by Buddy Hanson
When King Solomon counsels parents to “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it,” (Proverbs 22.6) we should pay careful attention that the word “train” is used, and not the word “entertain.” Perhaps with the best of intentions, Youth ministries “entertain” the children in the hopes that once they attract them to their ministry, they can teach them the Gospel. But, alas, instead of “training them in the Gospel” they have “entertained” them, with the results being that when the children turn into adults, they do not “depart” from the entertainment. Hmmmm. Can someone see what’s wrong with this picture?
The movie “Divided” provides what to the typical American Christian will be an uncomfortable spiritual eye-opening experience. In the first place, the conversations with current and former Youth leaders, and pastors are based solidly upon biblical ethics. That is certainly something that most American Christians aren’t accustomed to hearing from their weekly sermons. Many who profess to be Christians won’t like the movie because it calls upon them to repent from an unbiblical practice of raising their children. While raising their children in an unbiblical manner is the last thing they would want to do, they are nevertheless doing it because “everybody else is doing something similar” and it could be that the people interviewed in Divided are the first who have had the caring concern to point out that they need to stop depending upon someone else to raise their children.
It’s been almost five centuries since the esteemed
divines wrote their culture
changing Westminster Confession of Faith. The first paragraph of Chapter 21 is about the Regulative
Principle of Worship. Few churches today care about this “regulative
principle,” but they should because to obey it is to demonstrate that they
believe that God’s Word is sufficient for instructing us in how to live, work,
play, raise our children, self-govern ourselves, and worship Him. Apparently
the attitude of many church officers is that they are smarter than God and out
of the goodness of their heart are going to help Him out with unbiblical
programs and methods (e.g. Youth Ministers). Westminster
If you listen closely to the interviews in Divided, you will hear that the root cause for the failure of Youth ministries is the same root cause for the failure of the 20th and now the 21st century American church, and that despite our repeated statements that “we believe that the Word of God is true,” we preach, teach and live as though our word is true. Before we can expect the church to “get” Chapter 21 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, we must disciple each other to “get” the other 32 chapters of the Confession, which collectively explain how to have a Regulative Principle of Living. When we “get” that we will stop delegating our (commanded!) parental responsibilities about educating our children, and begin home schooling them. We will also not delegate to someone else our responsibility to “train up” our children in God’s Word. The Bible is all about self-governing, not central governing. It’s about discipling our children, not delegating them to someone or some organization. Before you are tempted to say, “Hanson, you are not only talking about a serious chunk of time for me to spend with my children, (I may have to cut back on the time I spend at work) but a serious reduction in our lifestyle because my wife would have to stay at home and teach our children,” let me ask you what can be more serious to you than raising your children to serve God? Upon what biblical basis do you think God allowed you and your wife to have children just so they could be sent to God-hating public schools in order to serve the world, or to well-intentioned though unbiblical Youth groups so they can learn by example, that the church should conform to the world’s ways of doing things, rather than learning from you and your wife how to conform the world to God’s ways? As a pastor friend says, “If you send your children to
, you get Romans back.” Wouldn’t you
rather send your children to the living room and teach them to live according
to biblical principles and get a Christian warrior back? Rome
The message is clear: If you are looking for a “check off” religion whereby you can ease your conscience by “checking off” that you attend worship services, outsource your children to Sunday School, and be an active participant in the various programs of the church, Christianity is not for you. After all, loving God with part of your heart is never suggested in Scripture. Indeed, Jesus teaches that the first commandment is that we “love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength.” (Mark 12.30) A true profession of faith is an all or nothing thing. That is what I would call “serious.”
Please watch Divided, hopefully with a group of your Christian friends, and as you discuss it afterwards, ask them if the biblical prescription for Youth ministries, is the same for everything else that ails the American church… that whether intentionally or not, the message it teaches is that God’s Word is true, but irrelevant to our day to day lifestyle: That we have to depend upon philosophers, psychologists, and/or legislators to solve those issues. No wonder our youth are dropping out, and no wonder large numbers of adults are dropping out as well. Why worship a god, and a religion that has nothing to say about how to live?
Divided is a call to repentance and faithfulness. If it is seen by large numbers of Christians, it could turn today’s church on its head, and that would be a good thing.