Youth leaders are not called to know the gospel but to make the gospel known. It may seem like semantics but there is a significant difference in approach, format and methods that come with a commitment to the latter.
Making the gospel known includes risk at the expense of comfort. Making the gospel known requires that we engage culture rather than become separatists. Making the gospel known requires sacrifice. Making the gospel known requires walking with our Lord and interacting with the Holy Spirit.
As a pastor I have always felt called to make the gospel known even when facing opposition from church people who have come to believe the church exists to meet their needs or needs of their family. I have promoted active ministry to the culture and have not shyed away from addressing the patterns of the world directly and honestly. Engaging the culture is messy business.
Frankly, it is easier to simply teach scripture and not talk about uncomfortable issues. However, the transformational ministry of Jesus addresses the issues of the day and offers no candy coating. While scripture is vital it is important to admit that being a bible scholar saves no one. The best bible scholars in Jesus’ day did not even recognize Him.
The goal must be to trust the Holy Spirit to use the Word, experience and disciplers to bring true transformation.
In every ministry I have served I have come up against the same conflict. There is always a small but vocal group demanding that we tone down or not address current youth culture trends and instead focus mostly on the less uncomfortable passages of scripture. The reality of teen sexuality, media use, pornography, broken families, drug and alcohol use is not seen as an issue to these individuals despite overwhelming evidence of teen behavior. Because these things are not concerns in select households, the desire is that all of student ministry conform to their perceived needs regardless of the needs of current adolescent culture. Students trying to navigate difficult issues are left thinking that “church world” has nothing to do with real life.
I am fully confident that adolescents will discover that Jesus has very real and relevant answers in His Word when we take a direct approach and deal with the questions they are asking.
Unfortunately, experience has taught me that parents who bury their heads in the sand rather than face the reality of their kids’ worlds, end up spitting mouths full of dry dirt. Meanwhile, their kids walk away from what they see as meaningless, irrelevant faith.
I think we have an opportunity to help our kids become more than just bible trivia experts. When we make the gospel known through head-on, direct penetration of culture, our kids learn that Jesus is real and relevant.
God is not afraid of this culture. Why are we?
I believe the bible, when we do not sanitize it, speaks directly to where our teens, our culture lives.
Want some lessons from Genesis to start? I haven’t seen many curriculums on these points …
- A man and woman standing in nakedness and shame, blaming each other for what they did wrong.
- An angry and envious man, lures his brother into a field, brutally murders him, and then tries to cover it up.
- The world becomes so corrupt and violent that God decides to virtually wipe out the human population and start over.
- Noah gets drunk, and one of his son dishonors him.
- Abraham twice tries to pass his wife off to another man to save his own skin. Later, his son Isaac does the same thing.
- Abraham sleeps with one of the household servants so he can have an heir. This was his wife’s idea, but she becomes so jealous after it happens, that she angrily throws the woman and her son out of house to live in poverty and shame.
- Lot offers to let a violent mob gang rape his daughters. Lot’s daughters later get their own father drunk and sleep with him so that they can have children.
- Jacob, Isaac’s son, is a deceitful mama’s boy who tricks his father and brother out of important family legal rights. He has to run away from home so his brother won’t kill him.
- He goes to work for his ruthless uncle, who keeps him in virtual slavery for decades. Jacob escapes by tricking him and running away.
- Jacob’s wives live in constant jealousy and competition, continually tricking Jacob and each other in an ongoing battle for supremacy in the family.
- Jacob’s sons loathe one of their brothers, sell him into slavery, then lie to their father and tell him he died.
- Jacob’s daughter Dinah is raped. Her brothers exact revenge by deceiving and then murdering the perpetrator, destroying and looting his city, and taking all his family members captive.
- Judah refuses to find a husband for his widowed daughter-in-law, Tamar. So she disguises herself as a prostitute, tricks her father-in-law into sleeping with her, and becomes pregnant. (from http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/the-bible-rated-r )
Our The Bachelor-watching, Rhianna-listening, Family Guy, Secret-life teen culture needs to know that God’s Word deals with real life – especially the ugly parts.
Our teenagers are ready to hear about issues of life, death, sexuality, moral dilemmas, relationships, self-image and conflict. Why is it that we are more intent on teaching them the layout of of tabernacle than we are on helping them learn how to be Christlike in texting? Why do we talk about the temperature of the fiery furnace while the 15 year old in our small group is wondering what she should do about her boyfriend pressuring her to have sex? Why can’t we show kids that Scripture does speak to their lives directly?
If you want to bless your kids, give them a safe place to ask any question. Be real with them. As much as it hurts, pull your head out of the sand and look at the world they live in. Only then will you be able to truly help them navigate the waters and see that Jesus is relevant. You might not like the view but at least you will be able to help them follow Jesus.