Sermon Review and Application
This week we heard from my friend and former pastor, Rob Kaczmarek, about a biblical vision for youth ministry. His text was Deuteronomy 6. From this passage we see that God wants his instructions to be passed down from parents to their children.
To listen to the sermon, click here.
His message countered some popular conceptions of youth ministry in which the church tries something that appeals to the popular culture in order to get as many youth as we can, and then also tries teach them about Jesus, hoping that they will pick up some of that.
My first exposure to the church was in this type of youth group. I was a non-Christian kid who was attracted by the offer of free pizza and fun games. But an obstacle to actually believing the gospel was the stark contrast between what the Bible actually said about God and life and how youth who claimed to be Christians seemed to be living. I kept thinking to myself that one of two things must be true: (1) the message that the youth pastor keeps saying is unrealistic, or (2) almost none of the kids here actually believe it.
Now, having pizza at a youth event is great. (In fact, having pizza just about any time, I think, is great) Crazy games are also great. They can be part of God’s common grace used for building fun memories and enjoying one another. But, at the end of the day, what is the main attraction, and what are we passionate about imparting to the youth? It must be—if we are to be Christian about it—discipleship. We must keep the gospel central and be encouraging youth to be faithful disciples of the risen Christ. We must tell youth—no less than we tell adults—Jesus’ message that “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).There is often an assumption that the standards of godliness for youth is different than adults. But I think this is really subconscious unbelief. Do we really believe the gospel? Do we really belief in the new birth? Do we really believe in the ministry of the Holy Spirit? If so, we’ll believe that the standard of godliness to which we call youth is the same as we call adults.
The other area that Rob stressed was the need for parents to be involved and often present. I think this is wise. When I was involved in youth ministry as an associate pastor, this is the kind of youth ministry I promoted. By God’s design (Deuteronomy 6) parents are the primary disciplers of their children. Anything we do that circumvents this model won’t prove to be faithful to God’s design. Now, a question that often arises: “What about evangelism and drawing youth in from outside the church?” This is a good question. There are such things as a model of parent intergraded youth groups where the groups are very ingrown and are more about shaping the morality. These events would be very unattractive to non-Christians and rightfully so. The problem here isn’t the model. The problem is that these groups have often forgotten the gospel. A youth pastor I know, who has a similar philosophy as Rob, reported that often non-Christian youth would come into their meetings and be shocked that many youth were actually enjoying God with their parents. The non-Christians go home and ask their parents to come to the next meeting. The parents, shocked that their youth have actually asked them to come something with them, come as well. This is, admittedly, youth ministry at its best. It doesn’t always happen this way, and it doesn’t happen overnight. That youth pastor labored for nearly two decades before he began seeing those results. But here’s the point: our goal isn’t to try to lower the biblical standard so that we can attract as many people as we can. Our goal is to be passionate about the gospel, including the message of free grace and the call of radical commitment to Christ.
I am thankful to Rob for getting us thinking about youth ministry in biblical categories. Will you join with me in praying for the youth in our church?
For Next Week: The sermon for Sunday is on John 13. This is the passage were Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. Read the passage and think about what Jesus is trying to communicate to his disciples by washing their feet.