Youth are Leaving
Church and Home Working Together
Not a Youth Ministry but a Ministry Geared To Youth
Be Careful about Salvation
Discipling Rather Than Entertaining
Effectual Bible Students
Enjoying the Christian Life
Finding God’s Will
Separation from the World
Youth Discipling Youth
Living by Faith
Walking in Vigilance
Finding a Marriage Partner
Parents Serving the Lord with Their Children
Youth and the Church Services
The church’s youth and the people who are won to the Lord from outside are the future of the church. A pastor once told me, “I used to think that the youth are the future of the church. I no longer think that. I now think that those we win to Christ are the future of the church.”
It appeared to me that he had changed his thinking because of a general lack of good fruit among the church’s youth.
I am convinced that both our youth and those we win to Christ are the future of the church. In light of God’s promises, there is no reason why we can’t win our children to Christ and train them as true disciples of Christ.
Youth Are Leaving
Yet most churches are losing their youth.
Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, warns, “A mass exodus is underway. Most youth of today will not be coming to church tomorrow” (Already Gone, p. 22).
The latest research shows that a frightful percentage of Sunday School children drop out of church in adolescence.
After analyzing 25 different surveys, Barna Research found that 61% of young adults who were active in church as children and teens “spiritually disengage” by their twenties (“Teenagers Embrace Religion but Are Not Excited about Christianity,” Jan. 10, 2000, www.barna.org).
In 2005, Answers in Genesis contracted a survey of young adults between the age of 20 and 29 and found that two-thirds of teens who regularly attend “conservative” or “evangelical” churches are gone by college age.
Our own survey in 2005 found that 50% of youth are leaving the churches, and this is a survey of very conservative independent Baptist congregations.
Church and Home Working Together
The church and home must work together to produce disciples. These two divinely-appointed institutions should work together in perfect harmony to evangelize, train, and disciple children for God’s glory. The church builds up the homes, and the homes raise the children.
Therefore, a major part of discipling young people is the church’s ministry to the families.
A young person in a weak family, either unbelieving or spiritually lukewarm, is handicapped. He can serve the Lord, but it is more difficult than if he were in a godly home that is helping and encouraging him.
A great many churches are failing in this. They are not building the types of homes that can properly train their own children. And the churches themselves are not effectively discipling the youth. As a result, they are dying.
We deal with this in the chapter “A Discipling Church Builds Godly Homes.”
One pastor wrote,
“I came to this church finding the second generation barely holding on to the foundations their parents put in place and a third generation that is nowhere to be found. Why? I believe that the Bible was not given a priority and many false assurances of salvation were given at an altar for emotion’s sake and not Christ’s sake. We must preach the Bible more thoroughly. We need to trust our young people with the Bible and teach them how to properly use it in their everyday lives. We teach fundamentals of math, grammar, spelling and history, why not a systematic study of the Bible geared toward young people?”
This statement describes the condition in a great many churches, and it also identifies two fundamentals of what needs to be done, which is to be careful about salvation and to help the young people to become true Bible students.
Not a Youth Ministry but a Ministry Geared to Youth
The church doesn’t need a youth ministry; it needs a biblical ministry geared to youth.
All too often, a typical youth ministry isolates the youth from the adults, the children from the families, and creates a Christian version of the world’s youth culture. Typically such a ministry is a large part entertainment and a very small part New Testament discipleship. It is fun and games with a veneer of biblical spirituality. A typical youth activity consists of a little devotional message sandwiched between a whole lot of goofing off.
This type of thing is nowhere ordained in Scripture. But the Bible does instruct the churches to warn and teach every man in order to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus (Col. 1:28), and this applies to young people as well as older people.
The New Testament Epistles address young people specifically and directly (e.g., 1 Timothy 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:22; Titus 2:6), so it is obviously not wrong for a church to have a ministry to youth.
We see in Titus 2 that every age group of saints has its own particular situation and spiritual challenges, and these should be addressed.
A biblical ministry to youth is all about discipleship. This is the plan we follow, and we have seen great fruit from it.
Be Careful about Salvation
The most fundamental thing in youth discipleship is to be careful about salvation, because you can only disciple a born again believer.
I am convinced that the average church youth group has a lot of unsaved young people, and I am not referring to the visitors. They have grown up in the church. They know how to act when they need to. They know what to say if asked, “Do you know the Lord?” They have “believed in Jesus” all their lives. But while their mouths profess love for Christ, their daily lives give testimony that they actually love the world.
We are extremely careful about baptizing young people and receiving them into the church’s membership. We don’t look for a profession; we look for a conversion.
We have dealt with this in the chapter “A Discipling Church Begins with Caution about Salvation.”
But what is often lacking is a clear conversion experience and a clear born again testimony.
I’m not talking about sinless perfection. I’m talking about supernatural, life-changing salvation. A young person who loves the world is either lost or seriously backslidden. The Bible says he is the enemy of God (James 4:4). In the context of James’ sharp reproof toward those who love the world, we are taught that such a person needs to experience a radical spiritual revival (Jas. 4:7-10). James did not ignore the worldliness of the people he was addressing, and pastors and youth workers must not ignore the worldliness of young people today. We must not accept worldliness as the status quo.
Worldly young people must not be allowed to be comfortable in their sin. They must not be allowed to think that they are right with God. They must not be allowed to serve in a ministry.
Children and youth ministries must be far more serious than they usually are.
Answers in Genesis found that “Sunday school is actually more likely to be detrimental to the spiritual and moral health of our children” (Already Gone, p. 38). They found that students who regularly attend Sunday School are “more likely to become anti-church through the years.” This is because “Sunday school actually didn’t do anything to help them develop a biblical worldview.” The education is typically entertainment-oriented and irrelevant to children’s daily lives.
This was what I experienced as a child in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. I learned a lot of Bible stories but they appeared distant and mythical and didn’t seem to have anything to do with my personal life. When I was confronted by the Bible through a well-equipped believer in 1973 at age 23, I was amazed that the Bible was so practical and actually spoke to the things I was thinking about and doing. That was not the way the Bible was presented when I was in Sunday School, and this is a shame.
Teachers must avoid trivializing the Bible and not connecting the Bible to real life. Children’s ministries can be enjoyable without being silly and without trivializing the things of God.
Many children’s ministries present Bible lessons almost as fairy tales.
For example, Noah’s Ark is often depicted as a silly-looking cartoon thing that could not possibly have held all of the animals or survived the raging storms.
David is depicted as a little boy when he killed Goliath, whereas he was actually a young man.
Jesus is depicted as an effeminate, long-haired individual, whereas He was an ordinary-looking, short-haired Jewish man, a carpenter, a man who chased the money-changers from the temple.
Avoid mindless children’s songs (such as “let the sun shine in, face it with a grin, smiler’s never lose and frowners never win,” or, “This little light of mine...”).
We believe that cartoons should be avoided for the most part, as they tend to trivialize spiritual things by their very character.
Teachers should test everything by the principle of holiness and soberness. They should ask themselves, “Is this helping the children to take Christ and God’s Word seriously?”
Discipling Rather Than Entertaining
The church must disciple the young people, not entertain them.
In the average church, as much as or more time is spent on sports and entertainment than serious Bible training, but there is no authority in God’s Word for churches to entertain the saints. Few people are deficient in entertainment today. Life is too short to do everything, so the churches must focus on the most important thing in life, which is the Word of God. We must redeem the time.
In our youth ministry, we don’t have sports. Other Independent Baptists in our town occupy themselves with sports. But we made a purposeful decision to avoid this in order to keep the focus of our young people on Christ and God’s Word.
Our monthly youth meetings consist of an hour and a half or more of singing and testimonies and Bible teaching, with perhaps 15 minutes for a game, usually a Bible quiz. The preaching and teaching gets down into the daily lives of the young people. We deal with things such as having the right friendships, how to handle social media and modern technology, how to make wise decisions, how to find a mate in God’s will, the importance of right counsel, and Bible principles for measuring entertainment.
Multiple times a year we have three- to four-day conferences during which we teach the Bible for 12 or more hours, and there are usually no games. Yet the vast majority of our young people love these meetings, because they know Christ personally, have surrendered themselves to Him (Romans 12:1), and have been taught to delight in God’s Word.
In these conferences we have taught through Romans and Hebrews. We have taught on the Tabernacle, Dispensationalism, Herod and the Roman Empire, Ur of the Chaldees, Holiness, Evolution, Creation Science, and Archaeology. We memorize verses and give tests on the material.
Effectual Bible Students
We want every one of our young people to become serious Bible students.
We focus on this continually, teaching, exhorting, and rebuking when necessary.
This starts with the children.
The parents and the church should lead them in memorizing Scripture, beginning when they are very small. Children are capable of doing much more than they are typically challenged to do if they have a good teacher. Our oldest daughter memorized 100 verses by age seven, and one of our granddaughters memorized 65 verses by age three.
Make sure that they learn to understand the Scriptures rather than memorizing mindlessly and learning by mere rote.
Train the children to have a daily Bible reading habit. This starts with reading a verse or two daily and then extending the portion as they grow older. We give examples of this in The Mobile Phone and the Christian Home and Church.
As soon as they are able to read well enough, get them their own Bible dictionary and teach them how to use it. We published the Believer’s Bible Dictionary specifically for teens, though it is a serious Bible dictionary for any age. I give my grandchildren this dictionary at age eleven.
As soon as they are able to understand it, which is early teens, we use the Effectual Bible Student course to train the young people. This can be used by saints of any age, but I designed it particularly with young people in mind.
This training program consists of 12 hours of video instruction plus an accompanying printed manual.
It has four major parts.
First, the Effectual Bible Student teaches the spiritual qualifications for effectual Bible study.
Second, the Effectual Bible Student teaches how to have a daily Bible study time. It is absolutely fundamental that the individual establish a time and a place and develop a daily habit of meeting with God. If the individual is not willing to carve out time for God on a daily basis, he will never learn God’s Word and will not make a lot of progress in his Christian life.
Third, the Effectual Bible Student teaches how to understand the Bible by means of fundamental principles of interpretation.
Fourth, the Effectual Bible Student teaches how to use the major Bible study tools. We focus on the effectual use of the following study books: Strong’s Concordance, Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Believer’s Bible Dictionary, and select Bible commentaries. We urge each of our young people to obtain these tools and use them every day. The youngest teenager should be able to learn how to do this at a basic level.
We suggest that the young person develop his Bible study habits first using books rather than electronic programs. Books are less distracting while you learn the fundamentals of Bible study. It is important to unplug at times and to be able to concentrate fully on the Lord and His Word.
After learning the basics of Bible study, the student must go on to learn the background to the Bible and Bible customs and geography.
Our multimedia courses Old Testament History and Geography and Bible Times and Ancient Kingdoms can help the Bible come alive to the serious student.
The Bible is a thrilling book, the most thrilling book on earth. The more you learn how to study it and the more you study it, the more you get out of it, and the more you get out of it the more you enjoy it.
Enjoying the Christian Life
The church must challenge young people to enjoy the Christian life and teach them how.
Young people need to be taught that Jesus Christ and the Bible are the most thrilling things in life. To know Christ is life! There is absolutely nothing boring about the Christian life as God intends it to be lived. God made life to be wonderful, and by redemption we can enjoy the life that was lost through the fall.
Christ came that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). The God who made Eden for Adam and Eve has given us richly all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). The Psalmist says, “... the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psa. 84:11). And, “Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! ... He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee” (Psa. 81:13, 16).
God is the God of bounty to His people. He is the God of corn. One corn seed typically produces a stalk bearing two cobs, each with an average of 500 kernels per cob. Thus, it multiplies itself 1,000 fold and more in one generation. If you replant the 1,000 seeds from one corn stalk and each grows to maturity--each stalk bearing two cobs with an average of 500 kernels per cob (2,000 X 500)--you get one million kernels of corn. That’s just the second generation. And if you plant those one million kernels and each stalk grows to maturity, you get a billion corn seeds in just three generations! This is an example of the blessing with which God has filled the world for man’s benefit. “Such is the tremendous reproductive power of DNA, especially in primary producer plants that must generate sufficient food-web biomass so all consumers--including we humans--can survive” (Kenneth Poppe, Exposing Darwinism’s Weakest Link, p. 33).
The believer has an eternal inheritance that he begins to enjoy in this present life.
The abundant life is not found in worldly things. It is found in walking in intimate fellowship with the Creator and enjoying life with Him at the center of it. He is life. He is the key to life. He is the most interesting part of life. He is the purpose of life.
Consider some things that enrich the life and bring great enjoyment:
We don’t want our young people merely to study the Bible as a religious ritual. We want them to delight in the Bible.
Bible study is the most interesting, thrilling thing in my life, and it has been for the 43 years I have been saved. I was thrilled with Bible study from the first day I was saved, and I am more thrilled with it today than ever.
The church needs to teach the young people that the Bible is the world’s most fascinating and amazing book, and they must seek to gain a thoroughgoing biblical worldview.
What benefits are there to Bible study?
1. In the Bible you see God. That is the first purpose of the Bible. I see Him on every page, in every verse. I continually learn new things about His glorious Person and character: His holiness, His majesty, His omnipotence, His omniscience, His unchangeableness, His infinity, His eternality (He “inhabiteth eternity”), His truthfulness, His grace, His patience, His gentleness, His tender mercies, His meekness and lowliness of heart, His kindness, His goodness, His peace.
2. In the Bible you see God’s glorious salvation for sinners through the cross of Christ, which is the central act of human history.
3. In the Bible you see yourself and come to understand yourself better and better.
4. In the Bible you find the key to understanding all of life (“in thy light we see light,” Ps. 36:9). It gives the right worldview. It shows how the world began, where man comes from, what he is, what his purpose is, why the world is like it is, how marriage originated, why men and women are different, why men are different than animals. The Bible is the key to understanding every discipline: social studies, history, economics, politics, government, psychology, every aspect of science, etc.
5. In the Bible you find God’s will. The Bible contains the mind of Christ (1 Co. 2:16).
6. In the Bible you see the past and understand history from God’s perspective.
7. In the Bible you see the future.
There is no other book that reveals the future. All prophecies outside of the Bible are vague and false. For example, astrological forecasts are typically vague, such as, “You are going to meet someone who will be important in your life.” And if they aren’t vague, they are usually wrong. A famous British astrologer named Naylor, whose predictions appeared in the Sunday Times, said, “In this column, for years, I have constantly laboured these points: Hitler’s horoscope is not a war-horoscope ... there will be no war” (August 27, 1939). Edgar Cayce predicted the arrival of Armageddon in 1999. Jeanne Dixon predicted that Russia would beat the U.S. to the moon, that World War III would begin in 1958, and that there would be a cure for cancer in 1967. The royal astrologer for Nepal’s King Birendra did not see his death in 2001. Instead, the astrologer saw an earthquake for that time, which didn’t occur.
But the Bible’s prophecies are clear and precise, for the most part. They do contain typology but the key to the interpretation of the prophecies is given in Scripture itself.
Consider Christ’s first coming. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, his life was written in Scripture. His birthplace of Bethlehem was named (Mi. 5:2). His rejection by the Jewish nation was foretold (Isa. 53). Every detail of His death was foretold, including the beating, the mocking, the piercing of His hands and feet, His experience of dying, the words He spoke from the cross (Ps. 22) and His burial in a rich man’s tomb (Isa. 53:9).
Bible prophecy is a wonderful, important part of the Christian life and an important part of youth discipleship.
Bible prophecy is interesting. Even lukewarm believers like to study Bible prophecy.
Bible prophecy strengthens the faith of young people that the Bible is God’s Word. It is one of the great evidences of the Bible’s divine inspiration.
Bible prophecy enables young people to see the future and to have a “long view” of life rather than a short-sighted view. By prophecy, young people can “seek those things that are above” (Colossians 3:1-4), and this is a life-changing thing.
Bible prophecy enables the believer to see his eternal inheritance. Paul prayed that the saints would understand “the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18). A large portion of the Bible describes Christ’s millennial kingdom and the believer’s eternal inheritance in the new heaven and new earth. Dozens of entire chapters of Scripture are devoted to this. God wants His people to know the future. The more we focus our attention on this, the less worldly-minded we will be.
Bible prophecy prepares the believer for his future in Christ’s kingdom as a part of Christ’s bride. We teach our young people that the Christian life and service in the church are the preparation for the future. It really matters how we live and what choices we make. By pursuing diligent Christian growth, the believer prepares for his entrance into Christ’s kingdom (2 Peter 1:5-11). By being rich in good works, the believer lays up treasures “against the time to come” (1 Timothy 6:17-19). By faithful service and obedience to Christ, the believer earns the privilege of ruling with Him (Revelation 2:26-27; 3:21).
Good music (Eph. 5:19)
Note that sacred music is associated with Spirit control. It has the power to change the mood and attitude as it did Saul’s (1 Sa. 16:16).
Music is powerful, either for evil or for good. What music do you love? What music do you have on your phone? What music do you share with your friends?
I enjoy a wide variety of wholesome music, not only Christian music, but good classical, semi-classical, marches, etc. It enriches my life. God has given us all good things to enjoy (1 Ti. 6:17).
The report “Suggested Sacred Music Recordings” can help the young person find good Christian music.
A Bible college student recently told me, “I don’t listen to music much but I listen to a lot of sermons on my cell phone.” There are thousands of sermons on SermonAudio, including many dozens of sermons published by Way of Life.
Video is a powerful technology that can be used for good or evil, and there are countless wholesome movies and videos that can be used for recreation, education, and edification.
We have published dozens of multi-media Bible teaching videos, including Music for Good or Evil; Biblical Separation; Israel: Past, Present, and Future; The Glorious History of the English Bible; The Emerging Church; The New Age; The Effectual Bible Student; The Trojan Horse.
I have personally benefited greatly from creation science videos. In the report “Creation Science Videos” at the Way of Life web site we describe many excellent and helpful titles.
Recently my son finished editing a new video by Dr. Shem Dharampaul about Raymond Damadian, M.D., the inventor of the MRI, and his faith in Christ and rejection of evolution. Behind the MRI: Dr. Raymond Damadian can be viewed and downloaded at the following site:
I have benefited from and enjoyed many educational and historical documentaries. Nature series by BBC, such as Planet Earth, The Blue Planet, African Wildlife, Nature’s Great Events, and The Frozen Planet, are powerfully entertaining and educational, even though the producers are evolutionists and some evolutionary nonsense creeps into the series.
God made nature as a revelation of Himself and as object lessons for mankind, and there is great benefit in studying it. See 1 Ki. 4:33; Job 12:7-9; Ps. 8:3; 19:1-4; Pr. 6:6; 30:24-28; Isa. 40:26; Ro. 1:20. One reason I love photography is that it allows me to capture little slices of God’s creation. It helps me to look at things more thoughtfully.
Good conversation with the right friends (“with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart,” 2 Ti. 2:22)
Young people need to pray that the Lord will give them good friends. This is what I did as a new Christian. My old friends left me because of my zeal for Christ and the Bible, and I asked the Lord for new ones. The first one was a young man named Richard who had come to Christ about a year before I did. He was a diligent Bible student and helped me greatly the first year of my Christian life. We talked some about the world or our past lives, but we talked a lot about the thrilling things we were learning in Christ. I plainly recall, for example, the night he showed me some of the wonders of Psalm 119.
Since then, God has answered my prayer for good Christian friends a thousand times over.
Pray for friends, and God will answer that prayer if He knows that you will spend your time with them pursuing edifying things rather than worldly or vain things.
Reading and Learning
Churches should challenge the young people to be studious, to be students of the Bible, first, and then students of life in general as God made it.
Everything you learn can enrich your life, marriage, and ministry.
God made man’s amazing mind, and He did not make it to waste on laziness and vanity.
Youth is the best time to learn. Your mind is sharper and your memory better than it will ever be. As you get older, you will gradually lose the mental powers of your youth.
We teach our young people that everything you learn that is wholesome can enrich your life, ministry, and marriage.
Parents and pastors and teachers should have a passion for learning so they can impart this to the youth.
The English reader has access to the greatest wealth of literature that’s ever been available at any time in history.
Young people need to learn to read and to enjoy reading. It’s been said that the man who does not read is no better than the man who cannot read. I read the equivalent of a couple hundred books a year, and it is an enriching thing both to my personal life and to my family and ministry.
Even secular society recognizes the benefits of reading. For example, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy works to “help parents and children build brighter futures through literacy.” Dorothy Bush Koch, daughter of U.S. President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara, says,
“When I was growing up, my mother, Barbara Bush, read to me every night. I remember reaching out to turn the pages when I was very small, caught up in the wonder of each story and the vivid pictures that filled my imagination. I was so fortunate to be raised in a household filled with books and—as you might imagine to be the case in the Bush home—plenty of conversation. By filling my days with loving words and ending each one with a bedtime story, my mother not only helped me form wonderful childhood memories, but also cultivated vital language and literacy skills that prepared me for success in school—and in life” (Dorothy Bush Koch, “What my mother Barbara Bush taught me about learning,” Fox News, Jan. 18, 2017).
Parents reading to children is so important to intelligence development that the American Academy of Pediatrics urges doctors and nurses to use pediatric visits to discuss with mothers the importance of reading.
A recent article by Charles Chu, “The Simple Truth Behind Reading 200 Books a Year” on betterhumans.coach.me, gives the following advice:
“Somebody once asked Warren Buffett about his secret to success. Buffett pointed to a stack of books and said, ‘Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will...’ ... [I]n these last two years I’ve read over 400 books cover to cover. That decision to start reading was one of the most important decisions in my life. ... Reading 200 books a year isn’t hard at all. ... The average American reads 200-400 words per minute. Typical non-fiction books have 50,000 words. ... 200 books [requires] 417 hours. ... a single American spends 608 hours on social media and 1642 hours on TV. That’s 2250 hours a year on TRASH. If those hours were spent reading instead, you could be reading over 1,000 books a year! ... If you want to read, make sure (1) you remove all distractions from your environment and (2) you make books as easy to access as possible. ... If your goal is to read more, you can’t be picky about where you read or what mediums you use. I read paper books. I read on my phone. I listen to audiobooks. And I do these things everywhere -- on park benches, in buses, in the toilet. Wherever I can. Make your reading opportunistic. If you have a chance, take it. If you don’t have a chance, find one.”
Young people need to learn to capture what they read by reading thoughtfully, underlining or highlighting important things, and jotting down thoughts.
Of course, the fundamental thing in learning is know the Bible, God’s Word, well and to test everything by it (1 Th. 5:21). This is the heart of a proper worldview (Heb. 5:14). It is the opposite of the simple person who is gullible and easily misled (Pr. 14:12).
The child of God must use the Word of God to resist the world’s wrong thinking and wrong ways in every area of his life. He must cast down every wrong imagination (2 Co. 10:4-5). He must refuse to allow the world to mold him into its image (Ro. 12:2).
A child or youth who loves to read and is left to his own choices and devices without a good knowledge of God’s Word and a thorough-going biblical worldview is a sheep among wolves.
Once you have the key to learning, which is the Bible, and once you know the Bible well enough to see everything through its lens, then you can learn to study with discrimination.
Parents and churches must teach young people how to choose the right things to study.
Wise Christian parents will carefully oversee their young people’s reading matter to weed out anything that would be a detriment to their spiritual and moral health and will help the young people to develop their own ability to discriminate. We live in a fallen world, and reading and learning is not without its very real dangers.
Of course, God requires that His people separate from every evil thing and keep themselves unspotted from the world (Jas. 1:27; 1 John 2:15-16). It is not spiritually profitable to read unwholesome literature and watch unwholesome videos and engage in any type of unwholesome endeavor.
Magic is something that is clearly off bounds (De. 18:10-12), yet many of the most popular juvenile books today delve into magic. These include Harry Potter, The Finkleton series, Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Tales of Magic, The Dark Is Rising, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
Science fiction is another danger-filled genre. It was created in the late 19th and early 20th century as a product of an evolutionary worldview that denies the Almighty Creator. Science fiction takes the reader into a cold, strange world without God. Oh, there might be “a god,” a “force,” but it is definitely not the God of the Bible, and the prominent names in this field are Darwinists and Atheists. Science fiction and the superhero genre have grown ever darker, stranger, more sensual and godless, and many people are living a dark fantasy world because their minds and hearts have been captured by unsound authors. (See the report “Beware of Science Fiction” at www.wayoflife.org.)
In guiding children and young people in their reading, it is important to guide in the way of substance and value.
Fiction, even wholesome fiction, is rarely the best choice. I see at least three problems with fiction. First, it is addictive. Second, rarely is it intellectually challenging. Third, it rarely provides anything of godly, real substance for one’s life. Living on a diet of fiction is like living on junk food, at best. As a child, I devoured countless works of fiction, such as the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, and Nancy Drew, but it was the reading equivalent of a mindless video game. At the time when my mind and memory were the sharpest, I wasted countless hours on the literary equivalent of marshmallows. A couple of marshmallows are OK; a diet of marshmallows is foolishness.
Not long ago I wrote the following to a grandmother who was discussing gifts for her grandchildren:
I like to focus on non-fiction. Truth is as interesting as fiction, and truth is better for kids, I believe. It is easy to get addicted to fiction. Following are some of the things I have gotten for my grandkids:
Christian Heroes four sets
Heroes of History (Janet and Geoff Benge, age 8 and up) 5 sets of 5
DK Readers - Thomas Edison
DK Readers - Wright Brothers
DK Readers - George Washington
Moonwalk: First Trip to the Moon (Step 5)
The Titanic (Step 4)
Lives and Signers of the Declaration of Independence
To the Top: Climbing the World’s Highest Mountain (Step 5)
Hellen Keller (Step 4)
Volcanoes (Step 4)
Hungry Plants (Step 4)
Quakes (Step 5)
Michael Faraday by Charles Ludwig (age 12-15)
Sower Series (age 9 and up)
Galileo and the Magic Numbers by Sidney Rosen (12 and up)
Galen and the Gateway to Medicine by Jeanne Bendick (9 and up)
The Story of the Romans illustrated by Helen Guerber (11 and up)
Heroes of the Revolution
Exploring the World of Biology
Building Blocks of Life Science (Gary Parker)
Tools of the Ancient Romans
Complete Book of Maps and Geography
Pioneers Go West (Landmark Books)
Meet Abraham Lincoln (Landmark Books)
Landing of the Pilgrims (Landmark Books)
The Story of Thomas Edison (Landmark Books)
Louise Braille (Margaret Davidson)
Helen Keller (Margaret Davidson)
Wright Brothers (Quentin Reynolds)
Secrets of the Woods (William Long)
Moonwalk: First Trip to the Moon (Step 5)
American History by Noah Webster
The following two titles are historical fiction but they recreate the times pretty well -
The Beggars’s Bible by Louise Vernon (age 9 and up)
The Bible Smuggler by Vernon Will (age 9 and up)
Also the following from Creation Moments:
Bugs Big & Small God Made Them All
God Made the World & Me-Preschool
Dinosaur Activity Book
Science Activities for Illustrating Bible Lessons
Creation Curriculum Lessons Grades 1-4
God’s Design for Life: The World of Plants
Animals of the Bible
Noah’s Ark-Preschool Activity Book
Q & A about Weather and the Bible
Guide to Animals
When you have a good Bible foundation and have learned to avoid evil and to read and study with spiritual discrimination, then you can wisely and safely study life and learn from every part of life.
The KJV translators were great scholars because they were great students. John Bois could read the whole Bible in Hebrew at age five. His godly father and mother taught him to love education. His mother Mirable read the Bible 12 times and the unabridged Foxes Book of Martyrs twice. As a student at Oxford, Bois studied in the library from 4am to 8pm. In the pursuit of perfecting his linguistic skills, he read 60 grammars. He studied in his horse cart on the daily trips from Boxworth to Cambridge, letting his horse find the way. Even in old age, John Bois spent eight hours a day in study.
Carolus Linnaeus, who classified living things, was so poor as a young man that he had to stuff paper in his shoes when they wore out, but when he won a scholarship, he spent the money on lectures rather than clothes.
Michael Faraday, one of the fathers of modern physics and a strong Christian, was totally self-educated. He had a passion for learning, so his boss let him use his personal library, and Michael would read into the night after working all day. This is a reminder that we must learn how to find answers to questions and not depend on others. Once when I sent out an ad for my book on the house church, a man emailed me and asked what is a house church. He wanted me to find someone who would give him a private summary instead of making the effort to read the book and study for himself, even though the eBook was free.
In learning to be studious, young people need to take their school studies seriously.
Don’t be intimated by the ignorant crowd. Use this important time of your life wisely instead of following empty people. I have often regretted how that I wasted my youth, and a large reason that I did so was peer pressure from the foolish crowd that I ran with who encouraged me not to excel. Dumb was cool!
But go beyond your required studies. Use your youthful mind to learn good things that will enrich your personal life, your ministry to others, and your service to Christ. Recently I talked with a young man who told me that he took nearly every optional course he could take in high school beyond the required courses, because he enjoyed learning. As a result, he is an unusually well-informed young man who can hold an intelligent conversation on many subjects.
The hours that most young people waste on video games or empty talk or vain social media pastimes should be used instead to learn and perfect skills on one or more musical instruments or any number of other profitable things.
One adult gave the following testimony about why he ordered a children’s textbook The Geography Book: Activities for Exploring, Mapping, and Enjoying Your World: “As a life-long learner, when I want to learn a new subject I begin with children’s books because they assume no prior knowledge of the subject. I will enjoy working my way through the activities as a base for this new subject of study.” This comment was posted at Amazon’s web site, and it is a good example of how to pursue learning throughout one’s life.
Learn to study subjects correctly as opposed to the shallow way of the Internet age. It has encouraged “bits and pieces” research, just reading a few bits and pieces of information rather than entire books or at least entire reports. That’s like reading a few verses of the Bible instead of reading by chapter and book. By this habit, it is impossible to understand the information in context. The Internet age has encouraged haste and shallowness, just glancing quickly at Wikipedia or the top ten Google returns instead of pursuing serious research.
Photography is a great tool for your personal life, for your family, and for your ministry. It is challenging and technical. It is educational. It is art. It is fun. It is capturing slices of God’s glorious creation. It helps you to study life more carefully and thoughtfully.
Our book Good Photography Made Simple can help anyone become a better photographer.
Anything wholesome in God’s will
Pastor Buddy Smith is a master wood carver and uses his skills to make money for his own needs and ministry, to finance God’s work (he helped fund a church building), and to produce gifts to encourage the hearts of people.
Geologist Bill Kitchens studies agates and has a web site GodMadeAgates.com that features studies about agates and beautiful photos of them. He says, “Agates are treasures of God’s grace that, through natural processes, fill voids in rocks around us for people to find, wonder at, and use. ... The appreciation of beauty and the desire to create beauty, and to understand it, are parts of the ‘image of God’ built into mankind ‘in the beginning.’”
Young people must learn to use electronic technology and devices for godly and wise learning rather than for sin and worldliness and vanity.
Delighting in God (Ps. 37:4)
Above all, the wise young person will study God. The creation is fascinating, but the Creator is far more so. If you are trying to enjoy God’s creation without putting Him first in your heart and life and without looking beyond the creation to God Himself, you are an idolater.
At the heart of life must be God Himself. True Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship. It is the most intimate relationship imaginable with the living God. “dear child” (Eph. 5:1), loved (Eph. 5:2), “Christ liveth in me” (Ga. 2:20); the believer is part of Christ’s bride (Eph. 5:25-26), a member of His very body (Eph. 5:30).
As a child of God, I can enjoy everything wholesome, but I must love only God. Anything else is idolatry.
The greatest thing man can think of is God Himself. It is good to learn from all of life, but everything was created to point man to God and to teach man about God.
Finding God’s Will
The church must teach the young people how to find God’s will. This is a thrilling thing because it involves finding the very purpose for which you were created.
Romans 12 is a key passage that contains the four fundamental elements of knowing God’s will:
First, personal surrender to God and His will (v. 1).
Second, separation from the evil things of and the wrong ways of the world (v. 2).
Third, renewal of the mind through God’s Word (v. 2). This requires effectual Bible study and is absolutely foundational. It requires time (Eph. 5:16 “redeeming the time”). And it requires training.
Fourth, service (vv. 3-8).
We teach these principles continually and weave these principles throughout our ministry to youth.
To train young people in knowing God’s will we use the One Year Discipleship Course, which is very practical and gets down to where the young people live. The 52 lessons deal with such things as repentance, daily Bible study methods, seeking wise counsel, wise use of money, dress, and tests of entertainment.
Separation from the World
Separation from the world must be emphasized continually. The world’s pop culture is devouring multitudes of young people in the churches. It is capturing their hearts. The church must deal effectually with the world’s music, social media, video games, dress fashions, friendships, attitude.
Even if you are saved and are studying the Bible and seeking His will, there are still powerful enemies within and without, and victory requires keen vigilance (Eph. 5:15; 1 Pet. 5:8) and strict separation (1 Jn. 2:15-17). David, the “sweet Psalmist of Israel,” was a passionate seeker of God, but we know what happened to him when he ceased being vigilant.
Christ warned that the things of the world can choke the Word in the believer’s life so that he doesn’t bear spiritual fruit (Mk. 4:19; Lk. 8:14). Jeremiah warned about sowing among thorns (Jer. 4:3). This refers to trying to serve the Lord without separating from sin, which is exactly what multitudes of professing Christians are doing in fundamental Baptist churches. Their daily lives are filled with worldly lusts and pleasures by the definition of 1 John 2:15-16, such as sensual music, immodest dress, and worldly entertainment, but they profess Christ and attend church and perhaps even read the Bible and pray. This was the condition of Israel of old. “.. this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart from me...” (Isa. 29:13). It is not possible to love God and also to love the wicked world. To love the wicked things of the world is to be the enemy of God (Jam. 4:4).
Young people who want to know and do God’s will must separate from the world.
Note the strictness of biblical separation: “all uncleanness” (Eph. 5:3), “no fellowship” (Eph. 5:11).
Separation from the world is strongly emphasized throughout Scripture. See Deuteronomy 7:26; Psalm 101:3; Proverbs 4:14-15, 23-27; 6:25-26; 7:6-10; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 1 Peter 5:8; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17.
Some of the Greatest Worldly Dangers Today
The mobile phone itself
The mobile phone has brought the world into people’s lives in the most intimate way. It connects to the Internet, where moral dangers and false teaching are only a click or a tap away.
If a young person wants to serve the Lord and know His will, he must be extremely cautious about modern communication tools.
It is wise to remove all temptations from one’s phone. Examples are wrong music, wrong apps, even the web browser if necessary. One young man wrote, “Before I got saved, I listened to rock music, copying it to my memory cards. After I get saved, for some time I couldn’t delete the songs. I used to say that I would be able not to listen to them, but I was easily tempted to listen to the things that were already in my phone. I was making provision for the flesh while promising not to fulfil the lusts thereof (Ro. 13:14). So one day I decided to delete them totally from my memory card and from my computer too. I thank the Lord, I have never regretted that decision.”
It is wise to use a web browser filter like CleanInternet.
It is wise to have an accountability partner.
Some use Covenant Eyes for accountability. It monitors the individual’s Internet usage and emails reports to selected people for accountability. The accountability report lists web sites visited, Internet searches, and the times of day when the Internet is used. It also features a score that ranks the individual’s level of objectionable Internet usage. Covenant Eyes also has a filtering service that can be used in combination with the accountability service. Another service of this type is X3 Watch. It provides accountability on computers, cell phones, and tablets. While I have not used this personally, it has been recommended by friends.
Others use a church leader or mature Christian friend as an accountability partner. One single young adult wrote: “I have a friend in Bible college who has the restriction codes to my phone. I cannot access the App Store, I cannot access the browser. I personally deleted every game I had off the phone, deleted Facebook and anything else that I felt ‘drawing’ my mind away in ways that I thought were a hindrance to my walk with God. A great example of this is FoxNews. The App shows a lot of news, to be sure. The space directly below it has a lot of entertainment news, which was basically nothing but soft porn. I got sick and tired of seeing this and deleted that app as well. If SnapChat or other items are a hindrance, the partner can block those as well by restricting it. Remember that browsers can be downloaded through the App Store, so even if Safari or the base browser is blocked, there are ways around it.”
Twenty-nine of the thirty most popular YouTube videos in 2015 were music videos, and most are filthy. The total views of the 29 videos was 26 BILLION!
Psy “Gangnam Style” (2.3 billion views)
Justin Bieber “Baby” (1.2 billion)
Katy Perry “Dark Horse” (1 billion)
Taylor Swift “Blank Space” (1 billion)
LMFAO “Party Rock Anthem” (906 million)
Eminem “Love the Way You Lie” (896 million)
Shakira “Waka Waka” (889 million)
Jennifer Lopez “On the Floor” (846 million)
Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball” (784 million)
Rock is intimately associated with illicit sex and always has been. Even a mere glance at iTunes proves this. The covers of the albums and the lyrics are filthy, and a child of God seeking purity will not touch the unclean thing (2 Co. 6:17).
Consider the following testimonies by rock & rollers:
“That’s what rock is all about--sex with a 100 megaton bomb, THE BEAT!” (Gene Simmons of the rock group KISS, interview, Entertainment Tonight, ABC, Dec. 10, 1987).
“Rock ‘n’ roll is 99% sex” (John Oates of the rock duo Hall & Oates, Circus, Jan. 31, 1976).
“Rock ‘n’ roll is pagan and primitive, and very jungle, and that’s how it should be! … the true meaning of rock … is sex, subversion and style” (Malcolm McLaren, punk rock manager, Rock, August 1983, p. 60).
“The THROBBING BEAT of rock provides a vital sexual release for adolescent audiences” (Jan Berry of Jan and Dean, cited by Ken Blanchard, Pop Goes the Gospel).
“The great strength of rock ‘n’ roll lies in ITS BEAT ... it is a music which is basically sexual, un-Puritan ... and a threat to established patterns and values” (Irwin Silber, Marxist, Sing Out, May 1965).
“Everyone takes it for granted that rock and roll is synonymous with sex” (Chris Stein, lead guitarist for Blondie, People, May 21, 1979).
“Rock and roll is fun, it’s full of energy ... It’s naughty” (Tina Turner, cited in Rock Facts, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum).
“Pop music revolves around sexuality. I believe that if there is anarchy, let’s make it sexual anarchy rather than political” (Adam Ant, From Rock to Rock, p. 93).
“The sex is definitely in the music, and sex is in ALL ASPECTS in the music” (Luke Campbell of 2 Live Crew).
Pop music and rap will steal your heart for the world. At best you will have a divided heart.
Pastor Dave Sorenson tells how that as a teen his heart was captured by rock music that he listened to in his bedroom via a transistor radio that his pastor father let him have.
I was captured by rock music via 45-rpm records at a friend’s garage. He was a deacon’s son.
YouTube, music videos, X-rated movies, parents used to keep MTV out of the home, but now MTV and much worse is on the kids’ phones!
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:15-17).
Video games are very addictive and they are great time wasters. Also many of them have very wicked content. Even the more innocent games use rock music as a background, thus addicting young people to the sensual rock rhythms.
If young people are allowed to play video games, they must be carefully chosen and the play time must be strictly limited by the parents.
Video games and addiction
“The more we looked into it the more we found that gaming was taking over the lives of kids.”
“Some studies suggest that gaming is absolutely taking over the minds of children all together.”
“Virtual life becomes more appealing than real life.”
Beware of role playing games. Nothing takes over young people’s hearts and minds more than these. They are called MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing games).
The most addictive games in 2015 are the following: Madden, Dota 2, Grand Theft Auto, Tetris, Candy Crush Saga (the company is valued at $7.5 billion), Minecraft, EverQuest (called “never rest” and “ever crack”), The Sims (player has omnipotent control over people), World of Warcraft (called World of War Crack), Call of Duty (the last two are played by more than 100 million players), Halo 3 (called Halodiction), Total War, Pong, Civilization, Diablo 3, Super Meat Boy, Team Fortress 2, Dark Souls 2, Counter Strike, Starcraft 2, Persona 4 Golden, Monster Hunter 3, Elder Scrolls, Angry Birds, Faster Than Light, Peggle, League of Legends, Civilization V, Pokemon.
Even in remote places like Nepal, gaming competition is becoming popular. A report on Nepali gamers in the Kathmandu Post (Aug. 29, 2015) was entitled “By Their Bootstraps.” Gaming started in Nepal in internet cafes in 2010. The 2015 Colors E-sports Carnival at the Civil Mall had 500 participants competing at Defense of the Ancients (DOTA), a multi-online battle game.
Video games and violence
Beware of violent games. One of the most popular is Grand Theft Auto. Players assume the role of lawless, destructive criminals who kill innocent bystanders, policemen, and military personnel, “while dealing with only temporary consequences.” It has been called a cop-killing training machine. Some of the versions require the player to torture people in brutal ways to advance to new levels. Sexual elements include hiring and killing prostitutes (by means of the player’s choice of fist, machete, bat, or gun). Real life murders have been committed by people who were obsessive players of Grand Theft Auto and have even admitted to being inspired by the game.
Video games and the occult
Many of the video games are occultic. Consider the current craze, Pokémon Go. Almost overnight it has become the most popular mobile game in American history, increasing the stock market value of part owner Nintendo more than 50%. “Pokémon Go, the newest iteration of the nearly 20-year-old Pokémon franchise, engages players in an ‘augmented reality’ where they try to find and capture Pokémons hidden throughout the real world. The Australian Business Review has suggested that it may be a ‘watershed moment’ in the development of virtual reality” (“Pokémon Go craze drawing gamers to church,” Baptist Press News, July 15, 2016). The game “uses the mobile phone’s camera to create the perception that the Pokémon characters are actually in front of the players.” It is so engaging and addictive that people have crashed their automobiles and walked into dangerous situations. Two men recently fell off a cliff near San Diego while engaged in the game.
Pastor David Brown, First Baptist Church of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, who made the effort to investigate Pokémon and apply the test of God’s Word to it in 1999, says, “The name Pokémon is derived from POCKEt MONster. ... One of the first things I did was to find out who produced the Trading Card Game. Here is an exact quote right from the Web page of the producer - ‘The Pokémon Trading Card Game is a new collectable Card Game that is made and distributed by Wizards of the Coast. The same company that made the best-selling game ... Magic: The Gathering.’ Wizards of the Coast also owns TSR, the producers of Dungeons & Dragons. When I discovered who owned the American Pokémon Trading Card Game rights, I knew it was not just an innocent card game for elementary school children. [The Pokémon rap mantra says]: ‘I will travel across the land/ Searching far and wide/ Each Pokémon to understand/ The power that’s inside/ Gotta catch them all.’ ... To be sure it is a game, but a game that does not glorify God! When God says something is wrong, it is wrong regardless of what form it is in. Not only that, but many of the kids who play this game are seduced into believing the principles that the game subtly teaches” (Dave Brown, “The Problem with Pokémon”).
In the official literature, the main characters of the game are described as headstrong, stubborn, quibbling, hormonal, having a fascination with and trying to “score” with the opposite sex, self-centered, vindictive, obnoxious, and prone to cross-dressing!
Pokémon promotes the search for occultic power. The cards are called “energy cards.” Players engage in “pretend” occultic warfare. Currently there are 729 species of Pokémon monsters, and 151 of them are sought by Pokémon Go players. Two of them are named Abra and Kadabra, long associated with magic. The Abra card promotes the ability to read minds. The Kadabra character has a pentagram on his forehead. What an incredibly dangerous, wicked influence for children! Nintendolife says there are poison types, psychic types, dark types, fairy types, dragon types, and ghost types.
There is nothing innocent about Pokémon. It is a clever attempt at demonic mind-control. For more about the dangers of Pokémon see “The Problem with Pokémon” by David Brown, http://logosresourcepages.org/Occult/more.htm
Even the more innocent games use rock music as a background, thus addicting young people to the sensual rock rhythms.
Video games and wasting time
“How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Prov. 6:9-11).
The average gamer spends eight hours per week playing video games. This equates to 416 hours per year.
Last year, a teen told me he wanted to learn to study the Bible on his phone, but when I asked to look at his phone, I found that it was filled with games. I challenged him to get rid of them and to spend that time on Bible study and other profitable things. I told him that until he was willing to put aside wasteful things, he wouldn’t make much progress in his spiritual life.
One young Christian lady we know became concerned about how much time she was spending on video games, and she decided to figure it up. She concluded that she was spending three months out of a year playing games! She deleted the games from her iPad and is spending that time memorizing Scripture and other profitable things.
Young people who want to find God’s will must learn to be careful about time. “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). We deal with this in the section of the course on “The Youth.”
“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mat. 5:28).
“I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” (Job 31:1).
“For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids. For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?” (Prov. 6:23-28).
“Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth. Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death” (Prov. 7:24-27).
Consider some frightful facts about pornography and the Internet:
The man is visually oriented in his sexuality, which is why the Bible repeatedly warns of the man’s lust of the woman’s body (Job 31:1; Prov. 6:25; Mat. 5:28). Women are not naturally inclined to be so visual in their sexuality, though they can become perverted as is happening today.
The heart is a bottomless pit of evil, and pornography will carry the heart deeper and deeper into filth and perversion (Jer. 17:9).
This terrible process is described in Romans 1:21-30. Note that it begins with what is happening with the “imagination” and “heart” (verse 21) and ends with the corrupt of the “reprobate mind” (verse 28).
The only victory is complete abstinence. It requires making a covenant with one’s eyes as Job did (Job 31:1).
Young people (and old) must remember that pornography will do the following and more:
- It will enslave you.
- It has the power to carry you into ever deeper and unspeakable regions of moral filth.
- It will pervert your way of looking at women and hinder your ability to have proper relationships.
- If you are single, it will ruin your chance for a truly pure marriage.
- If you are married, it will harm or even destroy your marriage.
- It will hurt your children.
- It will hurt your testimony and result in shame and disgrace.
Sending sexy pictures of oneself by text messaging is hugely popular.
A study in the UK in 2013 found that 50% of 18-year-olds have received nude pictures.
Studies have found that many young people consider sexting mere entertainment.
“As a criminal lawyer, I can tell you that teens (and sometimes even younger children) use the picture taking capacity of most cell phones to take and communicate vile images of themselves. The possibilities for harm are virtually endless. This is not a minor matter. ... I don't think this particular danger can be overestimated.”
Snapchat is often used for this purpose. It is used by 60% of smartphone users ages 13-34. It is used to send a photo, video, or drawing that disappears in 1-10 seconds (user determined). The messages are called “snaps” and over a billion are sent daily. “It is popular for ‘teasing/sexting’ as teens think the pic cannot be saved. But all one has to do is take a screenshot or even a picture of the photo with another phone.” There are also unofficial apps and web tools that override snapchat’s deleting function. The FBI has warned that Snapchat is being used by pedophiles to lure young victims. Snapchat can also be used for video chatting.
Taking the wrong job
A major reason why young people backslide is that they disobey God and get a job that keeps them out of the church services.
Consider the following two warnings,
“We lose about 20% of the young sometime after the seventh grade, and generally we lose them because they get jobs that make them work on Sundays. Once they get those jobs, it becomes easy for them to justify staying out of services and they generally do.”
“We have noticed that many who leave get the idea that if God gives them a job that requires them to work during services, then it is O.K. to miss services. If God gives them a job that requires wearing immodest clothes then it must be O.K. to wear immodest clothes. If God gives them a job that plays rock-n-roll music on the PA then that is O.K. They think they are strong enough to take that and keep coming to church unaffected. Usually though, within six months of getting the job they are missing 50% or more of the services and within a year, they are out of the services completely. As the Singles Director, I have stressed the fact the God has His perfect job for us and Satan has his perfect job for us. However, most of the kids won’t wait upon God to provide that perfect job.”
If a young person lives by faith, he will not take a job that causes him to disobey God’s Word. We tell our young people, “God has a job for you and the devil has a job for you. The devil wants you to make a hasty decision, but it is your responsibility to be wise and wait on God’s will.”
Consider two biblical principles that apply to employment:
First, the Bible says do not associate with evil or with idolatry (1 Co. 15:33; Ro. 12:2; 2 Co. 6:14-18; Eph. 5:11). Thus, it is not God’s will for His people to take a job at a place that would require participation in evil (such as selling liquor or wearing immodest clothing or showing wicked movies or playing worldly music or worldly dancing), to participate in pagan religious rituals, etc. I recall a teenager at one church who got a job working in a movie theater. He was bothered by the unwholesome films that were showing and was thinking about quitting, but he was advised not to quit by the church’s worldly youth pastor! The result was severe backsliding. I recall another young man who had a job at a restaurant-bar and was responsible to supervise worldly parties that included drinking and dancing. He did not grow spiritually until he quit that job.
Second, the Bible says do not neglect the assembly (Heb. 10:25). Thus, it is wrong to make any decision that would cause you to become unfaithful in church attendance and overall participation in church life. I recall a young man in our church that was saved out of a druggie lifestyle. He showed promise and was growing in the Lord, then his father asked him to return to his village. In spite of our counsel against it, he went, and from that point he backslid in his Christian life and has not made much spiritual progress. This kind of thing has happened many times.
Friendships with the wrong people
“And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her” (Ge. 34:1-2).
“Girls need to know that boys should not be any part of their lives until they are old enough to marry. Fathers need to keep their daughters’ hearts until they love Christ with all of it.”
Many of the people who have written to us on this subject have shared horror stories of girls who have been enticed away from their families by men they met either by phone or texting or Facebook.
This happened to a girl in our church about three years ago. A young man started calling her on her cell phone, and at first she said that she didn’t want to hear from him. Her parents and church leaders warned her against talking with him, but she refused to listen. Eventually they ran away together out of wedlock.
A Nepali girl recently told my wife her sad story. A man started calling her and wooing her. He told her that he had passed SLC (high school equivalent), had a good job, and didn’t drink. Finally she ran away with him and quickly learned that he was lying about everything. He eventually left her for another woman. With a broken heart she said to my wife, “I shamed my parents; they don’t want me back; I ruined my life.”
A pastor friend told me about a girl who got a SIM card from another person. An unknown male called that number and started talking to her. She unwisely continued conversing with him on the phone. When she resisted, the guy threatened to commit suicide if she didn’t marry him, and eventually she eloped with him.
Don’t talk on the phone or Facebook, etc., with a young person of the opposite sex except relatives. Creeps are using social media to trap unsuspecting victims.
Don’t make plans to meet the wrong people.
Don’t hide anything you are doing from your parents and church leaders. God has given them for your protection.
Being busy serving the Lord is a major part of finding God’s will.
Serving in the Lord’s great business is an undeserved privilege and blessing.
The young people in our churches who are serving the Lord are the ones who are happy in the Lord and are growing spiritually.
Discipleship is doing, not sitting. Christ commanded that His people be taught to “observe all things,” not merely to know all things (Matthew 28:19-20).
God’s will is something you do today, not something you sit around and wait for (Ro. 12:1-8). If you do the will of God today, you will be in the will of God tomorrow.
The church must challenge the young people to serve the Lord and give them ministry opportunities while being careful to maintain high standards.
Pastor Bobby Mitchell says,
“Many times the young people are not really involved in the ministry of the church until they are pressed to do so in their late teens. Too many are just observers and not participators. All that is expected of them is to sit and be entertained instead of training and serving. They are not taught that we exist to glorify God. Practically, they are being taught that the ministry exists to make sure that they are having fun. They are not taught to ‘buy in’ to the work of the ministry. Eventually, they realize that the world’s entertainment is better and they look for fulfillment in getting involved in worldly groups and activities.”
We have many ministries for young people and are adding new ones all the time. Some of these are the following:
- taking up offerings
- older young people reading the Bible in our main service and leading in prayer
- older young people leading the church in learning weekly memory verses
- Sunday School
- older young people leading home prayer meetings
- deaf ministry
- the older young people leading services once month
- overseeing the church bookstore
- serving refreshments after services to encourage the unsaved to stay behind and talk about the Lord with the church members
- overseeing the sound system
But we must require high standards for service and not allow worldly, spiritually half-hearted young people to serve in ministries.
Of the young people who serve in ministries, we require the following: a good testimony of Christian living (including separation from the world and a good attitude toward parental authority), agreement with the church’s doctrinal position, submission to the church’s leaders, faithfulness to the services, modest dress according to the church’s standards, and the gifting and ability to do the assigned ministry.
Maintaining such standards lifts up the spiritual character of the entire church.
Maintaining such standards challenges the young people to live right and do right.
Maintaining such standards separates those who are serious about serving the Lord from those who aren’t.
We care about all the young people and try to minister to all of them, but we give the most attention to those who demonstrate a heart to grow. In light of Jesus’ warning, I’m not interested in wasting much time on the lukewarm (Re. 3:16).
Consider the ministry of operating the church’s sound system. I’ve seen a lot of worldly-looking and worldly-acting young people involved in that type of thing. I have seen young men in the sound room or sound booth talking and even playing games during services. This should not happen more than once! Where are the parents? Where are the pastors? Young people need godly oversight. The Bible warns that “a child left to himself brings his mother to shame” (Pr. 29:15), and a young teenager is still a child in a biblical sense.
Children, too, can serve the Lord.
“Children need to be involved in the work of the church, with their parents being the leading examples of that. Three of my six children are born again. My oldest works in the nursery twice a month and has started a neighborhood Bible study for girls. My other two (a son age 10 and a daughter age seven), are intending to join the choir, and my seven-year-old works in the nursery once a month. When we show our children they have a place in the work of God’s kingdom, then they will gladly seek out the work the Lord has ordained for them to do.”
“We have had children as young as two years old dusting the pews when it is their family’s turn to clean the church. When we had a remodeling program, the Sunday School room section was the children’s responsibility. Yes, it took extra work, but it was worth it. Their offering paid for the fan lights, the paint, the insulation, and the linoleum. One little guy had to be held on the ladder so he wouldn’t fall off while he painted ‘his’ wall. Some of the carpeting and the linoleum were laid by a 14-year-old kid. Our son was taught at that time as a 17-year-old how to install the electric lights, and another young man learned how to put the windows in, etc. The children start helping with our Scripture printing ministry when they turn four. Our granddaughter got sick the night before her birthday because she had waited so long to be four so she could tear apart the Scripture Portion sections, and now the time was finally here and she was sooooo excited.”
Children need to be trained to pay attention during the services instead of playing. As soon as they can read, they can join in with the congregational singing. Though they are not yet saved, they need to learn to show honor to God during the services. They can even be taught to take notes of the sermon and discuss it later with their parents.
Children will be children, and they should not be made to hate church because the adults are overbearing and lacking in grace and joy, but they can still learn many things at their age level if they are taught to do so.
I think of a young lady who made her Sunday School class sit facing the wall and not talk during the rest of her class because some of them had acted up. We believe in discipline, but that is not the way to encourage children to love Sunday School!
We must be compassionate, of course, as well as strong for righteousness and truth. This is God’s character. If the young people aren’t convinced that the preachers love them, they probably will not respond positively to the preaching and standards.
We love our young people and go after them when they are slipping spiritually. We do whatever we can to help them.
When one young man in the church family got addicted to sniffing glue and using other drugs, church folk visited him. Other young men rallied around him. They prayed for him. They got him a job and helped to oversee his daily activities. They were patient with him when he backslid.
When a young man stopped attending mid-week prayer meeting because of his focus on school, we met with him repeatedly. We exhorted him. We prayed with him. We offered to go to his school and talk to the principal to try to get permission for him to leave school early on Wednesdays. But we did not back down from maintaining the church’s standards for ministry. When we saw that he was going to put school before God and that he didn’t want us to try to get permission for him to leave early, we took away his music ministry. Later he became obedient again and was restored to that ministry and has been faithful and growing ever since.
We have had families join our church specifically because they have seen God’s blessing on our youth and have wanted help with theirs. They didn’t come to our church for fun and games, but for serious discipleship.
Youth Discipling Youth
An important part of a youth ministry is youth discipling youth.
We are preparing to start a youth discipling youth ministry.
The discipling material is part of the One Year Discipleship Course. We have taken several of the 52 lessons from this course.
The plan is that the mature youth will disciple new believers. A teacher will be assigned to one individual and will be responsible for arranging a weekly meeting with that individual for the purpose of going through the material.
By this means close personal attention can be given to each new convert and he or she can be grounded in some basic Bible doctrines and practices.
It gives our young people an opportunity to teach and to grow thereby. The best way to learn is to teach. You learn at a deeper level when you try to teach what you are learning to others.
The teachers are encouraged not just to teach the material but to interact with the student, to find out what he or she is understanding, to answer questions.
This has the potential to develop friends in Christ who spend their time building one another up, talking about the things of God rather than worldly things.
Living by Faith
The church must teach the young people to live by faith (Mt. 6:33).
Living by faith is living in obedience to God’s Word. It means that I don’t do anything that will contradict God’s Word, and I won’t do anything that interferes with or hinders God’s business and God’s will.
This is something we emphasize continually. Every major decision must be made by faith rather than by sight. It must be made by seeking God’s mind rather than leaning to one’s own understanding (Pr. 3:5-6).
Living by faith involves choosing the right friends, the right education, the right job. These decisions must be made in obedience to God’s Word. The young person must make the right decision and then trust God to take care of him.
Many young people in Nepal go overseas to work, but we teach our young people to weigh this decision by God’s Word rather than strictly by monetary concerns or by pressure from their families. Some of the biblical precepts that discourage this practice are as follows: (1) The importance of church and spiritual fellowship (1 Ti. 3:15). Most of the places where the young people go to work don’t have a good Nepali-language church. (2) The danger of evil communications (1 Co. 15:33). Typically in overseas work, the young people are thrown together in close living conditions with unsaved people in a worldly environment. (3) Marital responsibilities (1 Co. 7:3-5; Eph. 6:4). It is impossible for a man to fulfill his God-given responsibilities to his family if he is living in another country. (4) Christ’s Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20). There is freedom for preaching the gospel in Nepal today for the first time in known history, and the need for workers is great. Every Christian young person who goes overseas is one less worker in the great harvest field of Nepal. It is possible to witness to Nepalis who are living overseas, of course, but in our experience they are not as open to the gospel as those who are living in Nepal. The need of Nepal is for sound churches to be established, and that cannot be done if a large portion of the potential workers go to other places.
Young people must choose a job based on God’s will and faith. The job must not be the type of job that would cause them to backslide because of a worldly environment. I think of a young man who got a job in a movie theater. He was even encouraged to do so by his worldly youth pastor. The immoral environment caused him to backslide, just as God’s Word warns (1 Co. 15:33).
Young people must choose education based on God’s perfect will and by faith in God’s Word. Some of the young people who have attended our Bible College left secular college to do so. That was a big step, because the society and most families emphasize secular education and pursuing money and prestige. But these young people wanted to learn God’s Word and prepare for the Lord’s service more than they wanted the things of the world.
One young man was pressured by his father to be educated as an engineer so he could make a lot of money and pay off the huge family debts. When the young man was called of God to preach and began to entertain the thought of attending Bible College, his father was very angry and tried to force him to give up that idea. The young man was confused and undecided. Even when it came time to make the final decision about Bible College, he was faltering in the decision. I told him to read Luke 9:60. “Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” This doesn’t mean that the child of God is to harden his heart against his parents and dishonor them; it means simply that when God has called you to His service, you must not allow anything to interfere, even your closest relatives. I said to him, “This is a situation in which you must let the dead bury the dead.” He took the step of faith and joined the Bible College and has been a tremendous blessing to many.
Every major decision must be made in light of God’s Word and living by faith. Many years ago I met a young man in a Bible college in Singapore who was a chess champion. After the Lord called had him to preach and led him to pursue full-time training, he was offered a part-time job writing a chess column for a newspaper. He thought it would be a good way to help support himself, but he found that he couldn’t get the chess moves out of his mind. Chess was choking the Word of God. He wisely cut off this activity so that he could meditate effectively upon the Scripture and the things of God.
If the young person obeys God and puts God first, God will always take care of him. It is far more likely that the sun will stop shining tomorrow than that God will fail to take care of those who honor Him.
Walking in Vigilance
The church must teach the young people to walk in vigilance (1 Peter. 5:8).
The young people need to get a worldview that this is a dark world filled with spiritual and moral danger, and the child of God must walk vigilantly.
Both young women and young men are exhorted to be sober (Titus 2:4, 6). This means to be in control of one’s mind and life with the goal of protecting oneself from danger and obeying the Lord in all things. Soberness refers to spiritual alertness; seriousness of purpose; prudence; temperance. It is the opposite of being under the control of alcohol or drugs or anything other than God’s Spirit. A person can be drunk on pop music, fashion, worldly fads, dating and “puppy love,” and many other things, but the sober person will refuse this. Soberness means to test everything by God’s Word. It is the opposite of being “simple,” which means to be gullible (Pr. 14:15).
Spiritual alertness should permeate the believer’s life.
I am thankful for the teachers who taught me to walk in soberness in my Christian life. The man who led me to Christ taught me this, as did the first church I joined. They taught me to love God’s Word and to test everything by it.
Finding a Marriage Partner
The young people need to be taught how to find the right marriage partner in God’s will.
Our church spends a lot of effort in this, because godly matches in marriage are so very important for the future of the Lord’s work.
Following are some fundamental Biblical principles toward this end:
Preparation (Pr. 24:27). A good marriage requires that young people prepare their lives by a know-so salvation, by moral purity, by learning God’s Word, by spiritual growth, and by learning the basics of family life. The best time to learn about how to build a Christian home is before marriage. The preparation should be done by the church and by the home. The young person needs to build true Christian character by walking with Christ so that he or she will be ready for marriage.
Respect for authority and good counsel (Pr. 20:18; Eph. 6:1-3; Heb. 13:17). We teach our young people not to depend on themselves in regard to finding the right mate but to seek help from authority figures: the parents (particularly saved parents) and church leaders and other mature and godly adults. Wise young people will lean heavily on the counsel of such people. This is the opposite of the world’s way whereby young people seek to find a mate by dating and chance, which often ends up in moral shipwreck.
The traditional Jewish practice is for parents, rabbis, and other qualified matchmakers to help the young people choose a spouse. “They very carefully look at compatibility--it is not left to chance. They do their homework on their characteristics, their values, morals and life goals” (“Marriage: Can Messianics Learn from Orthodox Jews?” Israel Today, Nov. 2016). The matchmakers propose a “shidduch date,” which is an opportunity for the couple to talk and get to know one another, and they decide then whether to continue meeting. If they determine to continue, they have more dates until they decide whether or not to get married. The marriages are not “arranged” in the sense of force, because each individual makes the final choice of whether or not to marry. Such marriages are arranged only in the sense that the man and woman desire help from and invite help from older and more mature authority figures. After 35 years of study, Robert Epstein of the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology found that “arranged marriages are far more likely to lead to lasting affection than marriages of passion. Those who have had their partner chosen for them by a parent or matchmaker tend to feel more in love with time, whereas those in typical marriages often feel less in love over time” (Ibid.). This is because “those who marry for ‘love’ are often blinded by passion, and when the pressures and unavoidable challenges of family life crop up, they crumble.”
Not dating but courtship. The dating culture is an invention of the rock & roll culture. It forces young people to encounter temptations they are not ready to face and to make decisions on their own they are not capable of making. The biblical pattern is courtship under close parental and pastoral supervision. There is no list of absolute laws for courtship, but some of the basics are as follows: (1) The young people are under the supervision of spiritual authorities and are in submission to those authorities. (2) They do not spend time alone together. (3) They do not touch until the wedding (Pr. 6:27). The closer the wedding comes the more potential there is for a couple to let down their moral guard. (4) There must be no pressure or manipulation by any party. The goal is to know God’s will, not to make something happen at man’s hands. The girl, especially, should be protected from making a purely emotional decision. I think of a young woman who is a pastor’s wife today. When the young man who is now her husband began to show interest, she understood that her heart was easily moved just by his attention. She slowed down the process and drew close to the Lord in order to remain sober minded so that God would be in control rather than her emotions. There are no set rules to courtship, as each situation is different; the elders set the rules and the young people obey. For example, the elders might say that all communication must be done at first through a father or pastor and not directly between the young man and woman. This is for protection. If the Lord gives peace to all parties, the young people can communicate more directly.
Agreement (Amos 3:3; 2 Co. 6:14). It is not God’s will for a believer to marry an unbeliever or someone of another religion or a different Christian faith. This is confusion. It is impossible to raise children properly in a divided home. Likewise, for the zealous believer to marry a lukewarm one or for a believer with a vision of reaching the world for Christ to marry someone lacking this vision is confusion. Usually what happens is that the lukewarm and the lack of vision dominates the relationship and pulls the other party down spiritually.
Peace as opposed to confusion (1 Co. 14:33; Col. 3:15; 2 Th. 3:16; Jas. 3:13-18). God’s will is the way of peace and righteousness, whereas the devil’s will is the way of confusion and sin. A major principle of finding God’s will is to seek peace. Among our young people, we have seen God’s will done as well as the devil’s will. I think of one promising young man and young woman. The young lady received Christ in her early teens, and though her unsaved family persecuted her, she was faithful to the Lord. A young preacher, who showed promise got his eyes on the young lady and began to call her and meet her. When her parents and the church leaders found out about it, they were unanimous that it was not God’s will. Both the parents and the church leaders exhorted and warned the young couple to break off the relationship. They pretended to agree, but they continued to talk and meet in secret. The relationship had an immediate negative effect on their spiritual lives, resulting in deception and rebellion toward authority. Finally, they ran off together. They refused to repent before the church. They have not done anything in the Lord’s service since then, and they have a poor testimony before believers and unbelievers to this day. In contrast, another young man and woman prepared their lives and waited on the Lord. They leaned on the counsel of their church leaders. When the leaders recommended the young lady to the young man, he prayed about it and agreed that it was the Lord’s will. The young lady did likewise. Both sets of parents were 100% supportive. (The parents are believers.) The church was 100% supportive. Everyone had peace, and there was no confusion. Their lovely wedding was a powerful testimony to believers and unbelievers alike of the beauty of waiting for God’s will.
Patience (Ro. 8:24-25; Heb. 10:36; Jas. 1:3-4). Patience is mentioned 46 times in the New Testament. It is a fundamental part of Christian living. It is a fundamental part of living by faith. God doesn’t act according to our human time table, and we must wait on Him. Contrast King Saul, who sinned and lost his position because of his impatience (1 Sa. 13:8-14). Likewise, a great many young people have missed God’s will by being impatient in major decisions such as friends, employment, education, and marriage, instead of trusting God and waiting until His will is clear. Patience means the young person will not try to manipulate circumstances like tricky Jacob or Sarah (in the matter of Hagar) or Rebekah (in the matter of deceiving Isaac).
Parents Serving the Lord with their Children
Parents should serve the Lord with their children.
Discipling children and youth requires spending time with them.
Many times I have suggested to preachers that they serve the Lord with their children. I am not talking about playing with the children. I am talking about serving the Lord with them: taking the children with you on visitation, etc.
When I see a preacher who has his sons with him and who has his sons’ hearts so that they are with him of their own free will and enjoying themselves, I know that those sons will probably follow in their father’s faith in Christ.
Paul Pinkerton of Madison, Alabama:
“My idea was to be an example and to take them with me as I served the Lord. When I worked in the bus ministry and Sunday School and children’s church, I took the kids with me and had them involved. They actually participated in these ministries by leading songs and doing Bible stories and other ways. We wanted them to be able to continue on after they left our home. So many seem to disappear after high school, but I didn’t want that for my kids. The best way I could see to do that was to be an example before them and teach them the Scriptures and teach them to serve the Lord. It’s not a secret. It’s there in the Scriptures, and it has worked out for us real well.”
Bob Nichols, missionary to Brazil, says:
“We always involved our children in the work of the Lord. I try to lead my family to memorize 14 verses a month. We’ll go over the verses as a family, and what a tremendous help that’s been. Now in Brazil, our church memorizes 10 verses a month, and we try to coordinate the two programs. Our children are always in the work with us. Wherever I go I take them. They play musical instruments and know music. They go when we preach and when we go soul winning. They’re involved in AWANA and discipleship. We try to get them involved in everything. I have had all my boys go through our Bible institute in Brazil, and they’ve had to go through a discipleship program where they learn to win souls. After they win a soul they are responsible to disciple that person and help them grow in the Lord. All my boys have led music in church. As a matter of fact, our church is set up where on Sunday morning we have a 15 minute time during which the young men can sign up to preach or give a devotion from the Bible. It helps them develop their preaching skills and learn to stand before others. Then we have another young man who leads the congregational music each week. The front row in our church is where we have the young people come and play the guitar. We always have some who are learning to play music, both guitar and piano. Then as the boys got older we gave them more responsibilities. We take missions trips up in the mountains and they are responsible to preach and do door-to-door visitation up there. Then I give the responsibility on a rotating basis each year to my preacher boys to organize a camp during carnival season. I give the young men the responsibility to organize the camp, so that helps develop their skills. They get an appreciation of the planning and all that is involved. They have to program the events of each day, the Bible times, the speakers, the games. They have to order the food and everything. Giving my boys responsibilities like this has helped prepare them for life.”
Children and young people need to be mentored by adults. One parent wrote,
“Children seem to be always separated from adults, but they need to be included with them and mentored alongside of them. I have done this with my kids since they were in elementary school and it has been extremely profitable. Church and serving the Lord has always been part of their lives and they always want to go. The more opportunities children have at practicing their faith, the more likely they are to stay with their faith and church.”
Youth and the Church Services
Young people must be taught how to act in church services and how to listen to the preaching. Like everything else in the church, this is a matter of proper training.
The following things should be taught to all of the people, but there is a special application of these principles to young people:
1. Sit respectfully and alertly
Things such as leaning on your elbows with your head down and chewing gum send signals that you are not interested in what the preacher is saying. Remember that others are watching you and being influenced by you. Your attitude and bodily posture affects the preacher, those sitting around you, and the entire atmosphere of the service.
Young people should not be allowed to sit together unless they are spiritually-minded and serious about seeking the Lord, because they will distract one another as well as others. We have many spiritually-minded young people in our church who sit together and encourage one another to listen carefully and to take notes from the preaching, but when young people are only in church because they are forced to be there and don’t have a heart for the truth, they should not be allowed to sit together. This is for their sake, for the sake of the other young people who are influenced by their example, and for the sake of the entire congregation.
One reader wrote about teenage boys who sit together and play a video game during the service. “As one plays, the boy on either side watches until it is his turn.”
Another reader described two young men who played video games on their phones the entire service, even when the congregation was standing and singing. The father of these young men was in the service and sitting on the same pew, but he didn’t do anything about the matter.
This is a sad thing, and one wonders about the parents. In the case of a parent who would sit in a church service and allow his children to play games, where is his head! God has given the father the job of bringing up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), but many are like Eli who honored his sons more than God and God’s Word (1 Sa. 2:29; 3:13).
And why doesn’t the pastor put a stop to this type of thing? What kind of pastor would allow people to play games in the house of God when the congregation is supposedly worshiping God? For a pastor to allow such a thing is not fair to those who are there to worship God and hear His Word. Such a thing is a great dishonor to Jesus Christ who owns the church and walks in the midst of the churches (Re. 2:1). Who does this pastor really honor? Who does he fear?
The adults might be afraid of “losing them” if they apply discipline to their young people, but the fact is that they have “lost them” already. The bodies of such young people might still be in church, but their hearts are solidly in the world.
At least the adults can break up this unholy cabal and make the service conducive for others to hear God’s Word without the distraction of these foolish boys and their games. And who knows, if this cabal were broken up and these young people were required to sit quietly during the singing and preaching, God might get hold of their hearts and they might repent of their disrespect of holy things and be born again before it is too late.
Along this line, the church must make sure that young people are not hiding out somewhere and playing. I have seen young men in the sound room and sound booth talking and playing games during the services. Only spiritually-minded young people should be involved in such ministries. Otherwise, this is the type of thing that happens.
2. Don’t distract others
Examples of things that distract others are talking and writing notes back and forth between persons, texting, and playing video games, making noise (i.e., cracking your fingers, stretching and moaning), picnicking (eating and drinking and passing around candy and gum), playing with babies, children gawking at the people behind them, and children running back and forth in the pew when the congregation stands to sing. Parents need to be aware of what their children are doing and make certain that they are not distracting someone.
Another example is leaving the service to go to the restroom. Parents should make sure that their children don’t develop this distracting habit. The child quickly learns that it can control the mother by asking to go to the restroom after the service starts. It is the all-too-common case of the child training the parent. This practice is extremely dishonoring to the Word of God being preached. There is plenty of time to go to the bathroom before and after the services. Of course, if a baby is involved or if an individual has a medical or health problem that requires him or her to leave the service, that is a different matter altogether. But such a person should sit in the back and slip in and out quietly.
One reader wrote, “Some families spread the pew with mounds of candy and other snacks, sticky and otherwise, and the children gorge themselves. Then of course, it’s not long before parent or grandparent will take each child, one at a time, back and forth to the restroom to wash sticky hands, etc. And no, they do not sit in the back.”
One reader gave the following feedback after reading an earlier edition of this report:
“The section regarding ‘Don’t Distract Others’ really hit home to me. I prefer to sit up front ‘near the action’; however, because of my work, I am on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and there are occasional calls on Sundays, so I sit at the back so that I may slip out should I receive a call. However, I have seen others that sit near the front and walk all the way to the back for one reason or the other, and, upon their return, walk all the way back to the front. It is human custom to watch movement. I have tried my best to train myself to pay attention to the preaching and to not be distracted by people moving around. When I was young, we were taught that in any group, if one had to leave, one sits near the back, and even if one is sitting up front and needs to leave, upon returning, a seat should be taken in the back. I don’t know why people aren’t taught this (rather basic) group courtesy.”
3. Listen well
LISTEN WITH COMPASSION TOWARD THE PREACHER. God uses all kinds of men and not all are dynamic, fascinating speakers. It appears that Paul wasn’t (2 Co. 10:10). Jonathan Edwards preached one of the most famous sermons of church history, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” but Edwards was not a great speaker. In fact, he simply read the sermon. The preacher who was instrumental in the conversion of Charles Spurgeon was not a mighty speaker. Spurgeon described him as a very simple, uninteresting speaker, yet how greatly God used him! Remember that God can use weak men. An example is Solomon. He had some serious issues, but God used him to write three important books of the Bible, including the book of Proverbs, which is the book of wisdom. Our eyes must be upon God and not upon the preacher. Listen to the preacher as you would want people to listen to you. Avoid a critical attitude.
LISTEN PRAYERFULLY. Nothing significant is accomplished apart from prayer (Ro. 12:12; Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2; 1 Th. 5:17). Pray for yourself. Pray for the preacher. Pray for others who are in attendance.
LISTEN ATTENTIVELY. Listen as if Jesus Christ Himself were speaking. The preacher is to preach as the oracles of God (God’s mouthpiece), and the people should listen to him as the oracles of God (1 Pe. 4:11). If you listen carefully and seek something from the Lord, you can be edified even from a seemingly boring message. See also Luke 8:18; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22. Lazy minds don’t learn and grow. Don’t let your mind wander to other things. Don’t do something else when you should be listening to the preaching. I have seen people read novels in church! More often they read the hymnal or pass notes or other such things. You won’t get anything from the preaching if you don’t listen attentively.
LISTEN WITH AN OPEN, SUBMISSIVE HEART. God’s invitation is extended throughout the message and not merely at the end. Let God speak to you, reprove, rebuke, and exhort you. Don’t think that the preaching is for someone else. Don’t make excuses for your sins and faults.
LISTEN WITH FAITH (Heb. 4:1-2). The Word of God is ineffective unless it is “mixed with faith.” Some listen to preaching as a form of entertainment. They enjoy it but they don’t believe it enough to change how they live. This was how the Jews were listening to the prophet Ezekiel: “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not” (Eze. 33:31-32).
LISTEN DISCERNINGLY. The Bible warns that we must not put our trust in man (Jer. 17:5). We must carefully test all preaching by the Word of God (Acts 17:11; 1 Co. 14:29; 1 Th. 5:21).
LISTEN STUDIOUSLY (2 Ti. 2:15). Have paper and pen ready so that you can capture something from the message. Write things in your Bible (important things, such as cross references, definitions, important thoughts, what God is saying to you through the message). By the way, you should have your own Bible rather than merely looking on with someone else. Take notes of the important points. Write down things to study later, things to check later, and things to share with others. This will help you remember what is preached. If you are studious during the preaching, you will be a good example to others. I remember with fondness a young man in the first church I joined. He was always there in his place with his big study Bible and his notebook and his pens and pencils, ready to capture something from the preaching.
4. Treat the invitation seriously
Respond to the invitation as the Lord leads, and pray for others.
It is important to be quiet until the last prayer is finished. Some people are so spiritually insensitive that they start preparing to leave during the invitation and final prayer, shuffling around, folding papers, zipping up Bible cases, putting on jackets, digging keys out of purses, etc. This is very distracting to those to whom the Lord might be ministering.
Suggested Materials for Youth Discipleship
The following materials are available from Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, email@example.com, www.wayoflife.org; in Canada contact 4212 Campbell St. N., London, Ont. N6P 1A6, 519-652-2619
Proverbs (Advanced Bible Studies Series course)
Baptist Music Wars
Believer’s Bible Dictionary
Bible Times and Ancient Kingdoms
Directory of Contemporary Worship Music
Holiness: Pitfalls, Struggles, Victory
Judge Not: Is It Legalism to Judge Sin and Error?
Keeping the Kids
The Mobile Phone and the Christian Home and Church
Music for Good or Evil (a series of eight video presentations)
One-Year Discipleship Course
Sowing and Reaping: A Course in Evangelism
An Unshakeable Faith: A Christian Apologetics Course
The Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity
What Every Christian Should Know about Rock Music
The previous material is excerpted from THE DISCIPLING CHURCH: THE CHURCH THAT WILL STAND UNTIL JESUS COMES, 536 pages. Available in print or as a free eBook from www.wayoflife.org.
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Goal:Distributed by Way of Life Literature Inc., the Fundamental Baptist Information Service is an e-mail posting for Bible-believing Christians. Established in 1974, Way of Life Literature is a fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. Brother Cloud lives in South Asia where he has been a church planting missionary since 1979. Our primary goal with the FBIS is to provide material to assist preachers in the edification and protection of the churches.
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