Jan 04 2012
Desperate Times, Desperate Measures: Let's Try the Gospel

It's THE mysterious question.  Everyone in church culture is talking about it:  "Why are the kids leaving?"

And then the follow-up questions, "Should we start new programs?"  "Maybe we should have even awesome-r music?"  "Maybe we should rename our church something cool?" "Should our pastor try the half-tuck?"

Actually, if this researcher's right, and I suspect strongly she is, it has nothing to do with any of that. 

Kara Powell works with Fuller Youth Institute, and talks with Relevant Magazine about their extensive research:

The students involved in our research definitely tended to view the Gospel as a list of dos and do-nots, a list of behaviors. We asked our students when they were college juniors, “How would you define what it really means to be a Christian?” and one out of three—and these were all youth group students—didn’t mention Jesus Christ in their answer; they mentioned behaviors. So it seems like [young adults] have really picked up a behavioralist view of the Gospel. That’s problematic for a lot of reasons, but one of which is that when students fail to live up to those behaviors, then they end up running from God and the Church when they need both the most.

So youth group kids got the impression that the Gospel was about what we do, not what Jesus already did.  They went to church, and got the t-shirts, but they don't understand the Gospel.  We can blame THEM, of course - we love doing that, when people don't go for our programs - or we can wonder, did they ever really understand it?

Did they understand that because of what Jesus already did, God's approval of them is NOT based on their behavior?  Did they understand that Jesus knows that we cannot fulfill the law ourselves, and therefore fulfilled it for us?  Did they understand why He said, "It is finished!" and the temple veil was torn in two, once and for all?  Did they understand they are - truly, seriously, literally - no longer under the law?

Let's be honest:  Probably not.  Because when people actually hear the scandalous Gospel, they don't tend to forget it.  They can't.  If they "got it", they wouldn't, then, define what it means to be a Christian with behaviors. 


And, as a former youth minister, I can guess why they probably didn't hear it:  Because of the well-meaning hey-let's-not-get-too-crazy-with-the-grace folks, who think the radical message of grace needs "balanced", lest people, you know, go nuts and start having sex and killing people simply because their Sunday School teacher convinced them of how good God is.  Thing is, that grace, through the Holy Spirit, actually CHANGES people.  Once they grasp how wonderful it is, how - truly! - amazing grace really is, they don't tend to start sport-hunting humans.  They are changed, with a faith that lasts, yes, even through four years of glorious brokenness and learning at State Tech.

We want to control people.  But, there's a problem: We can't control people. 

You can make a slave out of someone, sure - but even then, you can't control his heart.  Perhaps his heart could be won by the shocking love of God, the one that sets him free of religous tyranny, once and for all?

So I say we go all in.  Let's tell them.  Let's go ahead and give people the Gospel, the whole, stunning, wonderful thing, and take our chance that God wins their hearts.  The risk of telling them the truth, of course, about how GOOD the "Good News" is, is that they'll go morally crazy, which, as we noted, when people "get" grace, doesn't tend to happen.  (I realize my parents love me unconditionally.  This makes me want to please them.)

If we tell them the Gospel, which is anti-moralistic, they will not confuse Jesus with moralism. Good thing, too, because moralism is boring.  And it doesn't work.  And it's a lie.  There's that, too.

The risk of NOT telling them is this: They grow up thinking Jesus is just another religion, and they suspect they are moral failures, and go through life missing out on the romance they were made for with their Creator.  They'll feel like their beating their heads against a wall, constantly playing a morals game, with the sneaking suspicion they're not really winning.  They'll either become Pharisees, or, worse... they'll just walk away.  (Wait, is that worse...?)

And, by the way, that last scenario...?  It's happening all the time.  So let's go ahead and try the Good News. 

Oh - one more reason to go ahead and tell them the whole, scandalous, amazing truth about the Gospel: 

It's true.

Comments (50) -

1/4/2012 10:30:02 AM
Brendt Waters United States
Brendt Waters
So, really, what you're advocating here, Brant, is that maybe, just maybe, God is capable of transforming someone's life. Wink
1/4/2012 10:36:34 AM
Dan United States
I went through confirmation as a teen, but even then I hadn't accepted the truth and grace of God through Jesus.

My mindset was that I could go to parties, get drunk beyond all recognition and be sexually impure but as long as I made it to church on Sunday with a whale of a hangover, I was good to go as long as I ate the stale wafer and nasty wine.

I even had thoughts about becoming a pastor my junior and senior year of high school because I felt my minister made decent money and had a house/car/utilities/cable/etc paid for by the church so she had no real expenses other than food and I wanted that too.  My mindset had nothing to do with Christ.

It wasn't until I was 29 and finally listened to what the Holy Spirit was telling me all along that I began to have a smidgen of understanding.

From there, I've learned day by day how Awesome our God truly is and how Jesus is a lamp unto my feet, THE way, THE truth, THE life.

Following Jesus to the best of my abilities, to me, is a lifestyle, not a "thing" I do during down-time...
1/4/2012 10:37:00 AM
Ed Cyzewski United States
Ed Cyzewski
Amen, and I would add that we don't offer very compelling things to do with Christianity. I'm thinking in particular of Don Miller's book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years that describes how our lives will be boring so long as they resemble stories that lack conflict, desire, and resolution.
1/4/2012 10:42:07 AM
Joe A United States
Joe A
I think you are right on, Brant. Being a young adult of 22 years, graduated from college, I understand the reason the younger group (even younger than me) just goes "This is too much, this is work to follow this stuff." When in fact it's not work, it's living and serving for God once you truly realize what the New Testament is about.

I think it also shows those teaching it lack of faith. Why pick and choose what you tell a teenager from the New Testament so they don't go "Yeah I got plenty of chances to screw up so I'm fine when I step over the line, I'm still forgiven." But in reality God is bigger than us, bigger than a youth leader, bigger than their minds. If you show them the whole picture and let God touch their hearts then there isn't anything to worry about!

I believe that if you do as God asks you, including His teachings, that He will take care of the rest and take care of our youth.
1/4/2012 10:44:26 AM
Michelle Marsh United States
Michelle Marsh
I think this is not just a problem with young people although I do agree it is a definite problem with young people. I think it is a problem with the whole church. If you think about the church in Acts all they preached was repent and be baptized. I think all churches need to get back to the basics instead of preaching to itchy ears of 50 ways to be a better christian and then maybe we will see a true outpouring of the Holy Spirit and many new believers for eternity! Great post!
1/4/2012 10:44:42 AM
jonsothin United States
YES! I've been seeing this, and I say with Brant - "Let's go all in!"
1/4/2012 10:46:11 AM
brant United States
That the Gospel is THIS scandalous is proved, I think, by the reaction to Paul:

"Well, why don't we just go one sinning, then?"

That's exactly what I would have said, not that long ago, if someone explained the Gospel to me in true terms.  "If it's about Jesus's behavior, and not ours, what's the point?"

That's the response Paul got.  Of course, he answers this with MORE of an insistence on grace, not a "balancing" act.  Grace can melt a heart, and heart change is actually the point.  Outward behaviors can be very, very misleading.
1/4/2012 10:58:15 AM
Ginny Lynn United States
Ginny Lynn
When I was young I stopped going to church because I didn't believe it was working for me. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools. In my high school and college days I was alienated from God. I never heard about accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior until 1970 when a guy asked me if I had accepted Jesus. I said "what would this Jesus do for me?" And I quote him, he said "Why, he makes me so very happy." I moved to California and opened a surf shop with a pro surfer I had met surfing when I visited Oceanside before. God was waiting for me, and I asked him into my life, and surprise of surprises, I was born again, and I am still amazed and grateful for that. I go to a small, awesome church, a Southern Baptist church called the Worship Center, and we are changing things this year so that people will hear the message and come into a prayer room. I think the most important thing is that we Christians love one another. And I am filled with the Holy Ghost and have joy in my heart, more life than I ever dreamed of. When I was driving into California that year God spoke to me and said "you're going to find something there beyond your wildest dreams". It wasn't the surf shop or the drugs, but a relationship with Jesus Christ.   AMEN : )
1/4/2012 11:11:10 AM
Jackie F United States
Jackie F
I got caught up in moralism because that's what my parents taught me. It caused me a lot of anxiety and depression because I kept failing, and I became so afraid of my failures that it was virtually paralyzing (because the pain they caused was meaningless without Christ).

Then when I had children it was much harder to keep up "appearances" than it was before. I didn't want my kids to live like I was living - in fear. I knew I was teaching them wrong, so finally it made me fall on my knees and surrender to Christ. Sometimes we have to reach the end of our rope and get so desperate that we give in to the gospel. But it doesn't have to be that way if we would just believe what He says about us. We are hopeless and helpless without Christ in suffering and death.  
1/4/2012 11:12:53 AM
vic United States
  The way we live is what they learn. If people only act a certain way at church the kids pick up on that and want to stay real. Real the way they SEE it. If adults can't follow the rules God has set (and Jesus has lived) then why should they? We are a visual people and what we see as youth is what we learn. Same with the music they listen to. I have introduced several young adults to hip-hop rap and rock with a possitive message and it is causing changes in their behaviour.   Air1.com would be a great place to start. Find out what they like and start getting involved. Show them what God's love is really about.
1/4/2012 11:29:16 AM
Alan Knox United States
Alan Knox

But if this is true, then those youngsters might decide that they can believe the gospel and follow Jesus, but not attend our church, not wear the right kind of clothes, not listen to the right kind of music, not vote for the right political party, not give to our ministry, not hate the kinds of people that we hate... why, this kind of message would change everything about our system!

1/4/2012 11:43:06 AM
brant United States
Vic -- I think you read this wrong, or apparently, I miscommunicated.  I'm not trying to change anyone's behavior.  That's seriously, truly, honestly, not the end goal.

Good thing, too, because we'll always fail.  No one will be justified by the works of the law.  I picked this up from reading in the Bible where it says "No one will be justified by works of the law" in Galatians 2.

Then, Paul says we're no longer subject to the law.  At all.  Are we afraid of tellling people this?  Are we afraid of the Gospel?

1/4/2012 12:10:37 PM
Adam United States
I totally go around and drop bits of the true gospel when it is allowed given a conversation. The fear people will justify their actions is irrational. The people that will 'eat, drink and be merry' without a second thought have bigger internal issues and they would do the same thing whether Christian or not. Even so, with enough grace they can begin to grasp the truth. James refutes this idea by explaining that good works come from a holy fire within one's heart. When someone gets grace, they are changed; they fall in love with God and hunger to do good things.  Jesus' brother really got the message, which only makes sense given he knew Jesus longer than any other human except their mother.  Why is King David portrayed as being so awesome?  Because even before his heir came, David got what was going on.  He was a prophet too, maybe he saw some of Jesus' sermons.  David was in love with God and that is why he spared Saul so many times.
1/4/2012 12:44:53 PM
Niki United States
My daughter has gone to church her entire life.  As a small child, she believed whole-heartedly in God.  Starting around 5th grade and into the now as a freshman, she does not 'believe in God'.  She has seen so many people who call themselves Christian, but don't act like it.  Granted, we are all sinners and are imperfect and simply *can't* do exactly what God wants.  My daughter knows the truth, has heard it her whole life, but has fallen away.  But not for the reasons you stated.  

As a mom, it's very sad and frustrating.  I would be failing her if I did not take her to church every Sunday.  I pray every Sunday that God would work in her heart and return to her faith.  I know it would help her depression and low self-esteem.  
1/4/2012 12:45:08 PM
Mark Vergine United States
Mark Vergine
I believe its because people have made Christianity into "Jesus AND" so Jesus and rules. What they need is to hear about the gospel. The gospel of GRACE. I'm 17 so for me if all I heard was that I have to believe He saved me but I also have to follow a bunch of rules and then I would be "good with God" I wouldn't want any part of it. But because I know that His grace is enough it makes me want to follow after Him and want to learn.
1/4/2012 12:54:29 PM
Hannah United States
I have heard that once an young adult goes into college so much evolution and such gets put into their brains, they think that what is taught in churches is a bunch of bull. That shows the power the world (Schools and the Government) has on our youth.
1/4/2012 12:58:40 PM
Joy United States
True. The Truth. There is no sweeter sound to me than those words. That is what brought me to Him, and what will keep me here forever. <3
1/4/2012 1:00:36 PM
cindy United States
many factors can play into why the younger generations are leaving the church. such as peer influence of drugs and alcohol, what they learn in church and from parents, their beliefs, and so on. or perhaps the message was misunderstood. maybe feeling rejected.

in my teenage years until present day, i still feel "rejected" by my youth group as if i do not belong. going to church was for God and to know him, but i didn't feel like i was learning anything. i felt no connection with my peers and they all had their little groups. so going to church was out of the question for me. i currently attend church, but the question for me is "why?"
for now it is to make my parents happy, but i hope and pray that i will find the true meaning of attending church and knowing who Christ really is.

1/4/2012 1:04:54 PM
Niki United States
@Cindy-  That's exactly how my daughter feels about youth group.  She doesn't fit in.  I have, however, connected her with the tech team at church which help with the service production.  She loves it there.  Still doesn't really believe in God, but she at least has a group of people who are fun for her to hang around.  Many of them are her age (14) to 19.  She's loving that.  
1/4/2012 1:06:33 PM
Sunday Gracia United States
Sunday Gracia
Religion is the issue.  The church for almost a couple of centuries in the US has ventured to a gospel about Jesus and not the gospel that Jesus preached.  Read your word.

This whole thing is not about religion and it is more than a just a relationship.  It is about a King and the Kingdom.  Understand the Kingdom concept of God, and you will have kids joining your church right and left.

Keep an eye on Journey Church in Fort Smith.  We will begin on this starting with the Change Your Thinking conference, Jan 20-22.  Youtube the trailer - "Change Your Thinking conference Journey"
1/4/2012 1:14:23 PM
Sandy United States
Yes! Yes! Yes! Amen!
My Youth Group (I'm the Youth Lady) is studying the Gospels and has been for over a year. Started at the beginning with Matthew. It took us a year to really study the Word. We're in Mark, now. We study at a local McDonald's and the response has been nothing short of a miracle.
1/4/2012 1:28:17 PM
Scott Townsend United States
Scott Townsend
Brant, I teach youth ministry at my college and I couldn't agree with you more.  Young people are leaving the church because of the lack of meaningful connection with solidly Christian adults and because they don't see anything of real value in Christianity.  The rules are too strict, the adults are to snobby and the youth group is too 'fun'.  Students today need real connection from real people who have had a real encounter with a real Christ. If we want to see young people changed for the Gospel we as adults need to model it, connect with students and mentor them in a right relationship with Christ and others.  Great blog, Brant!
1/4/2012 1:33:24 PM
Truefire United States
@cindy Don't give up! I suggest you look into another church, it shouldn't matter how you dress or anything to fit in - if a church says that, they're doing it wrong. I suggest looking into Calvary Chapel - they're everywhere, and have a good, no nonsense base.
1/4/2012 1:39:54 PM
Fletch United States
Spot on Brant. The Gospel is the message that needs to get out to the youth in the church. These kids need a healthy dose of hearing that their salvation is not based on their behavior, but the behavior of the Redeemer. It's not about what they do for God, but what God has already done for them. I heard a favorite pastor/podcaster put it this way: If you are a child of God, you already have an "A"...so stop trying to prove yourself to Him.

After getting wrapped up in a pursuit of REALLY GOOD theology and religion, I began to suffer from "gospel amnesia" until God reminded me that it really is ALL about Jesus. So, as a dad to eight, I try to "gospelize" my kids every day with a renewed understanding of what it means to find their identity, worth, value, and security in Christ Alone.

Great post!
1/4/2012 3:24:23 PM
Cheese Doodle Bandit United States
Cheese Doodle Bandit
That's why I'm so glad the church I go to teaches straight from the Bible.  The words "It's not what you do, it's what God did" (paraphrased) come out of my pastor's mouth just about every Sunday.  Three cheers for pastors who let God do the speaking!  So technically, that's three cheers for God. Smile  Anyway, let's pray this kind of thing continues EVERYWHERE!
1/4/2012 4:06:42 PM
Phil United States
I remember when I was in high school, one week in Sunday School we discussed how we were Saved.  I was the only one in the room who had waited until high school to be baptized.  Almost uniformly, everyone who went forward at a young age hadn't understood what they were doing, just that they knew it was expected of them.  They knew the words to say, but they did not know Christ in their hearts.

I had always envied their capacity for such faith at a young age and found myself shocked.  Many of them said they only came because it was expected of them.  I eventually left that church and sought somewhere where Christ was the center, not arguments over Contemporary vs. Traditional music, nor how to make the services "more hip and relevant so we don't lose the youth".

As a 25 year old.  Please let me tell you what I find keeps people my age in church, those who are still there.  Jesus Christ does.  The Gospel is relevant. And yes, like you said, it's scandalous.  It begins with the scandal of the Incarnation where God's Son is born in a dirty stable to a poor family from David's line, a line filled with adulterers, murderers, and other "undesirable" people.  It continues up to Christ giving His life on the cross for us; we didn't ask for it, we don't earn it, but the gift of Jesus Christ is still there.
1/4/2012 4:56:00 PM
Ron Amundson United States
Ron Amundson
Moralistic behavior in the short term is safe even when its based on false premises. Imagine the headaches when you find out 3 months after your youth mission trip that a one or two of your youths are 3 months pregnant. Such is one reason why parents, and churches emphasize moralism over the Gospel.

The Gospel does foster a change of heart, and from there springs a change in behavior. This is true repentance, not just an outward change in behavior to keep up with the church piety race. The thing is... we dont know when the Gospel will become real to a given youth, and even when it does, mistakes will happen.

Otoh, if we preach, holler, and pound, a turn & burn, fake moralistic behavior as priority #1, at least then we have a facade of righteousness which does lead to less danger in the short term... even if it does drive young adults away from church, and Christianity in general over the long term.

There in lies the justification for false teaching rather than no apologies barred full bore Gospel.

1/4/2012 7:12:23 PM
LMan United States
I've been a youth leader and teacher in my church for several years now, and I've come to believe a few things:

1. Things don't necessarily have to be flashy, fun and exciting to hook teens. They have to matter, and they have to be done well. If it doesn't feel like it matters, they won't care. If it's done sloppy, not even the teachers will care.

2. Whereas the trend seems to be to educate teens into living morally, Youth ministry should really be training a force of action. The youth are not the future, they are probably the most powerful component of any church. No matter how small the group is.

3. Retreats are nice, mission trips are better. Quit talking and start doing. When a kid is used by God and sees with his own eyes how powerful the love of Christ in action is- 9 times out of 10 it lights a fire, and he's never the same.
1/4/2012 9:17:00 PM
Aimee United States
Matthew 5:
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
1/4/2012 10:36:08 PM
Dutty United States
Jesus is right on in Matthew 5:18-20.. the Law shall not pass away until heaven and earth pass away and all is fulfilled. That is because until that point, man is still in need of salvation, and the only way to salvation in Christ is to understand you are a sinner which becomes evident while under Law. Once we know we are sinners, we understand our need for a Savior and can turn to Christ in repentance. We are born under Law, feeling guilty for our sin, whether conscious of it or not. Once we are saved, we are no longer under Law but saved by grace through faith alone, and are partakers of the Living God. We no longer have to “perform” for God from the outside-in, but rather enjoy His presence and be transformed from the inside-out. His righteousness becomes our righteousness.

1 Cor 1:30-31
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD."
Eph 2:8
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is  the gift of God
Gal 2:16
..man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus
Rom 7:7
What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET."
Gal 3:24-26
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

As for righteousness surpassing that of the Scribes and Pharisees? Well that can only be done through faith, apart from the Law once saved by grace through faith alone. What does Galatians tell us about true righteousness –

Gal 3:21-22
For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Rom 4:1-5
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness
Rom 10:5-11
For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. 6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: "DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, 'WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?' (that is, to bring Christ down), 7 or 'WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)." 8 But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED."
1/4/2012 10:56:39 PM
Nate United States
Christ is the end of law for righteousness to all who believe. Romans 10:4

Best news I've heard all day! There is nothing left to talk about in church but the Gospel of Jesus.  May the young people hear this loud and clear.
1/5/2012 5:18:51 AM
Ken Hagerman Paraguay
Ken Hagerman
Well said. Why do we think we have to hedge the bets in God's favor? I think that's what we are doing when we list the acceptable behaviors.

Why not tell it straight? God's a big boy He can handle people accepting or rejecting His offer on its own merits. Let the Gospel stand on its own without the additional back-up from us.
1/5/2012 7:29:23 AM
Carl Garrett United States
Carl Garrett
Awesome post, Brant!  I've been all in since February 2010 when God set me on Fire with His Spirit. I've spoken to and shared the Gospel with over a thousand people since then, many of whom will never step foot into a church building.

The youth are leaving the churches for the very same reason our nation is falling apart morally. And the youth are not the only ones not "getting it," the Gospel. Grace has been mixed with works (requirements) for so long, perverted, that very few people actually experience it's Power to transform their lives. Most belief in Jesus is now intellectual accent and not saving faith, which is transferring all of your trust from whatever you've had it in to Jesus, to Grace. Here's the deal: people, Pharisees, pew warmers, all believers must hear pure Grace over and over, not mixed with anything else, before they'll be able to place their faith, their full trust, in it, in Him, and receive the real Jesus. Romans 10:17 www.amazingpromise.com
1/5/2012 7:55:47 AM
Keenan United States
A Big Amen Brant
1/5/2012 9:19:24 AM
Angie United States
Honestly, I do not believe God is really happy with the church today. The true heart of God is not really being portrayed to the world for the most part. When the church came to the western world, we pretty much turned it into a business.

There really is no room for the people to get involved & posses their faith. It's crucial for all Christians to actually get hands on experience learning about how they can use their faith & gifts to serve the church & others in the community to Glorify Him in a real practical way that can be a daily lifetime process.  

Kids want to know that they are safe to make mistakes and that you'll love them no matter what. Not that God is going to drop out on the if they do a,b,or c. We need to keep the focus on Jesus, service, praise/worship, & humility. There has to be balance.

If we focus on teaching the Laws and not the truth about WHY Christ came & what He stands for, then we are not giving the Christ who came & died for our sins any kind of Glory! We need to seek God and meditate the Scriptures & stop following so many traditions. We're beginning to become a reflection of the Pharisees in Jesus' time!

So often the churches are not taking the youth seriously. There isn't a place for full time Youth Ministry anymore. I had to leave the field because I couldn't get paid what I needed to just pay back my student loans. That was something that made me sick to my stomach.
1/5/2012 12:41:50 PM
TCarr United States
"I got caught up in moralism because that's what my parents taught me. It caused me a lot of anxiety and depression because I kept failing, and I became so afraid of my failures that it was virtually paralyzing"

right on. For me, my parents didn't teach it to me; I don't know how I got it but this is what I still only now understand about the gospel. When coupled with verses that warn of judgment if you're not prepared (parable of 10 virgins), salt becoming useless if it loses its flavor, the demand for obedience otherwise you go to hell (Matt 7:21 - "“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.") the warning of predicted apostasy... I don't think anyone can help but feel like a failure.
It's a product of our growing up as well. We are taught that to be accepted we have to do things. Not doing things means bad stuff (not doing homework or studying or chores leads to punishment and bad grades). It is especially hard for someone who is generally lazy and undisciplined (like me). So one can easily see how it is turned into works, and then failure, and then depression and hopelessness. I agree with Joe A as well: "This is too much, this is WORK to follow this stuff." When someone doesn't have a saving knowledge of grace (and I'm preaching to myself here too), reading devotions and reminders that this life is a battleground, and we need to FIGHTFIGHTFIGHT and SERVE WITH ALL OUR HEARTS AND MINDS AND STRENGTH or you'll BACKSLIDE and FALL AWAY GET UP AND FIGHT! it just makes the feelings of failure and depression worse. When I read those kinds of things I'm like, "How the heck can you expect me to go on like this EVERY SINGLE DAY?!" Just thinking about it makes me weary.

It makes me sad too for the reason that those who really need help like me often don't get it because of what the gospel has been turned into. It's either moralism/legalism/behavioralism, or it's the other extreme, pray a prayer, accept Jesus into your life, and then have no idea what it means to follow Christ and just go on your merry way.
1/5/2012 5:32:13 PM
Michael Lockwood United States
Michael Lockwood
Faith, without deeds, is dead. You must repent ( Change, turn from your old behavior), or you will perish. Believing is not enough, for even the devils believe and tremble.
1/5/2012 6:19:08 PM
Suzy United States
Who REALLY decides how we are to follow Jesus? The trappings of conventional religion can lead us to believe that if we "follow the instructions", we will end up with a fine-working and worshipping human, suitable for fellowship and ushering. I enrolled my children in a Christian school for 2 years, and was saddened to see that what should have been an enriching experience ended up for them being a trial of their characters. Not difficult or troublesome, just raised to be free thinkers. I have since begged their forgiveness and encouraged them, and any other young person I share a faith centered convo with, that your relationship with God is between YOU AND GOD. No person we can worship with can know our true hearts. We share what we are comfortable sharing, with those who make us comfortable. What God needs to know of you, He knows without you saying. The questions you need answered have been asked and answered with loving words forever. He remains constant, we are the ones that add the conditional stuff to worship. Love NEVER fails. Got it? A huge blessing is the youth pastor that helped my son find his way to the Cross, his own way, and his replacement, who became an older brother to him until his death 2 years ago in an auto accident at 17. It doesn't have to be so complicated. These guys get it. It's challenging, but I believe we can ALL get it too.
1/6/2012 2:28:05 PM
Dutty United States
Jesus has a clear answer to those who think they’re justified by their works –

Matt 7:21-23
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' 23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'  

We are saved by grace through faith ALONE..

Eph 2:7-10
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is  the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

In the above scripture in Matt 7:23, Jesus speaks of the one thing that mattered…. Knowing Him and if we Know Him then He is at work in us.

John 6:37
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.

The one way we come to know Christ is through real, authentic, God-given faith. Every scripture that people use to try and support that we can lose our salvation or a grace + works message, really speaks only of what real faith looks like.  When James says that faith without works is dead, he is exactly right. He is not saying that by works, faith remains alive, but that real, authentic faith produces works. Not works we do on our own efforts as if to earn God’s acceptance or think we are anything apart from Him (see Matt 7:21-23) but works that come naturally from seeking Christ with hungry hearts and empty hands. Truly knowing Him is what it's all about. When we have real faith and are truly born again and have a real relationship with Christ it is no longer us working but Christ working in us. It is God’s works, “which God prepared beforehand” for us to walk in. Think about it. God’s works vs. our works. God’s works grow naturally from a real relationship with Christ just as a tree produces fruit naturally because of its nature and life source. Works are often compared to fruit. You will know people by their works. “For the tree is known by its fruit” - Matt 12:33. Not as if the fruit is required to make the tree a tree but the fruit will reveal the true identity of the tree. Our works don’t have any influence on the inner reality of salvation, but God working His works in us points to that inner reality.

From Jesus Himself, who is our perfect example..
John 14:10
"Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works."

Phil 2:13
..it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Either Christ is in us, working His works.. or it is us working in ourselves without Christ. We are not saved by works, the Bible is extremely clear about that. However, if we are truly saved and truly know Jesus Christ, then our lives should reflect that truth.

John 6:28-29
Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

If you are born again then believe in Christ, believe in the Father who sent Him, and believe that He is by your side always. Never to leave you, nor forsake you because He loved you so much that He came down to the earth He created, lived the perfect life for us that the Law demands, and then paid the price for us breaking the Law. He did it all, praise be to the Risen Christ on the throne!

Rom 8:37-39
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1/6/2012 3:00:47 PM
Dutty United States
And Christ working in us doesn't produce "religious" works.. but instead produces only "loving one another" works. God is love. Just read the gospel of John and find out what the life of Jesus really looked like. You will see what His works look like. Everything He did was in loving service to others. He emphasized that we can do nothing apart from Him, just as He could do nothing apart from the Father while being a finite man on earth. Jesus knew His need for the Father, thus all the hours He spent in prayer that we read about in the gospels. He spoke out publicly against religious sin for it was the religious leaders who didn't understand themselves to be sinners and in need of a Savior. However, to the "sinners" of that time (tax collectors, prostitutes, etc.) who were broken and understood their need for a Savior, Jesus was most drawn to. If He is in us today, our lives ought to reflect Him and these same things. The church today, the true body of Christ, ought to embrace the Risen Christ and let His life shine through. But that requires we get out of the way and allow Him to have first place in our lives. May the church today be mobile, in action, loving one another with an undying love and shining His life and light to a world in dire need of Him.

Gal 2:20-21
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."

John 15:12-17
"This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another."

1/6/2012 4:30:16 PM
Kay United States
Hey Cindy,
At my old youth group, I felt the same way you do.  The youth group was severly divided into cliques, and I wasn't part of one.  To be fair, the youth group there is doing much better now, and the people who didn't accept me have apologized. Smile
First, don't ever think it's your fault.  I fell into that trap; I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me, that people didn't like me.  This is simply not true.
Second, like Truefire said, you may want to look into a new church.  Funnily enough, I actually go to a Calvary Chapel church (Calvary Chapel Aurora).  I love it there.  There are no cliques, and everyone is so friendly!  I don't know where you live, but if you're anywhere near Calvary Chapel Aurora and want to check it out, I'll look for you in the high school class. Smile
1/6/2012 7:07:55 PM
Cheese Doodle Bandit United States
Cheese Doodle Bandit
@Katy:  I go to a Calvary Chapel, too.  I love it.  Sounds just like your church. Smile  I've never heard anyone being rejected in any way by the pastor or his wife, or any of the people who go there.  They really take the "love your neighbor" rule seriously.
1/7/2012 4:42:07 PM
Ki United States
You know, two reasons I think children are leaving are either because they go to the adult service too early in life, or all they heard when they went when their (IF their) parents made them was that they were sinners and they were going to go to hell and it's all negative. This goes to show how important a Children's ministry program is. I know if I started going to the service probably before high school, I never would've continued going to church. It's sometimes hard to understand, a little long, and sometimes just plain directed toward adults. As it should be. That's just what I think though.
1/8/2012 8:09:56 AM
Jeremy United States
I am truly excited to see the beginnings of a move away from the question of "how do we bring people to church" to "how do we bring people to Jesus." The one thing I would add, in terms of teens - or anyone we are trying to reach, for that matter - is I Corinthians 13.  I lead a home Bible study that is attended by teens from many different churches, and I have found that at the core, they want two things - absolute truth, and unconditional love.  With those two things, it generally doesn't matter if the speaker is engaging, the music is right, or there are fun things to do.  Love covers a multitude of programming flaws, incorrect ministry models, and just plain human mistakes.  
1/9/2012 4:28:47 PM
Carl Garrett United States
Carl Garrett
@Jeremy - You just described Jesus: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14. Smile MUST READ my one post: www.amazingpromise.com
1/12/2012 10:58:17 AM
Ron Amundson United States
Ron Amundson
Its fascinating to watch where in a fellow went all in with grace on youtube. The videos been up less than 48 hours, and it has almost 1 million views. In perusing the comments, it seems that this may well have been the first time many saw the real Gospel rather than behavioristic moralism which so often replaces it. Amazingly cool!!!
1/14/2012 10:37:48 PM
Charly S. United States
Charly S.
Me and my fiance actually talked about this a few weeks ago.  I personally stopped going to youth group because it was "G" rated. I know that sounds really weird, but I had a major issue with that. Youth ministers were always saying how they were into some "bad stuff", but once they found Jesus they turned their life around. It bothered me because how could I relate to that? They literally said "I was into some bad things." How was I as a young teenager suppose to interprete that? Was he cheating on a math test? Stealing ground beef from the supermarket? Gangs? Drugs? Prostitution? They would never ever get to the nitty gritty. Maybe it's just me, but I wanted to hear personal in-depth confessions. Not so I could mock the minister, so that I could understand this forgiveness thing he was talking about. It was 2-3 years after I quit going to youth that Scott finally convinced me to give God another chance. I was so destroyed at that point I figured why not. What I read amazed me and not just the Bible, but personal experiences people had. If God could forgive prostitutes and murderers then I had a chance! Now maybe it's just my local area where the youth pastors hold back, but I truly think I would have come to Christ a lot sooner if they gave a little more detail than "bad stuff."
6/14/2012 4:40:20 PM
chancy gabriel United States
chancy gabriel
and this is testimony of jhon, when the jews sent to him priest and levites from jerusalem to ask him,who are you.
and he confessed and did not deny he confessed am not the christ .and the asked him what then? are you elijah? and he said am not .are you the profet? and he answered not.the said then to him who are you that we may give him an answer to those who send?what do you said about you self?and those who had been send were of the farisees.
9/14/2012 12:25:53 PM
Aryn S. United States
Aryn S.
I really don't get this line of the article. "If we tell them the Gospel, which is anti-moralistic"  What does this mean?  Jesus not moralistic?  He told use what we should and should not do.  Jesus commanded us to do the will of His father, to produce good fruits, to be peacemakers, meek, merciful.  And What about the song "Let my life be the proof, the proof of your love".  Our behaviors define our morals, and who we are as Christians.  
1/3/2013 11:44:01 AM
Nathan Hall United States
Nathan Hall
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