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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cheese or Pepperoni Church Youth Group

Here is another example of seeker-sensitive evangelism, which I oppose, and for the same reasons regardless of the approach.

Cheese or Pepperoni Church Youth Group?
By Chris Johnson

How about neither! In this article my aim is to show you why you should refuse to be a member of what I call a “pizza party youth group” and demand a ministry that truly ministers to your soul and not simply your stomach. Some of these arguments might rub your flesh the wrong way, but if you desire to be a true follower of Jesus Christ then comfort and ease are not part of the equation. I know this sounds radical in an age where comfort is everything but my friend I am going to tell you the truth, God’s truth. My prayer is that it will resonate in your heart and set you on a quest in search of righteousness and truth.
The question that I seek to answer is “What are the ramifications of being satisfied with a ‘pizza party youth group’?” The answer I believe is direct and straight to the point, death! The fact is the leaders of these “ministries” are not ministers at all. The objective of youth ministry is to call young people to genuine repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. To direct them in the paths of righteousness that lead to life, to call them to a life of holiness and model this life in front of them. It is not to entertain and appease their sinful flesh.
In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul unashamedly describes the spiritual state of both you and I prior to regeneration. In verse 1, he explains how we were dead in our trespasses and sins, destined for eternity separated from God, condemned to eternal punishment and torment in the flames of hell. The word ‘dead’ can be translated corpse. It describes an utterly hopeless existence void of any hope of life. It has been said that the only difference between a spiritually dead person and a physically dead person is six feet of dirt. Paul goes on to explain that it is only through the regeneration of our souls by a most merciful God that we have any hope of life beyond these few years on this earth. We must be cleansed of our sinfulness and made alive by the power of the Holy Spirit through the blood of Christ Jesus.
My purpose in bringing up this most humbling truth is to ask you whether or not you have ever heard it preached in the latest pizza bash you attended. If you have heard it then this article is not for you. Unfortunately the majority of these shallow ministries is strictly entertainment in the name of God. Their stomachs have been filled with melting cheese and pepperoni, but their spiritual man is left starving and empty.
So what are the ultimate outcomes of this backward method of ministry? Below I will describe three scenarios:
First: The unsaved visitor

He has been invited to the youth group to have a “good time.” The selling points for his coming were pizza, games and girls. (Notice coming into a right relationship with God was never mentioned). Sure the pizza was great and who wouldn’t want to spend a few hours playing the latest X-Box & DDR games. As for the girls the jury is still out, but what about his eternal soul? Well, the answer is that unfortunately with ten minutes left before calling it a night the youth leader gathered everyone together and mentioned that he hoped everyone had a good time and told them what would be coming up in the following weeks. He then closed with a five-minute devotion, mentioning how Jesus wants them to have a good life and how they can live forever in heaven by simply praying a short prayer. He followed the devotion with the “bow your head and repeat this prayer after me” stunt, and after reassuring everyone that they were in good standing with God and telling them how cool they were He closed the night in prayer. Result you now have a young man who doesn’t know what he “prayed” and doesn’t understand his real sinful state but feels that he is “ok” because that is what the leader said. He leaves the meeting and reassures his friend he will be back next week.

Next: The regular member of the youth ministry

Odds are at one point or another he was the “unsaved” visitor who also feels secure in his “salvation experience” even though he continues to live a compromising sinful lifestyle. He never hears the message of daily repentance and of needing to live a holy and righteous life depending fully upon the power of the Holy Spirit to grow deeper in His walk with Christ. The food and games are his favorite part of the youth group and he faithfully follows the directions of his youth pastor to invite his friends to the next week’s meeting. What we see is at best a malnourished young believer who will most certainly grow up to be a shallow self-centered Christian and worst of all he is still lost in his sinfulness without a clue that he is on His way to hell. I know these words are sobering but how long will we ignore what is happening to our young people?

Finally: The Youth Intern

This for me is the saddest state of the ‘pizza party’ youth group. It is here that the transfer of ministry knowledge takes place. This young man has been in the group a long time. He has been faithful to participate in all the group’s activities and really shows some real leadership qualities. The youth leader inquires as to whether or not he would be interested in interning during the summer and learning the ins and outs of youth ministry. The student jumps at this opportunity because He loves kids and wants to make a difference. Unfortunately He is taught all of the same shallow methods that He experienced growing up. Who knows how many young people will now be influenced by his continuation of this shallow self-centered practice called youth ministry.

Many might believe that my assessment is too harsh and unfounded but I have been around many young people and I have seen the tragic lives that they live - lives without any purpose except fulfilling their own desires. There is no devotion to Jesus and His purpose for their lives. There is no concern for the lost souls around them because it is possible that they too might be in the same boat.

My prayer is that we would return to real Biblical Christianity. Let us call this generation to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It is the only way. It is not old-fashioned nor out dated. If we don’t begin now to call these young people to a real walk with Christ based upon the truth found in the Bible, we will not only lose them but many generations after them. We must answer the call and stand Truth.


Mrs. Brigham said...

Thank you for this EXCELLENT post!

motherofmany said...

Thanks for the feedback.

When I was young, our youth group studied the Bible. We had lock ins and youth rallies, but the main focus was always glorifying God and learning.

In college I was an assistant in a youth group and I organized a lock-in at the church. The pastor was going to be away, so he left me in charge. I tried to start the night with the kids asembled in the sanctuary for a devotional, and they booed and crossed their arms. They had never been made to endurew Bible 'stuff' at a lock-in before. I was saddened at the commentary on the pointlessness of what we were doing. I even had to keep close vigil on two kids (co-ed) who kept trying to sneak off in a dark corner with their sleeping bags.

As a result, our kids will never be part of a youth group unless we are there, ever-present and making sure it is something glorifying God and not a social function (or worse!).

Mrs. Brigham said...

I grew up in a similar youth group situation, though I never thought much of it until the past few years. As my husband and I have grown in our faith, I have been just shocked at many of scriptures I had never heard about and many important parts of the faith that I also had idea about. It was very disturbing for me to learn these things as I had gone to church since I was just days old, did the church camp thing, youth group, etc, yet had never heard sound doctrine or been truly taught the Gospel.

We share your family's thoughts about youth groups for our daughter and any other little ones who might join the family someday.