Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Youth Group Eclipsing Grace? Can God Compete?
"Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul." J.I. Packer
Is the Christian church training our young people in the way that they shouldn't go by not teaching them that corporate worship and the study of God is essential to living the Christian life?
Don't get me wrong. I am not against youth group (necessarily). My question is why is it that so many in the church today are preoccupied with a vibrant youth ministry yet not the least bit faithful in joining with the church in corporate prayer, the sacraments, corporate worship and fellowship, and the hearing of God's word? I am afraid that there might be too many parents raising children in the church who are looking for spirituality in all the wrong places.
Too often young people in the church are looking to meet God under rocks. What a shame that is. If for nothing else, for the sake of Christ's sheep, shouldn't the church be instructing them in the God ordained means of grace? We have children who, as Lewis said, "go on making mud pies in a slum because they cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." Some will undoubtedly say, "Oh but Ron, we must meet our children where they are!" No, I say. We must do better than that. We must no not only meet our children where they are; we must teach our children where they must meet God! Let's not do one without the other.
Is there liberty to give my children donuts for dinner? Well of course there is but how profitable would it be? Two things that must be considered are what would they be receiving in the actual meal and what would I be teaching them about good nourishment? In the like manner, is youth group lawful? Well of course it is but what can they receive in youth group as compared to corporate worship and what would we be teaching them about their need for corporate worship if we allow youth group to be a greater priority in the young person’s life than the corporate worship of God? I am against a "vibrant" youth group if such a mindset reduces to giving children dessert prior to them feasting on the main meal. Let's do both. If a church is detetermined to have a "youth group", then make it an excellent one by emphasizing the priority of corporate worship and all that it entails. I question, however, that if youth resonate with that, then will there even be any great need for youth group? Won't fellowship in various homes suffice?
"If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it."
Plain and simple from the prophet Isaiah, if the young people of the church really want to delight in the Lord, then they should not seek to find their own pleasure on Sunday but rather do those things pleasing to God, which can largely be accomplished by receiving the grace that is dispensed during the corporate worship of God. Doing the Lord's pleasure on Sunday is a sufficient condition for delighting in the Lord; so let's get back to basics, shall we? Whether or not Word and Sacrament is what people want -- it is what we desperately need. I've got an idea: let's teach about Word and Sacrament in youth group!
Jane Austen’s Mr. Bennet said to his silly daughter Kitty, "You go to Brighton!—I would not trust you so near it as East-Bourne, for fifty pounds! No, Kitty, I have at last learnt to be cautious, and you will feel the effects of it. No officer is ever to enter my house again, nor even to pass through the village. Balls will be absolutely prohibited, unless you stand up with one of your sisters. And you are never to stir out of doors till you can prove that you have spent ten minutes of every day in a rational manner."
Bennet finally got it right on behalf of his daughter Kitty but at the high cost of his youngest daughter Lydia’s dignity. He finally learned that certain privileges must be earned by a demonstration of an appreciation of what is needful. Until Kitty could prove that she could be sober minded for even ten minutes, she was not permitted to stir outdoors. Note well that the requirement was a precondition to function well in the reward that was before her. In other words, Kitty would not even be able to operate well outdoors unless she had learned to be sober minded indoors. In the like manner, is it really that unreasonable to strive to teach our Christian young people to have an appreciation and affection for the inner sanctum of the church prior to cutting them loose outdoors, to be “spiritual” in youth group? Let's not try to shortcut God's ways in an effort to know God better.
For a description of what a great youth group might look like, maybe take a peek here: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=720&var3=searchresults&var4=Search&var5=youth_group
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