Saturday, November 2, 2013

How To Destroy A Teenager's Faith

WARNING: This vintage post from 2011 contains sarcasm! It was also one of my most popular post ever. Enjoy!

Anyone who spends anytime around middle school and/or high school students knows that they face many challenges in their day-to-day lives.  Some of those challenges involve their faith.  They are deciding who they believe, what they believe and how to live out those beliefs in the world they live in.  You would expect the church to be at the forefront of helping these fragile followers of Jesus discover their true selves.  And often it is.  But on occasion the church (and the adults who "make the rules") actually provides more confusion than help.  Today I want to take a look at 5 rules we use to turn teenagers away from God and towards a Double-Life Faith where they simply go through the motions of Christianity.  These rules can also apply to new adult believers, so beware!

#1)  They must dress differently for church than they do for anything else.  In my early days as a youth pastor most students were still being coerced into wearing their "Sunday Best" to every event at church- from weddings to worship.  I myself wore a tie on Sunday for years while wearing one on almost no other occasion.  I was always told this was because we should wear our best for God, but I have come to believe it was a disguise we wore in the hopes that Jesus would not recognize us on Sunday after the way we had behaved all week...
#2)  They must talk differently at church than they do anywhere else.  It's important for church youth to learn to speak in a language no one can explain.  I'm not talking about the swearing- that probably should be different.  I'm talking about "Christianese."  At church, they can tell you that a worship service was"Spirit-filled," or that someone was "Saved" or "washed in the blood of the Lamb"- and give you a "Hallelujah" or an "AMEN" to back it up.  If you ask a youth at school on Monday how the church service was, about the best you can hope for is "whatever."  We teach them to describe their faith journey in a language they will never use outside of church.
#3)  They must learn that we don't talk about "those things" at church.  Teenagers must learn that some subjects are just unsuitable for church.  Jesus may be LORD of All, but he obviously cannot deal with subjects like sex, homosexuality and evolution.  If students hear often enough that "we don't talk about that here," then guess what?  They'll quit talking about it with you and with God- and go back to gathering their info from the highly enlightened 17 year old who lives next door.  Muuuuuch better....
#4)  They must learn to act differently at church than they do everywhere else. At church it is important to act happy and be nice. You must pretend to share a fashion sense (see #1) and musical tastes with people 4 times your age.  As a real life teenager, your job is to be moody, grumpy and occasionally outright Gothic.  Learning to pretend you are someone different at church than you are in real life is the basis of a good Double-Life Faith.
#5)  They must learn that Christians are perfect, and so are they!  At church, you never admit sin, defeat or failure, because everyone knows that Christians are perfect. At the very least, you learn others "sin worse" than you.  Those sins you committed during the week are best hidden away on Sunday, because goodness knows Jesus doesn't want to hear about them.  If our kids hear often enough that our goal is to get to heaven, and that heaven is for perfect people, then they will understand the need to NEVER confess their sins- at least not when anyone in the church might hear them.  Grace?  That's for losers...

History has shown us that if we teach these things well when our kids are young, we can be fairly certain that they will grow up believing that Jesus is "that one guy who lives in that one building."  They will have learned that faith has no place in the real world, and that God lives in a tiny little box kept under the pulpit.  They will have learned to live a Double-Life Faith.  It is a lesson far too many adults have learned far too well- and now they know how to play church.  Want to destroy the faith of a teenager?  Maybe you should just send them to church.  It's time to stop the madness.  It's time to get real with our kids about faith.  Quit giving them "church."  Start giving them Jesus.  

Because of Jesus,

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