If only our churches and schools were as pragmatic and wise! I mean, the Lord tells us quite clearly that it only takes "a little leaven" to ruin the whole batch of dough (Galatians 5:9) so you'd think we'd be extra careful when it comes to entrusting our children and grandchildren to anything at all with a "Christian" label that could impact not just their impressionable hearts and minds, but also their very souls.
We also know that God warns us through that same holy Word to expect that Satan is just looking for any opportunity to pounce on us at all times.
1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Carrying the analogy I started one step further, perhaps it's best to think of this verse in light of the time of year we find ourselves in, and maybe we'd take it much more seriously if Satan were depicted here as a bloodthirsty shark instead of a roaring lion.
Regardless, the point is that we believers should never let our guard down since the reality is that "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" and "so it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
The cold hard truth is that even Christians who are extremely active in Youth Ministry could be causing great spiritual harm without even knowing it! No, "good intentions" is not enough, because sincerity does not automatically equal Biblical truth, passion and volume does not automatically mean you are doctrinally sound, and we all know that "The Road To Hell Was Paved With Good Intentions."
Where am I going with all of this?
Well, it wasn't too long ago when I attempted to point out the dangers with many Graduation Day speeches (and gifts) from Christians to other Christians. Hopefully, all of my fellow Lutherans who are reading this today survived that time of year.
Now, the Summer is well underway, which means that you yourself, your kids, or your grandkids will likely be attending a Vacation Bible School or a Christian Camp And Retreat Center (if you haven't already).
Thanks to some things a couple of Pastors shared in recent days, I feel obligated to provide you with the following Public Service Announcement to help you prepare for the "potential" dangers that lie ahead. Consider this your "Caution" or "Warning" sign for this Summer.
First, Rev. Todd Wilken shared this profound statement the other day...
If youth ministry is going to be about what the kids like, remember, they like being treated like adults.— Todd Wilken (@toddwilken) July 21, 2016
Second, Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller created and shared this handy checklist titled "How To Tell If You're Being Emotionally Manipulated By A Youth Speaker" that can be used not just during these Summer months, but year round.
In case you're wondering what all the fuss is about, then I would strongly encourage you to spend some time with one or all of the following resources for an honest and eye-opening look at so-called "Youth Ministry," "Youth Groups," and "Youth Pastors" within Christianity.
I get that you might think that your way of doing Youth Ministry is "better" than most, but these are serious issues that cross denominational lines.
Besides, is ministry (a.k.a. doctrine and practice) supposed to be defined by you and the youth in Christ's Church or by God through His Word?
As one Lutheran Pastor said in his sermon addressing this topic, "pizza is great, but it isn't the Gospel!" So, give 'em the Gospel, which is the only "food" that can nourish and save their souls (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4; Romans 10:17)!
Yes, I realize that there will be some of you who will read this who will take issue with those Pastors and even me for taking a stance like this primarily because you yourself are involved in Youth Ministry somehow or perhaps since you had a much more positive experience with it.
However, please try to put your presuppositions aside and prayerfully consider the Biblical case that was made here today. We have to be honest and willing to talk about this. It's definitely not an easy thing to do within the current climate where the 11th Commandment of "Thou Shall Not Offend" reigns supreme even despite what God's Word has to say about things.
Ok, so where do we go from here then?
"Properly teaching vocation will go a long way in supporting home catechesis."
"Lastly, stop and ask yourself what you believe about justification. If you truly don’t believe you can manipulate someone to faith, then stop acting as if you can. Stop the bait and switch tactics that are present in youth groups and adult small groups alike. Focus Sunday mornings on preaching the proper distinction between law and gospel, sin and grace, repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Cater Sunday service and youth ministry activities around teaching these things to the believers that are present. Sunday morning is not for the unbeliever, but for the believer. Focus on continually equipping believers to receive Christ’s gracious gifts so that they can leave service and serve their families and neighbors."
Doesn't seem all that difficult, does it?
We have to start somewhere though and there's no better place than in our own homes.
But please don't misunderstand me either.
What would be the wrong response to this attempt at having a serious discussion with our brothers and sisters in Christ after peeking behind the curtain that's hiding and protecting Youth Ministry and everything that's associated with it?
That's an easy one.
The wrong response would be to do nothing and to simply take an apathetic approach and say something like, "Well, we already do catechesis in our home, so I'm not worried at all about the Youth Ministry program at our church, and neither should anyone else even if I agree with all the legitimate points you made." Believe me, sadly, I know far too many people who will respond that way!
Instead, we must continue to do what we can to take an honest look at Youth Ministry, Youth Pastors, and Youth Groups and be willing to bring this subject up for discussion in our own church, if necessary.
Let's not forget that the whole concept of Youth Ministry and everything that goes along with it is intricately tied to the so-called "Church Growth Movement" and we've already seen what a colossal and utter failure that has been.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, be on guard this Summer, because spiritually speaking, Jaws has nothing on the run-of-the-mill Youth Groups and Youth Pastors!
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!