Through a glass darkly

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)KJV

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Youth Worker’s Lament

You were once a student in our youth ministry. Every week you came to youth group, both Sundays and midweek. You never missed a camp and hardly ever missed an outing. You even brought your friends who didn’t know Jesus to come along and you prayed regularly for their salvation. You read your Bible and prayed often; you were frequently the first to share the answer to a question asked in Sunday School. As you grew in your Christian walk, you branched out in ministry –working with younger kids in the children’s program, helping to lead worship or working behind the scenes in a support role. Eventually, you went on a mission trip and you were so inspired by it all that you believed it was possible that God was calling you to full-time ministry.

But then it happened . . . you graduated high school. It was time to move on to college. We warned you that you needed to stay connected to a good church if you moved away from ours or if you remained in town to get plugged into our college group. However, college groups aren’t nearly as exciting or adventurous as our youth group. Emotionally, you just wanted to remain a high school senior for while longer –with no pressure or expectation to be anything more than a youth in a youth group. It became easier and easier to sleep in on Sunday mornings, especially when you stayed out late Saturday night. It was too difficult to go out to Bible Study during the week because you needed to study or maybe because you now have a new group of cool friends who just aren’t into church.

Then you met that one person who showed a special interest in you; they thought you were smart, cute and funny. You felt the same way about them. It sort of bothered you at first that they weren’t a Christian; you had been warned that Christians shouldn’t date non-Christians but surely the youth leaders didn’t have this one in mind when they gave that warning. After all, your beloved is the one of the nicest, most moral persons you ever met, better even than most Christians you knew. Anyway, you thought to yourself, “How could a loving God judge my friend so negatively, condemning them to hell for not believing in Jesus?”

Not long after, you began to question some other things you had been taught in youth group: whether Jesus is the only way to eternal life, the Bible is God’s Word and is reliable, it’s important to be in fellowship with God and with other believers, and the idea that Christ followers should live righteously, avoiding sexual immorality. The last idea really got in the way of things with your beloved who wasn’t taught the principle that sexual activity was reserved for husbands and wives inside marriage. They grew up in a culture that allowed everyone to do anything with anyone as long as no one got hurt. Pre-marital sex was about determining “compatibility” with your partner and having fun. Co-habitation is just a form of trial marriage, taking the car for a test drive before locking the buyer into a contract. And so, day by day, bit by bit, you surrendered your Christian values to your lover, adopting their world view as your own. You have a whole new notion of what “fun” is now – parties, drinking and hooking up with the one you’re with. The fun you experienced in youth group was nothing like this.

 It’s been a few years since you were my student, but I have watched you from afar, observing how you keep moving further and further away from Christ and the things I taught you. I still remember the faithful student who, like the Apostle Peter, promised never to deny Christ nor fall away from Him. I also remember telling you about seeing ones just like you make the same promise and show a similar commitment in our youth group but who later went astray from their faith. You laughed and thought I was just being cynical and pessimistic, but here you are. I know that deep down, if you truly were a child of God, you know the desperate state of your soul today. You know you are not right with God and there is a misery caused by the Holy Spirit’s conviction of your sin that no amount of alcohol, drugs or sex can really wipe away. I know you long for the joy of your salvation you once knew. I plead with you to come back now. The longer you remain away from God, the more your conscience is seared. When God can no longer get the attention of His children through kindness, He often uses more drastic means, i.e. as the Bible teaches, the Lord disciplines those He loves. I know this from personal, difficult experience. Please come back to the Father who waits for you with open arms.

If on the other hand, you were never really born again into God’s family and your “Christian faith” you demonstrated in high school was just a ruse to impress people, you are among the most to be pitied. How sad that you were that close to the saving power of the Gospel but did not grab hold of the eternal life freely offered to you. I’m afraid that my words here will have no affect on your soul since you were able to resist successfully the pleadings of God’s Spirit in times past. However, if you can hear what I am saying, now is the time to be reconciled to God. You have no guarantee of tomorrow, no one is. In either case, I’m here to point the way to Jesus.