their children the gospel. Part of my failed responsibility (along with every other student ministry I know) is that I have not challenged the parents sufficiently.

Knowing that the students are not being taught at home, we must do at least two things:
1. We must encourage students to know and believe the gospel (because they obviously don't)
2. We must encourage parents to fulfill their God-given role in shepherding thier child's heart.

Dutch said...

Too often parents, Christian parents (or church attending) drop their kids off and expect student ministers to do all the work...

There are many churches that make this an easy thing to do... drop the kids off... maybe they go to the Wed night dinner, then business meeting, maybe a not so deep Bible study...

They pick the kids up, rush back home, catch their favorite show (or watch it on the DVR since it came on earlier)... no much is asked about what was learned by the kids....

Then the vast expanse between a Wed nigh and Sunday morning... what is in between?

Honestly, it is not just a Student Minister issue, it is a Senior Pastor issue, an Education Minister issue... a Deacon issue... well, let me say it... a Church issue.

Justin, Chase and Mark-
You guys get it... It will be hard to turn the Titantic, someone has to do it... I will be praying for your ministries, the kids that are in it as well as their parents. May a revival raise up in the soil that you labor so hard in!!

Clif Cummings said...

I believe for too long we have underestimated the "hunger" (don't know if that's the right word) -- of our teens. Having just finished our church's first ever Grace Conference with Dr. Sam Storms - it was an unexpected blessing to have a parent tell me how much their 16 year old son enjoyed his teaching. They spent over an hour one night after the service discussing Sam's message.
I agree - it's a church issue - but bottom line - it's a "me" issue! Do they see me hungering for and being satisfied in the gospel.
Let's pray that God will grant them and us a deeper hunger so that we will no longer be satisfied with our level of knowledge of the gospel. The more we fill ourselves with the gospel -the greater the overflow!

Chase said...

Good words, Bro. Clif.

Sarah said...

When Dallas and I were on staff with the youth at our church, one of the biggest things that we were told was that student ministry is parent ministry in disguise.

Parents seem to have no clue today how to disciple their children or share the gospel with their children. I am so thankful for the examples that have been set before us and the Lord showing us the right way to raise our children! I do not say these things proudly, only by the grace of God do I know or understand childrearing! But I really don't think parents know that they are responsible for teaching their children in righteousness. Nor would they even know where to begin. I wish that churches would strive to teach parents how to be biblical, God honoring parents! I think a lot of times too, youth groups try and replace that role of the parent, instead of coming alongside and encouraging them in their role.

"It is possible to attend church regularly for years and never be challenged to understand and believe the gospel. Tragic."

How true that was in my life!