I attended a “Sticky Faith” seminar yesterday with Kara Powell from Fuller Youth Institute in Pasadena, CA. At issue is the “great graduation evacuation” that we see from youth leaving the church after graduating high school.
She noted from a study that they have done that 2 of 5 high school graduates will drift from the faith with 80% of those kids who did drift intended to stick to it. She used the illustration of Red Bull (my son prefers Monster, but I digress), where people who drink it can get through the meeting, afternoon, cram session, etc. – but they crash afterwards.
She contends (and I agree) that most youth ministries (and churches) give kids a “Red Bull Rip Off” what we teach may help them get through high school, but they crash later on.
We do this by reducing the Gospel to sin management. Christianity becomes a set of dos and don’ts. Kids are given a check list. “Don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t chew, and don’t hang out with those who do” (my dog does a great job of that by the way). Do read your Bible, do pray, give, witness, attend worship, serve, etc.
Now this is all good stuff, but when this defines a youth’s faith in Christ and how they see their worth before Christ, what happens when they screw up? They crash and burn.
“How can I go to God when I’ve _______________” (fill in the blank – slept around, smoked pot, gotten wasted)?
And it becomes a pattern, and Powell notes that “when they fail the last place they want to be is church.”
Kids need to understand that the law isn’t the Gospel, and that gets confused in many, many churches. We are sinful, and we can never trust in our own righteousness. Scripture tells us that all of the human accomplishment and clamoring meet the checklist is nothing but rubbish in light of Christ, (Philippians 3:8). In fact God, “for our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV). It’s nothing that we deserve, we’re getting precisely what we don’t deserve! – God’s righteousness imputed to us through Christ’s vicarious death upon the cross. Thank God we don’t get what we deserve!
It is nothing we do, so when we blow it (and we will because we still have our sin nature) we can boldly go before the throne of grace to receive mercy in our time of need, (Hebrews 4:16).
So the imperatives we find in scripture should not be a measuring stick for us; because if that is the case we fall short every time in thought or in deed. God’s acceptance of us isn’t based on those, but His righteousness. We are saved by grace, through faith. The checklist didn’t save us, and it isn’t the basis of God’s continued acceptance either. When we pray, read our Bible, witness, love our neighbors, etc… it is an act of worship (Romans 12:1) because of who God is, what He has done for us, and who we are in Christ; not in order to gain God’s approval.
Is that the message your kids are hearing in youth group?