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Pastoral Letter - 17 Sep 17                                        

Dear Calvarians,        

"Are Young Christians Leaving the Christians?" The numbers certainly show the trend. However, there are some mitigating reasons. Some of the young people who have left the church may not have been regenerated. Others may have left a particular church, but not the Church. 

And the latter is certainly a challenge that traditional churches, especially mainline denominations, have to grapple with. Mainline denominations have tried to adapt and accommodate to the young people and their needs and preferences, but so far the attempts have not stopped the slow drip of youths. 

I do not believe that lowering the bar of expectations in terms of commitment, adopting a contemporary style of music in worship, and soft-preaching the Gospel provide real solutions. 

The answer is still found in the covenant home, where fathers and mothers play a hands-on role in leading their children in their spiritual walk, and take a keen interest in the spiritual development of their sons and daughters. 

Open the Doors and Let the World In

The second part of the answer has to come from the church. However, in dealing with young people leaving the church, church leaders have adopted polar positions. 

On one end, there are those who open the doors of the church to welcome the world; in other words, they cave; they change the music and worship style to make them more acceptable and welcoming to the young people. I suppose the thinking is this: If we cannot beat them, welcome them. If we cannot stop the young people going the way of the world, let us bring the world into the church in the hope that they would find enough of the world in the church so that they will not leave. 

The problem with this approach is that it waters down the Christian faith. A Christianity that makes not demand for holiness and separation from the world is not of the Bible. A rescue ship is only as good as it keeps the waters out. What good is a rescue boat that is leaking and taking in water? 

The Word is explicit. "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:15-16). 

Paul writes: "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Corinthians 6:17-18). 

James cautions: "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). 

Shut the Doors to Keep Them In

At the other end, there are churches which slammed their door shut and bolted it down for extra measure. To guard against any worldly intrusion, the church leaders "locked" the young people in. 

Such an approach is futile and is not feasible for a couple of reasons. First, we cannot possibly shut out every influence of the schools, the popular media, and the social networks. The problem with this approach is that Christianity tends to be reduced to a check list of do's and don'ts. The Christian faith becomes legalistic. The rules become a burden and drive guilt. 

Moreover, if we shut the doors to keep out the world, it would also mean that we shut the world and keep them from coming to church. This move stifles those who are within, and at the same time stops those outside from coming in. 

The young people who could live well under the rules have the tendency to be self-righteous, looking down on those who do not follow the rules, and these will be the first ones to leave the church. 

So do not shut the young people in. Instead, teach them the Word of God; help them to build strong biblical convictions so that when they are out in the world - as they will be eventually - they will be the ones making the impact. 

Light and Hope

In my interactions with young people, I am hopeful. The majority of young people I meet from amongst BP Churches are actually serious minded young people who have a desire to serve. The challenge for church leaders to tap on their youthful enthusiasm and propel them to the next level. 

How? What can we do?

Friendship is important. The young people must feel a strong sense of belonging. Close friends strengthen that sense of belonging. When young people find their closest friends within the church, they will more likely stay and serve together. 

Discipleship/Mentorship is necessary. The older and more mature Christians must take up the responsibility of becoming examples to the younger ones. Paul says to the Corinthians "Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me....Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1). There is nothing more powerful than a mature Christian holding the hand of a young one, teaching him the ropes of godly living. 

Stewardship of gifts is essential. Christians must learn to serve. This means engagement in the ministries of a local church. The more engaged young people are in the ministries of the church, the more committed to it. 

One writer suggests that "every church should be making sure that twenty-somethings are being engaged, included, trained and equipped for gospel ministry....Create space for them to be trained and to use their gifts....Make sure they are being mobilizing and brought into leadership positions. 

When it comes to the local church, truly born again Christians will not be going anywhere; The Scripture says, "For whom [the LORD] did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Romans 8:29-30). 

There will be some young people who may be leaving the traditional mainline denominations churches to embrace a "churchless" Christianity. To these, church leaders and parents will do well to keep teaching the importance of engagement with the church, which the Bible says is the "body" of Jesus Christ. 

My prayer is that our young people will see themselves as ministers of God; as part of God's greater Kingdom work through them; and that He will accomplish His purpose in and through their lives.

 

Lovingly in Christ,

Pastor Isaac

 

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