What Youth Pastors Would Like to Tell Parents: The Culture is More Hostile Than You Think
This article is the third in our series, ‘What Youth Pastors Would Like to Tell Parents.’ Often, youth ministers gain a perspective on the lives of the teens they walk alongside that differs from that of their parents; so in this series, we hope to offer insight, encouragement, and wisdom from the other side. The previous article can be found here.
Pastor and scholar Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “Our only safety lies in adhering tenaciously to the old truth, and seeking a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit, that the life of God may be continued in our midst. Hold fast the form of sound words.” Old truths are good truths, and old truths are right truths.
Recently, I was reading an article titled, “101 Characteristics of Americans/American Culture” in which the author listed 101 characteristics unique to the American culture. Characteristics humorously ranged from, “Americans need a lot of ‘elbow room’; they like personal space around them” to “When the service is good; tipping is expected to be 15–20% of the bill.”
However, two such characteristics stood out the most. One: “Americans come in all colors, have all types of religions, and speak many languages from all over the world.” And two: “Americans are extremely independent, individualistic, and like to be different from each other.” If anything, this list reveals the worldview and theological perspectives of the people of the U.S.
One Giant Melting Pot
In at least one sense, America is like a massive melting pot of different types of people. We have people of all different races, ethnic backgrounds, and languages. And even more so, our churches are beginning to look more like a melting pot. This amount of diversity can beautifully paint the worship we see in Revelation 7:9 which speaks of “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” But it can also lead to something worth taking note of: Our children are being exposed to more varying theological views and religions at an early age than perhaps ever before. I am acquainted with numerous students who know more about Buddhism and Hinduism than most adults do, simply because they have friends from many different religions.
How Different Should We Be?
Another such characteristic of American culture is the need in most people to be different from everyone else. One time, I had a conversation with a junior high student about the topics we had been studying in youth group. He said, “I enjoy the topics, but I find it boring sometimes because it is always the same stuff.” I replied, “What do you mean by ‘same stuff’?” He said back to me, “I want to learn something new, something that no Christian has ever discovered before. I think we should be different.”
I perhaps replied too starkly, “How different should we be?” The student was unable to respond to my question. His inability to answer revealed that the culture is more influential and hostile than we think. Each and every day, teenagers in our youth groups are being bombarded by an individualistic, “tolerant”, and diverse culture that does not see clear doctrinal distinctive as the most loving thing on earth.
Old Truths are Good Truths
As Spurgeon encouraged future church leaders and all Christians, “Our only safety lies in adhering to the old truth.” The words from Deuteronomy 4:9 should be on our minds as well: “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.” This passage is an oldie, but a goodie. Upon entering the promised land, Moses commands the Israelites to take care of their own spiritual lives in order to hold each truth close to their heart, and in return teach and show their children what they had experienced.
All Christians are to share the old truths of the faith and pass the baton to the next generation– namely, their children. God wanted his people to hold on to the old truths of the stories of God’s providence and judgment. He wanted them to remember their deliverance from the grasp of the Egyptians and their safety in the hands of the Lord in the wilderness. He wanted them to point forward to the land flowing with milk and honey.
In the same way, we pass on the old truths of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. Colossians 1:28 says, “Him we proclaim, teaching everyone and warning everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” And in 1 Timothy 6:20, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you.” Paul explicitly encourages the Corinthians to continue preaching Christ in 1 Corinthians 1:22-25: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
These passages point to the old truth handed down from generation to generation, despite cultural challenges, to encourage and lead others to a better understanding of redemption in Jesus Christ.
So, parents: The culture is more hostile than you think. The culture is more influential than you think. Your children mimic your theology, and they are absorbing many of the messages from the world around them. Hold fast to the form of sound words. Teach and show the old truths of the Bible. Above all, share your need for Jesus Christ with your kids, and let your life sing of His goodness and truth in the midst of a hostile culture.