A gospel for all ages

March 9, 2009 at 6:30 am | Posted in Christianity | 2 Comments
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Our modern society is divided according to age. We have different categories that we tend to put people:

  • Babies
  • Children
  • Youth/teens
  • Adults
  • Elderly

 

Each group is expected to know certain things. Each group is separate from the other and to be affiliated with the wrong group can be offensive to some. This separation is also seen in the church. To see this, all you have to do is look at Sunday school. We have a class for babies and toddlers. We put children in another. The teens have their own class and, often, even adults have been split into groups depending on age, marital status, or gender. Why do we split ourselves into groups? When did we decide that this was good? I see some problems with this. First, each group begins to identify with their own group to the exclusion of others. They don’t learn to interact with those that are younger or older than they are. Many times, an older group will often look down on younger groups. This is most evident between the groups of children and teens, but can be seen in other groups as well.

 

One of the major problems that I see with this approach is that there seems to be a different gospel being preached to each group. Often, toddlers and babies don’t have the gospel to them at all. Our children have Bible “stories” with little substance. They hear about the main events in the Bible, but in a cartoony, unscriptural type of way. The see images of the ark where the animals are practically bulging out of the ship, they see images of Jesus even though we have no indication of what they look like. In these kids classes they often hear about five to ten minutes of a Bible story and the rest of the time they color or do crafts or play. The teen classes are often structured to be “cool”, “edgy”, “entertaining”, and “relevant”. Much of the time, there is very little time spent on truth and much more on entertainment. Much of the time, these classes are basically a weak attempt to try and keep the teens in church because most have heard that many of them will leave when they get to be adults. In all honesty, there was no such thing as a teenager before 1940. Before this time, you were either a child or an adult and the change often took place around age 13 (think of bar-mitzvahs and bat-mitzvahs).

 

Unfortunately, we tend to deceive ourselves and think that they are just kids and can’t see the façade of the church. They look at how the church tries to be like the world and they aren’t impressed. The world does the world better than the church does and when we’re trying to be like them instead of like Christ, the teens don’t receive what they need and we push them away. We don’t have any substance or backbone, and we can’t answer their questions (even though we’re supposed to be able to – 1 Pet. 3:15). This is why we’re losing so many of them to the world. We try to be relevant and they’re not impressed.

 

The adult classes are often focused on issues like finances, parenting, relationships, and marriage. They are many times split into men and women. The elderly classes are often focused on comfort and seem to be the most Word-focused classes in our churches. I would guess that this is because they were actually raised by men and women who valued the Word more than anything else.

 

Many may be asking whether or not this is bad. I would say that it’s not bad all the time. It can be good to separate for certain things, but I don’t know that it should be the norm. The truth is that the gospel should be the same regardless of what age the participants are. They should hear about sin and hell as well as love, mercy, and grace. I’m sure that this would cause many in the church to gawk. What we need to remember is that salvation does not come from our kids coloring a picture of Jesus, building an ark from popsicle sticks, or sitting in a relevant class that talks about teen issues. Salvation comes alone from when we preach the gospel. It comes from when we tell them the truth and don’t pull any punches about sin or judgment. Some might disagree with me and say that we need to present the gospel in understandable way. I don’t disagree with this at all, but I would have to say that the method or way of presenting the gospel in no way has to affect the truth of it. Let me give an example:

 

My daughter and I went to dinner together about two years ago. While we were talking about different things, I felt the urge to witness to her. What was I going to say? She’s a seven year old. I had just started learning about the biblical method of witnessing to others from Way of the Master. This method basically goes through the law with someone to show him or her what sin is and then shows him or her that God will judge lawbreakers. It then finishes with God’s mercy and the legal transaction of the cross. I decided that I would do this with my daughter. I began to run down the Ten Commandments in my mind. I didn’t feel comfortable about talking to her about adultery or lust. I chose to focus on lying. I explained to her about lying and how it was a violation of His law. I explained to her that God is not happy with her if she’s told lies. I told her that if someone has broken God’s law, He would not let her enter heaven. After a few more minutes of talking about lies, sin, and the cross, she asked me if we could talk about something else. I let it go and decided that I would keep an eye out for another opportunity. We ate dinner, spent some time together, and then I took her home.

 

The next day, I got a call saying that my daughter had talked to her mom about lying and sin. She had decided that she wanted to be saved and not long after, she was baptized.

 

This experience between my daughter and I didn’t happen because of me. It happened because the Holy Spirit was able to take the truth that I shared with my daughter and use it to prick her conscience and lead her to Christ. If this can happen with a seven year old, then why do we waste our time with them coloring and playing? We should be honest with our kids. There is nothing wrong with simplifying our explanations (when needed) but we cannot simplify the message or water it down to make it palatable to everyone.

 

If I have any teen readers I’ll probably lose them with this next statement. Teens don’t exist. They should be taught the same truth the adults are. I honestly don’t see any reason why teens can’t sit in on adult classes. I don’t see any reason why they can’t grasp the truth. I can’t help but wonder if we have underestimated our youth and their ability to grow in holiness or understand the truth. I think that we do them a great disservice. Many teens are hungry for something more than what their churches are giving them. They are looking for something with substance and when they can’t find it in the church, they go to look for it in the world! They are leaving because we don’t give them what they are hungry for and what they need. 

 

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel for all ages. It is not just for adults or those we think are ready for it. It should be preached to our kids as soon as possible and as much as possible. This should happen not just until they’re saved but it should be done just as much (if not more) after they are saved to remind them of what Jesus has done for them.

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2 Comments »

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  1. The content must not change. The content must be preached or shared. What we must know is how not to bore or make long monologues about it without any sort of interaction between the intended audience and us the sharers. But yes-the Word is for all ages.

    BTW-Great story about you and your daughter. Thanks.

    • Ray,

      Thanks for your comment! I agree to a point… Personally, I don’t think the Word could ever be boring if it’s what’s being preached. Expositional preaching of the Word is the most wonderful thing that the ears of man has ever had the privelige of hearing. It’s when man tries to put himself or his agenda that the “sermon” gets boring, but it’s not the Word.

      God Bless!

      Mike


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