The following video is from J.D. Greear on three values that should determine how we choose a local church. Parents, this is a great video to show your children who are in college or getting ready for college.
I was recently at a lunch with someone and he asked me a great question that not many people ask. “What can I do to support the youth ministry?” The interesting part was that this was not a youth parent who asked this question. This person was primarily asking as a church member on how to be a good fellow church member. Instead of asking him to volunteer, although we love volunteers, I gave him a quick two-fold answer that I will expand here. These answers are primarily a response to someone who would be a parent.
To be a church member who supports the youth ministry, teach your family to love Jesus.
This might sound obvious but I wonder if it is obvious to the people who are around us a lot. In other words, is Jesus our primary love? Yes, insert here all of our failures because we all mess up and we all ruin our witness at some point. Still, this should not deter us from pursuing this. If you want to support the youth ministry, love Jesus in such a way that people know this about you. Fire begets fire. Passion begets passion. Have you ever been around someone who cheered for a certain sports team too much that you were enticed to cheer for them too? Have you ever been tempted into peer pressure because someone tried passionately persuading you to do something with them? Peer pressure never works if the person “selling” the argument is boring or unpassionate. Eeyore would be a terrible “peer pressurer”. If passion tends to entice and persuade people, how much more so would our youth be enticed to love Jesus if they see what Jesus means to you, how Jesus has changed you, and what hope Jesus gives you (1 Peter 3:15)? Why would anyone want to become a Christian if all they know are people who only like Jesus on Sunday morning? Without a love for Jesus, how can we expect to send students off to college who won’t get sucked into the culture of binge drinking, constant sexual hook ups, temptations for unbelief amidst an atheistic world, and peer pressure for substance abuse? How can we really expect students to go to bed on a Saturday night to go to church Sunday morning if they don’t love Jesus? How can we encourage someone to keep pursuing holiness if they don’t love Jesus? We need to make sure we come back to the most basic of foundations. What our youth need now more than ever is not all the correct answers to every apologetic, philosophic, and theological questions they are asked (although we should keep pursuing these!). Rather, what they need is to be surrounding by a church who loves Jesus in such a way that they are wooed, enticed, and persuaded to love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. But, how can we expect our children to love Jesus if we look exactly like the culture? How can we expect our students to love Jesus if He isn’t a significant presence in our lives? How can we expect our students to love Jesus as He deserves to be loved if we don’t love Him the way He deserves? You fail. I fail. We all fail. I know that I have lived in such a way before where I was not the most attractive Christian and I made Jesus to look more ugly than more beautiful. We have all been like Peter before and epicly failed. But, here is the grace that Jesus gives us: He tells us to get back out there and keep pursuing Him and keep preaching Him. What a Savior! He isn’t looking for the healthy but for the sick who know how to keep running back to the doctor. Jesus didn’t call the rabbis and religious teachers of His day to follow Him. Jesus called the weirdos, the uneducated, and the ungifted. Jesus does not tell us to do this under our own strength but rather He empowers us to do this! If the almighty God empowers us to do this then why should we not pursue this? I briefly conclude with the first half of the answer by saying that if you want to support the youth ministry then love Jesus and teach your family to love Jesus. Without Him, there is no eternal life.
To be a church member who supports the youth ministry, teach your family to love the church.
One of the biggest growing statistics is that more and more students who grow up in the church are leaving the church when they go to college. Why do they leave the church? First, they leave the church because they don’t see the importance of the church. The church, for them, is another party competing for their schedule. As long as the church is seen as just another thing to do, why should they go to church when they have homework, fraternity and sorority parties, dates, campus ministries, friends to hang out with, and class to go to? If the church is just another thing that their family did “just because” then how can we expect them to go to church when they become in charge of their own schedules? This is even seen already when students are in middle school and high school. For the most part, they don’t show up on a regular basis to youth ministry because the church is not important to them. Besides, there are games, homework, practices, Netflix, projects, hobbies, friends to be with, video games to play, rest to catch up on, and even para-church ministries (as helpful as they can be!). Of course they won’t show up when they don’t think church is important because who wants to come listen to someone preach for 35 minutes, hang out with fellow believers, and support and be supported by others going through the same struggles as you? Sure, there is an argument that can be inserted about a past history with the church, bad relationships, bad youth workers, or because the preaching stinks. Nevertheless, this is the Bride of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. This is a community that is still learning to repent! But again, why would I want to come listen to someone talk to me about somebody name Jesus and about my soul for 35 minutes when I could be catching up on homework or staring at a screen playing Fortnite or watching another episode on Netflix if the church is not important and no one has shown me that the church is important? If my parents (or even other church members) don’t act like the church is important, why should I act like it? Secondly, they leave the church because they don’t have an accurate view of the church. The church is not important because they don’t rightly and biblically understand the church. It’s the same when students neglect youth ministry in their own local church. A lack of understanding of the what church really is shows in its being neglected. Parents, pastors, and youth workers should be teaching our children an accurate “ecclesiology” (the study of the church). You don’t have to teach an exhaustive doctrine of the church but we should teach them a robust and healthy doctrine of the church. Only when our students see the beauty, majesty, plan, purpose, identity, mission, and the worthiness of the church will they then prioritize church. The only reason why a student in college goes to class is because her teacher told her that if she doesn’t go to class then she will fail her class. In other words, the teacher showed her that there was a lot riding on her showing up to class. In much the same way, unless we show, teach, and remind (a good summary word for this is catechize which is a lost form of teaching in the Church today) our children and youth the importance and value of the church in this world, in our lives, and for the glory of God then they will not prioritize church. For the most part, our students will not go to church in college if they don’t love Jesus and if they don’t know the value of the church. The goal is not merely to go to church; the goal is to worship God in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit as the Church which is expressed in the local church. In my own experience of being a college student and working for 5 years in youth ministry at some level, the children who grow up in a home that has not taught them the value of the church (no matter how many times they went to church or were apart of some ministry) are most likely not going to go to church when they go to college. This does not mean everyone who grows up in a family that undervalues church won’t go to church in college but there is typically a pattern. There are also children who grow up in a home where church is valued and parents love Jesus and yet they still don’t go to church. For the most part, this is my story and I am sensitive to the fact that this does happen. Nevertheless, when Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”, it cannot mean anything less than these two answers. It certainly would imply more but it never implies less and never gets beyond this. Once again, Jesus is not calling the perfect parent who is also the perfect church member to produce the perfect child. Jesus is calling the repentant sinner who belongs to a community of worshippers of God to depend on the Spirit in order to faithfully raise up children to love Him and love His Bride. Jesus doesn’t want perfect parents; He wants repentant parents and a repentant church. You and I might have failed our entire lives up to this point but as long as He has given us His Spirit we can get back up and pursue this by His power. Dear church member, if you want to support the youth ministry, love the church in such a way where others are attracted to the church.
Before you read the new research survey from LifeWay ministries, there are some foundational thoughts we must have going into the survey:
Not every child who leaves the church in college is a Christian (this should be an obvious realization). Often, college is what shows who is and who isn’t a Christian. This means that all the children in our youth ministry are probably not Christians. This means that we should preach, teach, and counsel for conversion and not merely sanctification.
We live in an age of “biblical illiteracy”. It is not surprising that some want to leave the church because what they have grown up with has not been immersed in the biblical teaching but more so in merely cultural issues or felt-need issues. Let us not forget that it is the Word which changes us (John 17:17).
Some of the “reasons” actually can be used as a “cop out” (in other words, they are merely an excuse) to leave the church. Referring back to #1, non-Christians sometimes use these reasons at times to throw blame on others rather than outright saying they don’t believe. I say this out of my own experience from when I was an unbeliever in my early college years and from seeing former students in my years in youth ministry.
The Church (notice I put a Big “C” for Church) has not done as well of a job integrating the youth ministry into the entire body and the youth ministry has definitely not done a good job at showing the importance of the church. We should absolutely point our students to campus ministries and certainly the campus ministers but we are failing if we do not show them the importance of the local church and submitting to the local pastors, elders, and deacons (which is often the youth directors’ faults).
It is no surprise that children who grow up in “solid” biblical churches drop out of church or go to more “seeker-sensitive” churches because we often fail at applying the Bible to their lives. The Bible is first a foremost a book for real life. God is a God who moves towards mankind. Doctrine is not doctrine unless it is practiced. We should seek to bring our students into the depths of doctrine clearly, relevantly, engagingly yet while always showing how that doctrine changes the way you live and demands a change of life.
We should be very grateful for surveys like these and for ministries like LifeWay who would put so much effort into collecting this data BUT we should not get over-concerned about statistics. They can be very helpful and informing about cultural trends but we need to be cautious about how much weight we put on these statistics (not questioning the integrity of any researchers but merely realizing that there is no perfect survey that can accurately take all people into account). Surveys at their best make us aware and urge a response but at their worst can overcome us with fear or pride. No matter how good a research team and survey is, they all have their limits.
Surveys like these should bring us to pray for more than physical well-being for our children and families (often a weakness of today’s evangelicalism in a prosperous culture) but certainly for their spiritual well-being. When is the last time we have seen something like this and began earnestly imploring the Lord for revival? Do we lose hope or seek the Lord after reading something like this?
Lastly, students leave the body of Christ because they don’t love Christ. We should decide to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified as the main tenor of our churches and families. Anything, any feeling, or anyone other than Jesus Christ will ultimately lead us away from Him and His Bride. People who love Jesus love His Bride even when she looks messy.
Without further delay, here are some of the statistics. For the full article, please see the link below:
The 66 percent who said they stopped attending church regularly as young adults cited a variety of reasons for leaving. The survey listed 55 and asked them to pick all that applied. On average, they chose seven or eight reasons, McConnell said. The reasons fell under four categories:
Nearly all — 96 percent — cited life changes, including moving to college and work responsibilities that prevented them from attending.
Seventy-three percent said church or pastor-related reasons led them to leave. Of those, 32 percent said church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical and 29 percent said they did not feel connected to others who attended.
Seventy percent named religious, ethical or political beliefs for dropping out. Of those, 25 percent said they disagreed with the church's stance on political or social issues while 22 percent said they were only attending to please someone else.
And, 63 percent said student and youth ministry reasons contributed to their decision not to go. Of those, 23 percent said they never connected with students in student ministry and 20 percent said the students seemed judgmental or hypocritical.
The following is an excerpt from one of Jonathan Edwards’ most famous sermons entitled “The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister”. At the very end, Edwards gives a very helpful application of what the congregation’s responsibilities and duties are towards a minister who seeks to fulfill his calling as the local pastor. When the pastor seeks to teach the truth and walk in the truth, he is worthy to be followed.
It would be very helpful for anyone in our church to read and think about Edwards’ sermon in order to get an accurate picture of the high calling that our pastors are called to. This section, in particular, is worth relaying to you via the blog. I can say from my brief witness of our church that there is such great warmth, respect, and love that you have for your church staff that I commend this reading not out of rebuke but as an encouragement to see the work of the Spirit in your lives and especially in the lives of your elders and deacons who set the tone for the church.
And as it is your duty, to pray that your minister may…become such a blessing to you, so you should do your part to make him so, by supporting him, and putting him under the best advantage with a mind free from worldly cares, and the pressure of outward wants and difficulties, [in order] to give him wholly to his work. And by all proper acts of respect, kindness, and assistance, to encourage his heart and strengthen his hands [rather than to live in such a way as to] obscure and extinguish the light that would shine among you and to smother and suppress the flame by casting dirt upon it… And particularly when your minister shows himself to be a burning light, by burning with a proper zeal against any wickedness that may be breaking out among his people, and manifests [this zeal by speaking out against it] in the preaching of the word or by a faithful exercise of the discipline of God’s house, [then take it] thankfully…submitting to him in it, as you ought, [in order] to not raise up another fire of your unhallowed passions, reflecting upon and reproaching him for his faithfulness. [Here is how] you will act very unbecoming a christian people, and show yourselves very ungrateful to your minister, and to Christ, who has bestowed upon you so faithful a minister [that if you fight against your minister] you will fight against Christ and your own souls. If Christ gives you a minister that is a burning and shining light, take heed that you do not hate the light, because your deeds are reproved by it; but love and rejoice in his light… Let your frequent [attitude and action] be to your minister for instruction in soul cases and under all spiritual difficulties; and be open to the light and willing to receive it and be obedient to it. And…walk as children of light, and follow your minister wherein he is a follower of Christ (as a burning and shining light). If you continue to do so, your path will be the path of the just, which shines more and more to the perfect day, and the end of your course shall be in those blissful regions of everlasting light above, where you shall shine forth with your minister, and both with Christ, as the sun in the kingdom of the heavenly Father.
The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2 (Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, UK 2009), p. 960
The following is an excerpt from an article that was originally posted by The Gospel Coalition featuring 20 quotes from John Onwuchekwa's new book Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church (Crossway, 2018). The reason why I wanted to repost this is not merely to recommend what seems to be a resource that would be worth our time but also to inspire us with these quotes. As you read these, you might be struck with many thoughts about your prayer life as an individual and own prayer life as a corporate body.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in a seminary class on Ecclesiology. The professor was pointing out to us some of the earliest mentions of the Church in the Bible. He took us Genesis 4:26 where it says, "At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD." He then said something like this (which I am paraphrasing to the best of my ability), "What makes the Church the Church? It is a corporate body of people who pray or call out to God. When we withhold prayer from God we withhold worship from God." Essentially, what he was saying is what Onwuchekwa will expound on in a greater form in his book. So as we read these quotes, here are some of my own questions for us to reflect on:
Do we pray (not do we just say our prayers)?
What does it look like to have a life of prayer with our family and church family?
If I did not pray for a week, would anything change about me?
If we as Pear Orchard did not pray for a month, would there be any difference?
Do we pray only or mainly for physical needs or do we pray for the ability to live the Christian life, conversion of unbelievers, protection against temptation, deliverance from sin, or anything that involves the spiritual aspect of life?
Here are 20 quotes from John Onwuchekwa:
“Of all the books that have been written on prayer, this one has a very specific purpose: examining how prayer shapes the life of the church. So much has been written about prayer as an individual discipline. Not much has been written about prayer as a necessary and communal activity that shapes local churches, either by its presence or absence (though Megan Hill’s Praying Together is helpful [Crossway, 2016]).” (15)
“It’s so much easier to read about prayer than to actually pray.” (16)
“Prayer is oxygen for the Christian. It sustains us. So it follows that prayer must be a source of life for any community of Christians. It is to the church what it is to individuals—breathing. Yet many of our gatherings could be likened to people coming together merely to hold their collective breath. This would explain why people seem to have so little energy for actually living out the Christian life.” (23)
“Prayer was never meant to be a merely personal exercise with personal benefits, but a discipline that reminds us how we’re personally responsible for others. This means that every time we pray, we should actively reject an individualistic mindset. We’re not just individuals in relationship with God, but we are part of a community of people who have the same access to God. Prayer is a collective exercise.” (41)
“This prayer for God’s presence to be seen and enjoyed is quite startling to a world that prefers for God to be an absentee Father that just sends a big child-support check each month. Because we’re sinful, we would prefer God to give us our demands while demanding nothing in return. We love to set the agenda. But Jesus teaches us here that God’s presence precedes his provision. His agenda is far better than ours.” (48–49)
“The Lord’s Prayer is supernatural. Sure, anyone can parrot the words, but only those who have been internally changed truly desire what it asks for. The words are not a magical incantation. Saying them out loud isn’t the goal. Slave owners probably recited the Declaration of Independence’s ‘All men are created equal’ hundreds of times. Parroting words does no good. Jesus isn’t creating parrots, but pray-ers.” (51)
“The local church is the best way to define the ‘us’ in our prayers. . . . The Christian in covenant with a local church is never alone. As long as the church endures, which will be for all eternity, the Christian is always part of an ‘us.’ The local church takes the theory of Christianity and makes it tangible—in love, deed, and especially in prayer.” (62)
“Jesus stared death square in the face, knowing his fate was inescapable. How did he face it? On his knees in prayer.” (70)
“While prayer may start with believing God can do the impossible, peace is never found there. If we only imagine what God can do and then judge his goodness by how often he does the impossible for us, we’ll never find true peace. His ability should cause our hearts to soar and ask for the impossible. But his sovereignty and wisdom should keep us grounded. They remind us that although God can do the impossible, he doesn’t have to—and we can trust him regardless. Peace is found here and only here. Any other arrangement ends only in discontentment, especially if we hold God hostage to an outcome he’s never promised. We’ll always lack peace when we judge God’s love for us by how many of our prayers are answered with a ‘yes.’ False hope is the most fertile soil for a crop of discontentment.” (71–72)
“The story of Gethsemane is as much about the power of prayer as it is about the inevitable failure that comes from prayerlessness. . . . Jesus’s faithfulness to do God’s task is directly tied to his prayer. The disciples’ faithlessness is directly tied to their prayerlessness.” (75)
“You can’t shout about God’s forgiveness if you’re stingy with your own.” (83)
“God wants a deep relationship with his people. And the deeper the relationship, the more varied the communication. We explore the wonder of who God is during our prayer of adoration. We embrace the mercy he provides during our prayer of confession. We reflect on all he’s done for us during our prayer of thanksgiving. We lean on him and feel his strength during our prayer of supplication. By including these prayers in our Sunday service, we display the width and depth of our relationship with God.” (88)
“A church that practices prayer is more than a church that learns; it’s also a church that leans. . . . We learn dependence by leaning on God together.” (92)
“Prayer is mentioned no less than twenty-one times in Acts. Furthermore, these prayers are inherently corporate. Whenever prayer is mentioned, it overwhelmingly involves others.” (95)
“[A prayer meeting] is different from praying during corporate worship, but it’s just as necessary. Prayer during corporate worship is the potatoes to the steak of the preached Word. In the prayer meeting, the roles are reversed. Now our prayer with one another becomes the main dish. We care for each other best as we lean on God together.” (96)
“The prayer meeting isn’t meant to be a theme park. It’s more like a storage facility, and we’re all cars without trunks. We were never meant to store up our concerns within ourselves (see Ps. 13:2). We were meant to offload those things to God. The prayer meeting isn’t a place of attraction, but a place of necessity. It’s a place where people come with burdens and leave without them because they’ve been placed in God’s hands. Here, we come together to lean on God with each other, for the sake of each other. Where’s that space for your church?” (96–97)
“The prayer list—not the Sunday service elements, not the preaching style, not even the ethnic makeup of the leadership of the church—is often where the battle for diversity is won or lost. What makes the prayer list is often a reflection of who’s praying and whose problems are seen as real, relevant, and important. A friend of mine was a part of a church that refused to pray for anything related to Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Alton Sterling, Eric Gardner, Laquawn McDonald, or any other African American who was killed at the hands of law enforcement, because those issues were ‘too politicized’ and would cause division in their church. This frustrated her. She didn’t want her church to march on Washington or hang a Black Lives Matter flag from the steeple. She simply wanted them to pray corporately on these matters because she knew they were deeply significant to many of the minorities in the church. . . . The battle for diversity is still won or lost here today. Diversity is more about priorities than programs. And a church prays for what it prioritizes. Your prayer lists essentially serve as price tags on current events and church concerns—assigning value or diminishing it. Therefore, don’t populate the prayer list in isolation. Populate the list with the concerns of all the flock. The honorable strides toward diversity are maximized when we pray together to our Father who has no favorite children (see Acts 10:34).” (101–02)
“As we pray for salvations, we realize that God’s sovereignty diminishes only our anxiety and apathy, not our activity.” (113)
“When it comes to singing, everybody wants a composed song. But when it comes to prayer, many insist on improvisation. Preparing prayers beforehand isn’t the enemy of authenticity. It’s an ally of clarity and an expression of love, not just for God but for others. Writing prayers beforehand and offering them up to God in the presence of his people isn’t any less authentic than writing a letter to your wife and giving it to her the next day. The words of the letter are heartfelt. She might even be more appreciative that you took the time to clarify your thoughts and put them down on paper. Preparation is a helpful way to communicate your heart clearly.” (123–24)
“The power of our prayers isn’t found in the number of people praying, but the willingness of the One to whom we’re praying.” (126)
For the full article, click here.