Sunday, May 25, 2008

Adolescence and Responsibility

Newt Gingrich recently wrote: "I believe that adolescence is a failed, nineteenth-century idea. Prior to the middle of the nineteenth century, people were either children or they were young adults. Now we have invented a middle zone, where kids are bored, trapped in mindless bureaucracies, critiqued routinely, and end up hanging out, watching junk television, doing drugs, and having sex."

How has the idea of adolescence failed the church?
  • We have chosen peer group relationships over intergenerational relationships.

  • We have given teens spiritual entertainment rather than significant responsibility.

  • Mentoring has given way to peer-driven discipleship.

What are the consequences for the church? Teens are leaving the church without ever developing a taste for real community, sound doctrine, or personal discipleship and accountability.

Hope is rising, however. Newt Gingrich isn't the only one saying such things. In 1995, Christopher Schlect wrote Critique of Modern Youth Ministry. He writes "I am convinced that young people have a far greater capacity for spiritual and social maturity than we tend to give them credit for... the church does not expect what it ought to from children and their parents... We see in our present day that the youth subculture has become the dominant culture in our society... we are confronted by the values of youth wherever we turn... Late twentieth century America is not allowing itself to grow up."

Listen to this 15 year old homeschooler:

"The Bible never mentions teenagers. In fact, the word teenager was never mentioned in any dictionary until the middle of the 20 th Century. According to the Bible, children grew up into adulthood, not eternal teenhood. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man I put childish things away.” It has only been in the last fifty years and heavily influenced by evolutionary social theory that age segregation has been practiced in churches. Instead of being trained into righteousness, many teen ministries are leading their flocks into worldliness. However, the Bible never mentions any “teen” years or youth ministries in which to “find yourself” and embrace your “uniqueness.”

"What can be done? Youth should attend all church services with their families. After all, the church is one body. “For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many are one body: as also is Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12 All ages/abilities should be integrated into the church, because all ages and gifts can be used to glorify Christ as one body.

"The youth are part of the church of today, not only the church of tomorrow. Serving the elderly, assisting the less fortunate and training for the mission field, will prepare the younger members for leadership by firmly establishing them in their faith.

"It really shouldn’t surprise us when so many teenagers leave the church after high school. They just can’t seem to make the transition into the “adult church.” Those that stay in church will usually attend their own college service or young singles groups. The church is one body with many members, not many categories with many groups... By allowing our youth to share their ignorance and immaturity with each other as they see fit, we are undermining the authority and stability of our churches. Just as a member of the body exposed to the elements will eventually weaken and make ineffectual the whole body; so will the spiritual life of the youth if we allow unBiblical practices such as youth groups and other special interests groups to have such unchallenged authority." -Annamarie Bettisworth is a 15 year old American homeschooler.

Perhaps it will be teens themselves who will lead the charge to change. Alex and Brett Harris, teens who are founders of The Rebelution blog and website, have written a great new book, entitled Do Hard Things. In it they not only lament the low expectations our culture has for teens, but tell story after story of teens doing incredible things. It is definitely worth a read.

What do I hope for the church?

  • That teens will have already acquired a taste of union with Christ before they head for college
  • That teens will be able to defend their faith in a pluralistic and skeptical age
  • That teens will come to value those who are ahead of them in age and maturity as valuable resources and supporters as they face the world to come.
  • That teens will disavow a desire to rebel against authority so that they do not cultivate a habit of rebellion that will lead to their destruction.

Finally, my hope for the church is that teens will come to identify with the present church so that the church will be challenged and influenced by their strength, zeal, and idealism for the future.

"Fireproof" the Marriages of Your Church

The makers of "Flywheel" and "Facing the Giants" will release their newest movie on September 26th: "Fireproof." The double meaning in the subtitle says it all: "Never leave your partner behind."

This movie shows what it takes to protect your marriage in our culture or to move back from the brink of divorce. Learning to rebuild broken trust is a difficult thing and the movie offers some good insights. Companion pieces, slated to be released later, will offer more direction and help to troubled couples.

While retaining the humorous banter seen in earlier movies between coaches or used car salesmen, this movie has a darker edge. In the earlier movies, you can point to the exact place where the plot turns in favor of the protagonist. When the protagonist gets right with God, the circumstances change. In this movie, and I think in real life, the decision to follow is met with more obstacles before the plot begins to resolve.

The volunteer cast does an excellent job with some very emotional scenes. Kirk Cameron was the only paid actor in the movie and he donated the money to charity. He was paid only to keep his card with the Screen Actors Guild. Watch for a boat, a bat, salt and pepper shakers, and a red dress.

I look forward to recommending the movie to my church and promoting it in the community. It may just provide the emotional motivation for couples on the brink of divorce to reconsider. At least I'm praying to that end.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

G. K.Chesterton Gets it Right

"You cannot evade the issue of God, whether you talk about pigs or the binomial theory, you are still talking about Him. Now if Christianity be. . . a fragment of metaphysical nonsense invented by a few people, then, of course, defending it will simply mean talking that metaphysical nonsense over and over. But if Christianity should happen to be true - then defending it may mean talking about anything or everything. Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true."
G.K. Chesterton Daily News December 12, 1903

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It's a God-centered World

Our world is undeniably God-centered. God is Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, and the one who defines me..
As our Creator, every cell, every planet, every star shouts the design and handiwork of God.
· One intricate cell in my body contains more factories than our planet.
· Our planet boasts water, air, an iron and nickel core, and a decent size moon.
· There are over twenty essential items necessary for life on our planet. Take away one and you take away life. The environment in which we live was designed for us.
Our planet also boasts a front porch look at the universe. The heavens can be seen because of our position in the solar system and our position in the Milky Way. It’s almost as if we were designed to discover.
Richard Dawkins and others have suggested that life was seeded, intentionally or unintentionally, on this planet by an alien. Is it really so difficult to believe that God created? Are we so afraid of admitting responsibility before God that we would rather make Roswell, New Mexico our Mecca? Proposing an alien as a cause for the beauty and design inherent in all things is preposterous. It doesn’t even answer the question it was meant to ultimately answer. Where did the alien come from?
Our world also shows evidence of the need for redemption. While the design is clearly evident, it is marred. Disease attacks life. Sin mars man. Creation groans. A Redeemer is needed to bring about the restoration. The cross in the middle of time marks the place where the redemption price was paid.
If I am made in the image of God, then God defines who I am. As Creator, He has fashioned me as He pleased. He has linked my purpose to Himself: “Let us make man in our image.” I have to know God before I can recognize what it means to be a man. Our image displays His glory to powers seen and unseen. Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer are all reflected in the image of man.
To put you or me at the center of the universe is to defame God and destroy the purpose of man. To put nature at the center instead of the One who made it is to mistake the effect for the cause. We must put God at the center. We can understand nothing else until we understand this. The center of the universe is also the beginning of wisdom.