The Generation that the Church is in danger of failing………..

lost-childrenWhen Jesus asks Peter to “feed my lambs” after he’s been resurrected (John 21:15), he’s not talking about engaging them in a Bible study. Very few people were ever able to read back then, and there were very few copies of Scripture.

When Jesus told Peter (who is a type of medieval Everyman – a stand-in for all of us) “take care of my sheep,” he’s talking about the process of discipling them, of growing them up.

Too often when we think about being fed spiritually, we refer to sitting through a sermon. Periodically I’ll hear someone say, “I haven’t been fed much lately.” This is code for, “The Pastor’s sermons are not connecting with me.” This is a passive picture of feeding. Like a baby is spoon-fed.

We see a more accurate concept of feeding sheep in Jesus’ picture description of a shepherd and sheep in John 10. The shepherd calls them out and the sheep listen to his voice.

We see a third party in John 10 – the watchman who “opens the gate” for Jesus to speak and to call them out. It would seem his main job is to be on the lookout for enemies and teach the sheep to listen to the shepherd’s voice. John 10:4 says, “his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” It is Jesus himself who feeds his sheep.

If as disciplers and pastors we’re not teaching our sheep to recognize Jesus’ voice, they inevitably will go hungry.

Many of our churches have missed out on this generation because they either,

1) Are still stuck in the stone ages and preach hell, fire and brimstone sermons that are Pharisaic and legalistic at heart. If a young person dresses in jeans and a t-shirt the older folk scorn them for not wearing a suit. They condemn contemporary hymns and worship and insist on using hymns that even my parents think “oh my goodness what is this”. Really there is no authenticity about these churches and little grace/love is shown. It’s all about withdrawing from the world for them rather than being Christians in the world but not of it, just like Jesus prayed in his high priestly prayer. They spend more time trying to convert young people to their way of thinking, instead of teaching them how to understand what the Bible says and letting the Holy Spirit do the work through that.

2) Have spent so much time trying to be relevant and make the message palatable for young people that they haven’t preached the gospel at all. They continually week after week starve young people of sound doctrine and gospel truth, exchanging this for superficial meetings that are, in reality nothing more than a teenage babysitting club to give mum and dad a break. No warning of the seriousness of sin is given, no confrontation with sin or church discipline is implemented, no doctrinal teaching is given, no serious bible study (that is, time spent in teaching young people how to read and see Christ as the centre of the story), no training or support to help young people stand firm in today’s antagonistic society and no willingness to step up to the mark and talk about the things that make us uncomfortable- such as sex (Biblical- why it is one man, one woman in marriage and not as the culture says it should be), masturbation, pornography (the serious sin of this), drinking, drugs, influences and Hollywood idols. These are the challenges that younger Christians are facing and the only way the church can prevent them from falling, apart from the sovereignty of God, is to feed them the word of God and show them that it pierces every lie, stands firm in every circumstance and speaks truth even in today’s post-modern and increasingly amoral society.

in 1978 Francis Schaeffer said

Youth Ministry is perhaps the most important ministry of the church and it is essential that we are willing and committed to reach students for the Christian faith before they enter College! There is perhaps nothing more important in Real Effective and Effectual Youth Ministry than teaching Youth how to study the Bible.”

Those words by Schaeffer have proved to be a prophetic utterance yet largely, in my experience at least, we have missed the landing zone on this one dramatically. When a plane misses the runway the consequences can be devastating. Normally when this happens it is due to pilot error. Similarly, we have largely failed in our obligation to “feed [his] lambs” (John 21:15), because we have failed to realise the importance of youth ministry/young adults and failed to move forward and deal with the changing culture in which we find ourselves living. Coming from Northern Ireland and being 22 I see how the church has failed to reach my generation. We sit in our pews every week yet are so slow to act or be creative in our ways of reaching the lost. Please, please do not misunderstand me here. I am not downplaying the importance of expository preaching or the sovereignty of God in bringing people to faith and keeping them walking in that faith. I am saying that we have got to be dedicated to the discipling of our young people through taking them through Doctrine/Apologetics/Evangelism.

I love how Michael Horton explains this in his book Christless Christianity. He states that so many churches are guilty (bless their naivety) of teaching the Old Testament as if it’s characters were mighty great superheroes, who we are to look to as moral examples!! No, no, no! Rather we are to preach Christ from all of Scripture…even these OT “heroes”. For example Moses, in leading the Israelites out of Egypt was a foretaste of Jesus who was to lead His people, both Jew and Gentile, out of their sins and into the Kingdom of God through his atoning sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the grave. When the Israelites were bitten by the snakes and Moses held up his staff, ordering them to look to it to be saved from the bite, likewise Christ was lifted up on the cross to save us from the sting of death that is caused by sin etc.

I don’t have a M.Div (yet!), I’m not a pastor, I’m not overly intellectual and I’m not a prophet but surely we must survey the scene and wake up to the realisation that we have miserably failed in our efforts to reach this generation and repent thereof. I echo the cry of Christian group Leeland who sing,

crusade-for-christemergency

There are many prodigal sons, On our city streets they run
Searching for shelter, There are homes broken down
People’s hopes have fallen to the ground, From failures

This is an emergency!There are tears from the saints
For the lost and unsaved, We’re crying for them come back home
We’re crying for them come back home, And all your children will stretch out their hands
And pick up the crippled man, Father, we will lead them home
Father, we will lead them home

There are schools full of hatred, Even churches have forsaken
Love and mercy, May we see this generation
In its state of desperation, For Your glory

This is an emergency!

There are tears from the saints, For the lost and unsaved
We’re crying for them come back home, We’re crying for them come back home
And all your children will stretch out their hands, And pick up the crippled man
Father, we will lead them home, Father, we will lead them home

Sinner, reach out your hands!, Children, in Christ you stand!
Sinner, reach out your hands!, Children, in Christ you stand!

There are tears from the saints, For the lost and unsaved
We’re crying for them come back home, We’re crying for them come back home
And all Your children will stretch out their hands,And pick up the crippled man
Father, we will lead them home, Father, we will lead them home

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