During worship early each morning, I post something to Twitter and Facebook. What I post usually is a thought that arises during my time in Scripture and prayer. Sometimes that thought flows out of something happening in the culture or something that is on the minds of many believers.
Such was the case yesterday. I posted (Facebook version):
“Disillusioned youth and young adults from all over the world are traveling to join ISIS because the leaders have big plans and a purpose. Why does the American church think food ‘n fun is the best way to draw in the young?”
The day before I posted, I heard a TV reporter ask, “Why have 300 young adults from the U.S. and 600 from the U.K. traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight with the ISIS terrorists?” An expert on the Middle East answered, “These are disillusioned youth and young adults who have nothing much to live for. They don’t really understand the ‘theology’ of the ISIS terrorists. But they are attracted to the fact that the ISIS leaders have a passionate purpose and they have big plans for the world.”
The ISIS organization is very skilled online and with social media. They absolutely know how to get messages to a young generation. With great passion they can call the young to come, fight, and perhaps die—for the sake of a cause.
At the same time, how are U.S. churches seeking to draw in the young? Too often the message is, “Come and play in our youth center. Try Xbox on a HD screen twice as big as yours at home. And, if your gaming make you hungry, our extensive snack bar is only a few feet away.”
Here is the question:
How are the churches of Alabama clearly calling community teenagers to come and change the world?
In other words,
- Is it possible that teenagers today (already numb with all the entertainment options) might be drawn more toward challenge, risk, and adventure than more play?
- Is it possible that teenagers today (consciously or unconsciously) want to do something that matters?
For the record, I am 100 percent in favor of teenage believers doing some things just for the joy of it. I think a big shaving cream fight can be an wonderful expression of John 10:10.
What I am questioning is the absence of frequent challenges to do something hard, something that is an adventure, and something that makes a difference. Here are a few questions to consider:
- Is it possible a secular club at the high school is doing more to confront some wrong in our area than our church youth group?
- Is it possible a single teenager in the community has mobilized more support for some cause than a church filled with teenagers, parents, and volunteers?
- Is it possible teenagers who visit the youth group are surprised they hear lots of announcements about entertainment but none about really helping people in the name of Christ?
- Do we believe that, over time, our teenagers might be more motivated to participate because we challenge them than because we entertain them?
- Do we call teenagers to perform missions, ministry, and evangelism in ways that sometimes carry a reasonable degree of challenge, risk, and adventure?
Those questions matter. But here are the questions that might come first:
Do I as the youth pastor model a life of challenge, risk, and adventure?
As a disciple, do I do hard things for the glory of Christ and to express His love for all people?
Billy Graham once said:
“In this century young people have been used both to save and destroy nations. Adolph Hitler built his new Germany on a foundation of teenage Nazis by capturing the hearts of young people with his ‘strength through joy’ program. China’s Red Guard, mostly teenagers, turned China upside down. Castro was able to seize the imagination of Cuban youth and lead them into a revolution. Today, youth is again on the march, possessing power unknown in the last century.”
“One thing is certain: Young people today are searching for individual identity; for a challenge and a faith. Whoever captures their imagination will change the world.”
Will that include you, your church, and your youth group?