The other day a friend of mine told me a tragic story of how a nephew of his declared his apostasy from Christianity. That’s bad enough but there’s more to it.
This nephew was actually the latest of several children in this family to do this.
The first one to do so eventually committed suicide after several months of trying to reconcile themselves to their new view of the world.
One of the others is now a strident, vehement “fundy atheist” who does her very best to offend Christians.
And this family, by the way, attends a Southern Baptist church.
Obviously this is anecdotal evidence. But a story like this doesn’t emerge in a vacuum. It’s clear from this and many other stories like it that we have failed when it comes to discipleship (especially youth discipleship) in our churches. Our youth programs are mostly vapid entertainment sessions that don’t prepare students for the real world of challenges to their faith. (In that, they tend to imitate the adult programs, though.) Many youth pastors (and many adult pastors, yes) are themselves ignorant of nature of their faith, yet they’d rather be eaten alive by weasels than surrender their pulpits to a competent scholar or apologist for even one Sunday – or even do much to encourage a class being taught by them.
A youth pastor at my former church is a model for this sort of thing. When he first arrived and I met with him, his first words were, “I’m scared of you.” Eventually I convinced him to let me do an occasional teaching to the youth, which I hoped would grow into something more. You can still hear the remnants of this in the Tekton Audio Library -- seven sessions. Only a few minutes. Plenty of time to get these youth informed on those hard issues. Right on.
For the next semester, that youth pastor started getting evasive. He vaguely said they were trying “something different,” though they had no idea what it was and they were making plans, so he’d get back to me. He never did. I rang his bell (figuratively) every 2 weeks or so to see what was going on and got the same evasive answer until the very end – when suddenly, 2 weeks after the last edition of that same evasive answer, he told me that the plans had been made now and there was no room for any more sessions like the ones I did.
This youth pastor’s foolishness continued for some time after that. The most stunning example was his use of church funds to purchase a used automobile – a rather nice model – which he offered as a giveaway prize to the youth, on a night when they were supposed to invite all their unsaved friends to come too. Come to church, win a car. That’ll pack ‘em in, won’t it?
It’s not necessarily the youth pastors who are the doofuses, of course. I had also met a very energetic youth pastor in a county to our west who was very interested in bringing apologetics into his youth programs. That never happened, though. You see, his programs were so good that the church kids were able to encourage their non-Christian friends to come, and they did. Regularly. Unfortunately, some adults at the church decided that that wasn’t the type of crowd they wanted to attract and politely informed him of that.
Imagine that. We’re actually attracting the unsaved to church. Who woulda thunk?
He resigned, and I don’t blame him one bit.
Is it any wonder I look forward to seeing these people scrubbing toilets in eternity?