Saturday, February 18, 2006

the 7th commandment of youth ministry

thou shalt worry about behavior more than belief

Uh, this is going to sound like I am contradicting what I just said in the post regarding the 6th commandment. But, I'm not. So hang on. We should worry about behavior. The Bible is clear on that. However, modern-day Christians who do worry about behavior seem to only worry about behavior. They see little or no relationship between belief and behavior. An easy believe-ism gets you in but once you are in now we worry about how you act. Answer this question. Are you more worried about a person's sinful behavior or are you more worried about the reason for their sinful behavior? Or have you even thought about? The reason why people sin is because they prefer everything else to God. Why? Well, because they believe that God is not all that great. They believe that Jesus is not all that important. They believe the cross is small and not that big a deal. They believe they know what is best and God can just go to hell for all they care. In other owrds people behave badly because they are living out their view of reality. They believe something about reality and then live accordingly. To deal with bad behavior in a way that ignores the fact that behavior is the result of a belief about reality will be tragic.

Worrying about behavior more than belief manifests itself in the following ways...

Just Do It. Some call it "Nike Christianity" or the Galatian error. Regardless it is perilous for teens and everyone else. The idea is that we just grit our teeth and bear it. Even if we do not feel like it we do not sin. It does not matter why we do it we just do it. The problem with this is Romans 14:23, "Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." So if we fight sin or bad behavior without faith, we are sinning. We are, again, trying to put out fires with gasoline. It just does not work.

Be Like Mike. Or we just fall into moralism. "The Bible says be like Jesus and Jesus did not sin. So do not sin!" Yeah, that works. Moralism never, ever works. It always makes them want to stick their hands in the cookie jar after being told not to. WWJD is not a bad question to ask but it is only good if it follows a more important question, WDJD..."what did Jesus do"?

How do I break this commandment?

Beat them over the heads. One of my favorite stories from the life of Martin Luther is when he was asked why he preached the Gospel every week. He replied that he had to because they forget it every week. Bad behavior is the fruit of unbelief in the gospel. So beat them ove the heads with the gospel and its implications every time you meet. Maybe they will one day get it.
Chunk it. I refuse to use most curriculum that comes across my desk. Check it out. When was the last ime you got material for youth that was rooted in the cross. Maybe you have never seen any. The fact is most youth curriculum that I see advertisements for is glitzy legalism. It's sexed up moralism. These packages come with slick images reminiscent of MTV. And everyone of them is about sex, friendships, drinking, anger, etc. None of them is rooted in the cross. And I chunk everyone in my handy little trashcan.

Get down. This is a given for breaking all these commandments but here it needs to really be emphasized. If we want our kids to believe the gospel then we need to acknowledge that only God can make that happen. Faith is a gift. Anyone can stop bad behavior. There are lots of Mormon and muslim virgins who do not drink. We want belief in a Sovereign God who can create a world and change a heart. So get on your knees and pray for it. He wants us to depend on him for it all. Thus the need for faith.

If I had a dime for every time a parent wanted me to talk about a certain subject (sex, drugs, drinking) I would not need a raise. However, this often betrays the thinking that places too much emphasis on behavior and not enough emphasis or concern about whether or not the goepl is believed. If we got honest we could say that most just want their kids to behave. As a youth minister and a parent I hope I never get to that point.

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