Every Sunday morning, my husband and I get ready for church by listening to "The White Horse Inn" podcast. Today was an exceptionally interesting program entitled "Reforming Youth Ministry". I encourage everyone to go to the website at www.whitehorseinn.org and look for the link: WHI-1100 | Reforming Youth Ministry, Part 1 .
In this program, Dr. Michael Horton interviews author Brian Cosby an Associate Pastor in Youth and Family Ministry at a Presbyterian Church in Peach Tree, GA. He has written a book entitled : "Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture". The author's experience as a youth pastor has caused him to evaluate how we minister to young people that will keep them coming back into church after they leave home for college and career. Pastor Cosby indicates in the interview that too many gimmicks are used to attract teens today, but often, there is not enough substance provided to teach them basics of the Christian Gospel. The result is that many do not stay in the church after high school.
During the program, Dr. Horton indicated that not only is there a problem with the "success in numbers" mentality in youth ministry but it is often spread to adult ministry as well. To prove his point, he played a portion of an actual interview of several pastors at a recent conference. The pastors were asked if they talk to their congregation about such things as double imputation, justification, sanctification and regeneration. It was surprising to hear the answers from these men. Many of them said they would never use these terms because their people would not understand them since they were religious terms. Another responded that he didn't spend much time on all of Paul's teachings but rather on how people were living in their day to day life. To him, this was more important. In the majority of the answers given by these pastors, most of them felt their congregation was not intelligent enough or educated enough to comprehend these words and they had to make it simpler.
As they continued their discussion, Pastor Cosby told Dr. Horton that he had some young people express a desire to study some Greek words so they could better understand scripture. He agreed to teach them and thought that only a few would show up for the study. He was surprised to see 50 young people come to the classes where they began to delve into the riches of the Bible. After hearing this, the thought came to my mind, "Are we dumbing down the faith?"
Power wrestling matches, trips to concerts, water park fun days are not bad in themselves. It is great for Christian young people to have fun together. However, the deeper question for both youth and adult ministries remain. Are we having enough quality time learning what justification means? Do Christians understand double imputation and sanctification?
After listening to this podcast, it is clear that many ministries and some pastors have bought into the notion that we should not be challenged in our thinking. Yet, Jesus, Himself challenged the thinking of the Pharisees and Sadducees who had mishandled the Word of God and missed the very heart of the scriptures. The Savior even drove out those who saw profit in ministry (the moneychangers) and said: "My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you make it a den of robbers" (Matthew 21:13). Jesus came not only to die for the sins of those whom God has called but also to proclaim the Truth of God's Word. He is the truth!
When we fall prey to gimmicks to attract young people or adults just so we can build our numbers up, we will have spiritual drop-outs from our churches. God's Word will never pass away and where it is proclaimed unashamedly, it will attract those whom the Father has called. We need evangelistic outreach done by the saints in their daily lives, but in the church, we need teaching, and training in order to grow deep in Christ.
Personally, I am thankful for the pastors who weekly proclaim the doctrines of grace and teach the meanings of justification, double imputation, regeneration and sanctification. These faithful leaders are building on the foundation of the apostles as written in God's Word. As a result of their work, when the storms come, the church will stand strong. However, those who rely on gimmicks to build crowds will find they are building on sand, and their house will fall when the storms of life come crashing in. May we continue the Reformation in our churches, youth groups and homes so that when Christ returns He will find us faithful. Selah!
Please go to White Horse Inn and listen to this podcast. It is free and can be downloaded to computer or IPOD. I welcome your thoughts and comments.