Silence In Youth Ministries

bonhoeffer-web

A phenomenon that I’ve noticed more and more over the last several years is that youth speakers are not addressing pertinent youth-related issues – especially when it comes to virtue.  I went to a “student emphasis” revival service at my local Baptist church this week where a national youth speaker was scheduled to speak.  I was surprised when I saw the turnout of the students.  At least 100, which is a lot in this small town.  What an opportunity, I thought, to reach some young people and talk about the issues that were important to them.  But to my horror, the sermon topic was “take up your cross and follow me” and the scripture was from Mark 8.  Somebody wake me up when it’s over.   I have no problem listening to a sermon on the crucifixion and salvation.  They are at the heart of my Christian beliefs.   I had two main problems this particular night, though.  Number one, it was a revival service for people that were already Christians and the sermon given was one of repentance and salvation, which is inappropriate.  Number two, not one issue pertaining to young adults was addressed.  If you closed your eyes, you could just as well put yourself in a nursing home chapel.  I was going through my mind thinking about all of the topics that could have been addressed:  Relationships, sex, porn, school, careers, parents, bullying, depression, peer pressure.  But why choose a generic cookie-cutter subject and avoid all the meet and potato issues?  I’m afraid the answer is political correctness.  Yes, the little “let’s keep everybody comfortable” demon is still working his magic in churches today.  And I’m afraid it’s one of the main reasons our churches are crumbling and losing youth membership.  The hard issues are not being addressed, issues that relate to their lives.  Church leaders are reaching for the cheap “one size fits all” generic label, being careful not to “offend” someone.  You might be tempted to think this does no harm.  The truth was preached.  Right?  But it does do harm because opportunities like this do not come around every day – especially in small towns in the deep south.  You don’t have many chances to speak to a group of young people assembled in these numbers.  They are this country’s future.  When an opportunity like this is squandered, it is lost forever.  That moment in time cannot be reclaimed.  Sitting there listening to the eloquent description of St. Mark that can be read in thousands of sermon notes online and in church libraries, I found myself wondering what would happen if I stood up and yelled “does anybody have any question about relationships and sex?”  Would they have thrown hymn books at me?  Would I have been wrestled to the ground and carried out the door?  What would St. Paul have talked to them about?  The stock market?  I don’t think so.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said:  “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”  God will not hold churches guiltless either, no matter what denomination or name is stamped on the door.  Pastors:  You can talk about St. Mark and the cross, the four stages of salvation, and the path to repentance any time the church doors open.  You are doing a disservice to the next generation when you stand silent on these issues in the face of evil.

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