If We Want Our Kids To Stay In Church (Here’s Five Things We Need to Talk to Them About) – Article + Podcast

Below is a list of five key subjects that the Church (and parents) must address forcefully and often if we want our kids to stay in church. Four of the five areas are subjects that the Church has largely remained silent on in the last several decades. It’s time to face the ugly reality that the Churches retention rate of young adults is rapidly dwindling. The stories of tragedy are countless and remarkably similar. The scenario usually goes something like this; Jamie graduates from high school where humanism, atheism, secularism, and every other “ism” you can imagine has been crammed into her head for the last decade or more.  But until recently, Jamie always went home to a mom and dad who worked hard to combat the onslaught of worldly concepts and temptations infiltrating her mind.  But when Jamie goes to college, she faces the same battles that she fought in high school, only now they are even more intensified.

It’s time to face the ugly reality that the Churches retention rate of young adults is rapidly dwindling. The stories of tragedy are countless and remarkably similar.

One key element changes to Jamie’s disadvantage; she no longer goes home to the stability of her parents. Jamie has more freedom, independence, responsibility, pressure, more temptations, more opportunity for failure, and less support. Sadly, the Jamies in our churches are often not equipped to withstand the philosophical, moral, spiritual, and psychological battles that blindside them fresh out of high school.  Somehow, somewhere before Jamie reaches these critical years, she must develop her own intimate, personal relationship with God if she is going to withstand the cultural onslaught that young adulthood brings.

The kids in our churches are often not equipped to withstand the philosophical, moral, spiritual, and psychological battles that blindside them fresh out of high school. 

So what is the Churches role in all of this? I believe it is significant. In fact, it is paramount. Outside of parents, nothing can impact and shape students’ hearts like the properly functioning body of Christ. It is vitally important that the Church (especially the leadership) is aware and concerned about their young adults’ challenges. I recently heard a pastor say that every father is called to be a youth pastor. I didn’t hear nearly as many “amens” as he deserved for that statement. So often, parents place all the heavy lifting on their church to teach their children about the things of God. But that’s a reversal of what God originally intended. Parents train up children, and the Church comes alongside parents in that responsibility.

Often, parents place the heavy lifting on their church to teach their children about the things of God. But that’s a reversal of what God intended. Parents train up children, the Church comes alongside parents in that responsibility.

Backsliding is never instantaneous but rather a slow, hard, often silent development. It is an internal process that usually doesn’t manifest itself outwardly until it has almost completely germinated. That’s why Scripture admonishes us to “Train up a child in the way that he should go… (Proverbs 22:6).” Nothing can replace the shaping done during an individual’s formative years (arguably adolescence and young teens).  When Jamie goes to college, she will subconsciously draw from behaviors and patterns learned long ago. Therefore, for the Church to retain its young adults, it must maintain thriving child, adolescent, and pre-teen ministries. Parents, please take advantage of formative years and equip them for a lifetime of success. Spiritual development is a lifelong process that best begins at the youngest age possible.

Backsliding is never instantaneous but rather a slow, hard, often silent development. It is an internal process that usually doesn’t manifest itself outwardly until it has almost completely germinated.

For the Church to retain its young adults, it must maintain thriving child, adolescent, and pre-teen ministries.

Parents, please take advantage of formative years and equip them for a lifetime of success. Spiritual development is a lifelong process that best begins at the youngest age possible.

I’m writing this with a sense of urgency, heaviness, and humility. As the father of a teenage girl and a pre-teen boy, I know the magnitude of our job. I know how magnetic the culture can be for our kids. I know how oppressive peer pressure can be for our daughters. I know how exhausting it can be to truly train kids in the Word. It’s not a thirty-minute sermon or an hour-long Bible study with a friend; it’s a twenty-four-hour-a-day teaching lifestyle. It’s answering hard questions at midnight when we just want to sleep. It’s stopping when we’re in a hurry to take advantage of a teachable moment. It’s intentionally opening our Bibles and creating time for devotion. It’s uncomfortable conversations that we just want to avoid. It’s saying no when it would be easier to say yes, and it’s saying yes when it would be easier to say no. It’s repeating ourselves over and over again. It’s explaining something one more time for the millionth time. So, here are five things we must be talking about regularly if we want our kids to stay in church.

I know how magnetic the culture can be for our kids. I know how oppressive peer pressure can be for our daughters. I know how exhausting it can be to train kids in the Word. It’s not a thirty-minute sermon; it’s a 24 hour a day teaching lifestyle.

  1. Science and the theory of evolution in particular. We should not be anti-science, however, we should be anti-scientific theories that have an anti-God agenda.
  2. Morality, God’s plan for human sexuality, and the family. Hollywood, public schools, the internet, peers, and every other facet of culture talks about these issues night and day.  If the Church is going to remain relevant it cannot stay silent or fearful of these subjects.
  3. The Bible and why it can be trusted as the literal Word of God. It’s no secret that the Bible has been under attack in one way or another since its inception.  They may not be burning Bible’s in the streets but liberal academia has been doing their best to undermine it for centuries.  They don’t care if you read it as long as you don’t trust it for absolutes.
  4. Popular culture, holiness, and what it means to live righteously. Of course, just because something is popular doesn’t make it evil. However, just because it’s popular doesn’t make it acceptable either.  The Church must stand on the front lines of the culture wars and promote godliness in a clear, loving, well thought out way.
  5. Relationship with Jesus. None of the above will matter without a close, experiential, relationship with Jesus. Relationship will sustain a heart even when storms rage all around.

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Mass Killings and the Question of Evil

Two mass shootings have rocked the nation in the past month alone. One of them occurred right here in the Atlanta area that I love and call home. This isn’t a news story, it’s not my intention to give details or sensationalize the killings. Understandably, America always waits with bated breath for any details that might clarify the reasons behind a shooter’s sickening actions. Sadly, knowing a killer’s motivations (regardless of what they are) will be of no solace to those who have lost a loved one to senseless killing. Justifiably, the watching world craves some level of understanding going forward. One thing is sure, nothing discovered will produce any satisfying revelations. By assessing motives, we desperately hope to discover an inoculation from individual acts of evil. Although new laws may or may not make certain types of despicable inclinations more challenging to accomplish – laws do nothing to address the pervasive evil contained within the human heart.

Although new laws may or may not make certain types of despicable inclinations more challenging to accomplish – laws do nothing to address the pervasive evil contained within the human heart.

Pure Evil Can’t Be Intimidated

Undoubtedly, consequences (legal and otherwise) intimidate many people into submission. However, threatened social consequences are only preemptively impactful to a certain point. Obviously, suicide bombers can’t be intimidated by the loss of life over their actions. They give their lives willingly in the service of evil. Neither can a suicidal killer with hatred in his heart be thwarted by any punitive measures. A homicidal heart will find a way to commit murder regardless of the actions civil society takes. Please don’t misunderstand; we should take preventative measures when and where possible. It would be ludicrous for polite society to conclude that because rape can’t be totally eradicated, we shouldn’t make every effort humanly possible to prevent and punish rape. Indeed, the same goes for murder, whether it be mass murder or homicide in general.

Mass Shootings: A Modern Problem

Mass killings are a relatively new social manifestation of evil. While every society from the beginning of time (going all the way back to the biblical account of Genesis) has suffered the scourge of violence and homicidal hatred, the particularly heinous rise of senseless mass murder is a distinctively modern problem. Since the dawn of so-called civilization, governments and power-hungry tyrants have slaughtered more innocents than historians can count. But otherwise, average individuals killing innocent people they don’t even know (or barely know) en masse is terrifyingly unique. The level of hatred required for this nightmarish breed of viciousness defies comprehension. Modern psychology views the origin of evil as a biological byproduct rather than an outside force that impacts us biologically. Therefore, it only addresses the symptoms and remains incapable of correctly diagnosing the primary disease.

Modern psychology views the origin of evil as a biological byproduct rather than an outside force that impacts us biologically. Therefore, it only addresses the symptoms and remains incapable of correctly diagnosing the primary disease.

The Origin of Evil

Evil is evil, and while individuals are responsible for their own actions, evil does not originate in the human psyche. It is always easier to relegate every depraved human action down to mental illness or madness. While mental illness is undoubtedly a real problem, not all (or even most) mentally ill individuals commit horrific crimes. Just calling a killer mentally ill doesn’t explain away their actions or substantively address why one mentally ill person kills and another does not. We instinctively want to categorize evil as insanity because it is too emotionally painful to imagine a sane person methodically killing dozens of people he’s never even met.

Just calling a killer mentally ill doesn’t explain away their actions or substantively address why one mentally ill person kills and another does not.

We instinctively want to categorize evil as insanity because it is too emotionally painful to imagine a sane person methodically killing dozens of people he’s never even met.

Out of the Shadows

Mass shootings push the fallen nature of humankind out from the shadows into the harsh light of day. The naked evil and wicked capacity of the human heart causes us to blink and squint. We can’t look directly at it without excruciating pain. It’s not that evil things aren’t happening all around us every day – we just fail or refuse to notice them. Like the prophets of old, those who do notice and comment are labeled depressing, downers, boorish, buzz killers, alarmists, catastrophists, or some other condescending pejorative. But large-scale, in-your-face evil can’t be ignored, denied, or minimized. So, we hunger for the elusive why behind the “madness.” Some point the finger of blame at God in these circumstances (here’s a great article on the origins of evil). But ultimately, evil is satanic in origin and embedded in the human condition. Therefore, human methodologies alone – no matter how well-intentioned – will never eradicate evil from the human heart.

Mass shootings push the fallen nature of humankind out from the shadows into the harsh light of day. The naked evil and wicked capacity of the human heart causes us to blink and squint.

It’s not that evil things aren’t happening all around us every day – we just fail or refuse to notice them.

Like prophets of old, those who notice evil are labeled depressing, downers, buzz killers, alarmists, or some other condescending pejorative. But large-scale, in-your-face evil can’t be ignored, denied, or minimized.

Evil is satanic in origin and embedded in the human condition. Therefore, human methodologies alone – no matter how well-intentioned – will never eradicate evil from the human heart.

Because the fallen nature of humankind is vulnerable and consistently capable of awful behavior, Jesus instructed us to pray, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil… (Matthew 6:13).” I’ve often marveled at those who assert that God is not good while simultaneously claiming that humans are intrinsically good. I’m not sure you can read about events like mass shootings and believe in the innate goodness of humanity. Facing the depravity of the human condition head-on is depressing and hard to grasp. The human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). C.H. Spurgeon wrote:

“As the salt flavors, every drop in the Atlantic so does sin affect every atom of our nature. It is so sadly there, so abundantly there, that if you cannot detect it, you are deceived.” He added: “The venom of sin is in the very fountain of our being; it has poisoned our heart. It is in the very marrow of our bones and is as natural to us as anything that belongs to us.”

I’ve often marveled at those who assert that God is not good while claiming that humans are intrinsically good. I’m not sure you can read about mass shootings and believe in the innate goodness of humanity.

The Bad News and the Good News

We inherited that sinful nature from the lineage of Adam (Romans 5:12). You can’t truly fathom the goodness of the Gospel until you grasp the depravity of the human condition. The Good News begins with bad news: All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Thankfully, the Gospel story begins with condemnation but ends with redemption. In the weeks and months ahead, I have decided to write, podcast, preach and teach about the Gospel. If you’re reading this and you feel hopeless, please know there is hope. If you’re reading this and you know someone who feels hopeless, please tell them about Jesus. Tell them how God wants to forgive their sins and fill them with His Spirit (Acts 2:38). Tell them how the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead can raise them above the hopelessness of sin (Romans 8:11). We can push back against the darkness by reaching one heart at a time with the truth of the Gospel. It’s the only hope for the human condition.

You can’t truly fathom the goodness of the Gospel until you grasp the depravity of the human condition. The Good News begins with bad news.

Thankfully, the Gospel story begins with condemnation but ends with redemption.

We can push back against the darkness by reaching one heart at a time with the truth of the Gospel. It’s the only hope for the human condition.

Podcast

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Link to the David French Article Mentioned in the Podcast

Is Faith Absurd?

I always appreciate an article that causes my mind to strain just a little bit.  That’s exactly what this article by Cole NeSmith entitled What You Believe Is Absurd (And 5 Reasons It Should Be) did for me the other day.  I encourage you to read it for yourself (be sure to come back and finish this article though).  For those of you who would rather just keep reading allow me to simplify and summarize NeSmith’s main thoughts.  NeSmith basically reminds us that our Christian faith is absurd to those who are not believers.  In other words, faith is not rational, scientific, or without questions.

1 Corinthians 2:14 immediately jumped into my mind while reading NeSmith’s article, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  Spiritual things always seem irrational when viewed through the prism of carnality.  I am fully aware of the temptation to try and boil spiritual things down into logic or sound reasoning.  But when Jesus tells us to go and sin no more (John 8:11) for example, that sounds impossible without the Spirit guiding our thinking.  When you are terminally sick and God tells you to dip in the muddy Jordan River seven times (2 Kings 5:14) that sounds a little crazy.

Faith which is the foundation of the Christian life is not rational.  Hebrews chapter eleven says, “…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrew 11:1)To believe in something that you have never seen is absurd when you are looking in from the outside.  Look at the third verse of Hebrews chapter eleven, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”  My belief that God spoke the world into existence (Genesis 1:1-31) and breathed the breath of life into mankind (Genesis 2:7) is not intended to be a scientific endeavor or fit neatly into a logical box.  It is an act of faith.  I would contend that much of what we label as science today is in reality a belief system that also requires faith.  I simply choose to put my faith in God rather than man made theories.

By no means am I saying that everything about the Christian faith is illogical.  Morality makes sense when you view it objectively.  Many things about our world only make sense when we understand God’s ultimate plan.  The value of life itself only makes sense when viewed through the lens of a Divine Creator.  Even love is not logical without a belief in God.

I think there is a danger in trying to rationalize too much about God and faith.  There is a freedom that can only be found when we embrace the reality that there are some things we will never understand until we meet the Lord.  There is a peace that can only be found when we realize that faith is messy and absurd.