Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lent:: Holding Onto Faith

It is the time of the year when myself and the other "camp guys" begin to form ideas and plan lessons, activities, and programs for the upcoming summer sessions. This is a wonderful time of the year for me, because I get to slip into youth minister mode. this period is also a challenge for all of us, as we plan to attempt impact in so many lives in such a short period.

This process led me to desire to revisit a concept from a previous post back in December. I included a quote by C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity. He stated:
We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away? - C.S. Lewis
I wanted to return to this idea again as I reflect on the outcome of camp and youth ministry in the lives of these many young people we work with at camp and examine their faith experience during their college years. It should be noted that as I have watched many of these young people transition from the protection of their parents household to the freedoms of collegiate life, the decision to attend a Christian college over a secular college has virtually 0% impact on the eventual outcomes of their faith experience. Since getting the desired outcome is not as easy as a road map to the right University, we must genuinely examine our ideas and methods of discipleship.

I read this quote today from a campus minister with Campus Crusade for Christ in San Fransisco:
"My experience... is that 80 percent of all incoming college freshmen who are 'saved' youth group kids become 'lost' college students very quickly. Why? Because they didn't follow Jesus to college. (Instead, they followed their friends, parents, 'the system,' or whatever.) They are usually good kids but not very godly. They are nice Christians but not very Christ-like. They are kind of spiritual but not very Spirit-filled."
The author points out from observation that spiritual success has more to do with the instilled manifestation of their faith to maintain them the through these years rather than a compelled sense of participation in religious services.

Instilling only a duty to religious participation is shallow and leaves our teens with a need to a search for fulfillment. Since the fulfillment brought by empty religious ritual matches the emptiness of the world's offerings the responsibility of religious morality becomes burdensome and gives way to the ease of self fulfillment. Having never been offered true meaning for life, pleasure becomes that purpose.

The contrast to pleasure as a purpose teens is young people who were inspired by their parents and other authority structures to live out the service oriented aspects of the Jesus lifestyle. The young people who have committed to renew their faith regularly by participation in Jesus style evangelism. Please understand that this means more than an occasional "service project" and the periodic "mission trip." This structure to bring meaning to faith requires commitment to it's application.

As I look over the majority of our youth I see only lifeless skeletons. Biblical education has provides a framework to build a Spirit Filled life upon, and yet by our lack of diligent commitment to this growth most of the teens are spiritually emaciated with no robust body of Spirit Filled experiences to promote growth. The gods of greed and pleasure have left our students shattered, withered, and perishing.

This is not a white flag! I have not accepted the atrophy and coalesced to merely offer a shallow ala carte consumerist schedule. Instead it is a prophesy!

Ezekiel 37:1-6 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.
He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"
I said, "O Sovereign LORD, you alone know."
Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.' "
God has brought Ezekiel on survey trip. He has placed him in a valley of death with one instruction, "Speak words of life." I indict myself, my peers in youth ministry, the parents of these young people, and our churches. This indictment is offered as I stand like Eziekel in the valley created by our efforts and I see only wilted remnants of our grave mistakes. The lifeless bones of those entrusted to our ministries are calling out, "Speak words of life, that we may hear the word of the Lord!"

Ezekiel 37:7-10 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.' " So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

I challenge us as the fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers of these young people to a new commitment of evangelism to our youth. We must enter into the death and reclaim them from the gods of this world we have surrender them to. We must begin to teach new lessons, not in the classroom, but in the praxis of purity and justice.

We must demonstrate the freedom in Christ we have to choose the narrow road that denounces greed and pleasure. We their leaders have been joined to these whores of worldly religion in their midst. Our first words of life must be tears of repentance!

Our second phase of dialog must be action. We must STOP acting like Christ called his church to be philanthropic purveyors of charity! Augustine's words have never been more timely, "Charity is no substitute for justice withheld." Our day timers need to be realigned to afford greater priority to being light in the darkness. We must seek out opportunities to join with God constantly in his work of reconciliation in the world.

We will not be successful in discipling our young people to hold onto their faith until we learn to live out gospel in front of them. The cross is redemptive, meant to resurrect us from the impoverishment of pride and self gratification. We must physically invest in their restitution through constant participation with them in the work of God among our world. Purity and Justice demonstrated will be more foundational to holding on to faith than any lesson, program or activity we can ever plan. We must breathe life into these slain.

1 comment:

Christi Bowman said...

As a pleasure for purpose teen I say PREACH IT!! I have only now just come alive...and I mourn the years I lost. I want MORE for my kids...I don't want them alive at 30...I want them alive NOW...I want them to know HIM NOW...that is the only way their life will have any meaning...without Him...without His purpose life is meaningless...and self pleasure is death.