Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Bringing the Gospel Home, Randy Newman (Crossway, 2011)

This is an interesting topic for a book—Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well.  Who couldn’t use help with that?  I’ve found it to be a helpful read, and wanted to share a longer portion than usual because I think it touches on a problem we all encounter when trying to share God’s truth:

False humility seems to be growing in its frequency in our tolerance-obsessed world.  Most people assume that anyone who would insist there’s only one way to heaven must be arrogant.  Conversely, anyone who sees all religions as equally valid must be, by definition, humble.  But listen to these self-proclaimed humble people for a while, and you’ll detect the intolerance of tolerance and the pride of open-mindedness.

I once read a collection of speeches and writings by Mohandas Gandhi, which all centered on his thoughts about Christianity.  It was amazing how many times he told his hearers he was a humble man.  After a while, it grew almost comical.  I found myself wondering, “if you’ve got to keep telling us you’re humble, it might not be true.”

Many Christians exalt Gandhi to near saint-like status.  But they need to reconsider their admiration.  He misquotes Jesus and reinterprets standard Christian doctrine and then dismissed it all as something impossible to believe in…

Gandhi has many disciples in our world today, and I’m not just talking about the ones who acknowledge him as their model.  His spirit of false humility permeates and dominates our culture.  The presumptuousness of those who think they understand our faith better than we do, attempt to convert us to a brand of religion that never seeks to convert anyone, and insist their post-Enlightenment, Western, secular faith is not narrow, needs to be unmasked.  Not far below its surface lies a very narrow, intolerant, zealous form of religion.  It is anything but humble (p.138-139).

This is so discerning.  Somehow humility is being identified with inclusiveness.  While it is both important and loving to share the gospel with everyone (inclusive), we must be sure we are sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ (exclusive).  Humility is a looking away from ourselves for righteousness, and trusting in our Lord’s perfect righteousness.  It is knowing your place and serving joyfully in it.  I’d imagine that when you are doing this, you are not at the same time patting yourself on the back for being humble.  That would be reverting back to self-fulfillment.  This false humility that Newman describes is also indirectly accusing those (Christians) who claim a particular truth different from its message of not being humble.  Interesting.  True humility is found in the One who submitted perfectly to his Father’s will.  As we aspire to be more like Christ, we can trust in his work on our behalf.  The gospel humbles us all.  My confidence in sharing my faith will be in his word that does not go out void, guided by the power of his Spirit.

Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

I recently read a good article about motherhood on the Desiring God Blog.  Yet one sentence stuck out that bothered me: Motherhood is a wonderful opportunity to live the gospel.  I believe motherhood is a wonderful opportunity to live in light of the gospel.  Those three words make a big difference.  Let me explain.  First I’ll give you an example of something crappy I did, and then I’ll share with you how great I am.  Neither are being the gospel; both prove just how much I need to keep hearing it.

My kids are now out of school for the summer.  This means that I have the privilege of taking them grocery shopping with me.  My eye twitches just thinking about it. So there I was walking down the baked goods aisle to the concomitant serenade of mom, we need this; mom, we’re out of this; mom, how come you NEVER let us have this!  Meanwhile, I’m trying to compare prices and read nutrition labels.  As I approach the flour, I’m wondering how much I will need to make chocolate chip pancakes for my husband’s 4th grade class.  Do I have enough at home already?  I pick up the phone to ask my oldest daughter to check.  Intermingled with the ringing is: mom, mom, mom!  In my hurried, firm, but not too raised voice I say, Zaidee, can you just BE QUIET?!  That’s when our new church member turns the corner and kind of gives me the look.  You know, the how can you be so short with your dear children look?  I’m more embarrassed because she is newly pregnant with her first child.  I was not the best godly example for her there.  After we exchange “hellos” and turn the corner to the next aisle Zaidee chides in, I just wanted to tell you that I saw someone from our church, with a big smile on her face. 

Now for my greatness:  I was determined not to let this summer be consumed by television, video games and bored children.  And with our hurried evenings of ball, family devotion time has really suffered.  This was my chance to get us all back into a healthy family pattern.  So I made a wonderful morning schedule that includes devotions over breakfast.  I’m using a terrific book by Starr Meade on the Shorter Catechism, Training Hearts; Teaching Minds.  Next, we move onto a half hour of room-grooming and chores, followed by twenty minutes of some sort of fitness.  We’ve done everything from bike rides, races, exercise TV, and weight training, to my ancient slider workout.  Solanna thrives on a schedule.  She just loves the reward of a checked-off list.  Zaidee is my free-spirit.  Like me, she doesn’t like to be so boxed in by timed events.  Nevertheless, she is definitely benefiting by this experience.  Haydn just goes with the flow.  He does enjoy the security that routine provides.  This morning-thing has really stirred up some great conversations and time together.  And then we have the rest of our day for whatever else (besides the 20 minutes I make them independently read daily).  Aren’t I great?  Not really.  Especially when I’m great, I need to hear the gospel.

Here’s the thing.  The gospel is a proclamation.  It is good news.  News has to be told, by words.  As a Christian, I have the gospel truth, but I cannot be it.  I am a Christian; I am not the gospel.  The gospel comes from outside of me and points to the work of Christ on my behalf.  The fact is that I am a sinner who has been justified by the righteousness of my savior, Jesus Christ.  No one can look to me and be saved.  As Michael Horton says, “Your life is not the gospel, and that is good news for the two people sitting next to you.”  Yes, I want onlookers to see my life and notice the effects of the gospel in it.  However, I do not want anyone to think that my life is the gospel.  I myself need to be constantly encouraged by this good news as I am being sanctified.  My default is to trust in my own righteousness, to earn something for myself.  I am only free to minister to my children and my neighbors when I know that I’m not doing it to earn anything.  I can truly love them with God’s love because Jesus Christ has already earned it on my behalf, and his Spirit has applied it.

Motherhood humbles me.  And sometimes it builds me up.  I believe that the intent of the aforementioned article was to encourage mothers that our callings are a worthy place to teach and live according to the gospel.  When I go to church on Sunday morning and am stripped by the law and clothed in Christ’s righteousness, I receive the nourishment and faith to live the rest of my week out in light of that good news.   I wholeheartedly agree with the author that mothers serving their own children in the home have a valuable vocation.  But words are still important these days, and I wanted to make a clarification.

Posted on Friday, June 17, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Sexual Detox, Tim Challies (Cruciform Press, 2010)

Cruciform Press is a new, small publisher that does things a little differently.  In light of the technological changes that are affecting the publishing industry, they have a mission to embody our new realities.  They publish one book a month, short (about 100 pages), clear, and gospel-centered.  You can subscribe to take advantage of cheaper rates both for print and e-format.  As for me, I still love holding a real book with its smells, textile pages, and fashionable covers.  But I digress.  Sexual Detox is authored by one of the owners of Cruciform, and was the first book they put out.  It started as a series of articles on Challies’ blog.  He then combined them into a free e-book, which tens of thousands of people downloaded.  Hmmm, might be a topic people need help with.  The subtitle is A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn.  Love it.  Also, as a woman, I wanted to catch some perspective of how men are dealing with the constant barrages our culture pumps out.

This was a great little read.  Again, a one-dayer.  Challies is honest about the struggle of conscience going on in a man’s mind:

Every Christian guy who looks at porn wants to stop, but many of us want to stop just a little bit less than we want to keep going.  The problem isn’t knowledge—it’s desire and ability.  And so sin prevails (17).

Challies takes us to the Bible for both the knowledge of love and sex, and the desire to make it good—which is how God intended it.  I wonder if many guys have considered before that pornography, and all other sexual acts (yes, he definitely discusses the taboo independent one) outside of biblical marriage actually make them worse lovers.  There’s a mood killer for ya.  Anyway, he talks a great deal about putting off the flesh and putting on the Spirit.  One of the passages that he shares in regards to appealing to a better desire was Gen. 26:8.  King Abimelech discovered that Isaac and Rebekah were more than brother and sister by the way they were carrying on with one another.  Looking out the window, the verse says he saw Isaac laughing with Rebekah.  Challies explains that the Hebrew is difficult here, and sporting would also be a good translation.  Both paint an intimate picture of playfulness that busted Isaac.  Challies looked to this verse as a way he wanted to be with his wife (not the cowardly lying about their relationship part).  Aww.  And you can’t have that intimate playfulness in marriage if you are enslaved to sexual sin.  You need detox.  Read the book!

Posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

I have been blogging now for a few short months.  Before this, I spent many lonely hours writing a book.  Both make me feel a little silly.  I’ll tell you why.  Here I am on this lovely June morning, typing away for an imaginary audience.  A major part of me would rather be sipping some coffee on my front porch with a friend.   Or picking weeds and fighten’ rabbits in my garden.  Or taking a bike ride with my kids around the neighborhood.  But I am compelled by this burden to write.  Is it healthy?  Is it helpful?

Diary keeping and journaling have always been around.  Who was the audience then?  When you kept a diary as a kid, did you ever imagine anyone reading it?  I know I certainly didn’t want my brother, sister, or my parents perusing its pages!  But still, I imagined maybe my 30-year-old self coming back to it one day.  It’s probably stashed somewhere in my parents attic now.  Who knows.  Sometimes it’s just therapeutic to write things down.  I think we all have within us a need to be known, even if the audience is imaginary. 

Now I write more purposefully.  I’ve gone public with my thoughts.  My topics are now focused on being a housewife theologian—the gospel interrupting the ordinary.  I hope that my posts are helpful, and can be improved upon by the feedback that blogging facilitates.  So often I feel frustrated in my attempts at more meaningful conversation.  That is what compelled me to write my book, a discipleship tool for women to use in their local church.  My desire is to one day get it published and use this website to unite all the women involved.  But for now, writing can be lonely when you are only sharing with imaginary people.

And that is where the gospel interrupts my ordinary—and maybe yours too.  You might not have a hunger to write, but you have a hunger to be known nonetheless.  And all believers share in the privilege of speaking and living in light of the good news that we behold.  In both our joys and our frustrations, we have someone real who is always listening.  Our Lord has blessed us with direct communion with him through prayer.  In this context every word is heard by the one who created us.  Our thoughts are even known.  His Spirit within us not only unites us to Christ, but groans for us on our behalf.  According to our Father’s will, the Spirit intercedes in our weaknesses.  He supplies the words that we cannot express.  How glorious is this?  God works through prayer.

I am so comforted by Christ’s prayer for all believers before he gave himself up to suffer and die on our behalf.  In the last part he prays: Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.  I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:24-26).  Jesus Christ prayed for our unity with him.

And yet we still long for more.  We long for that day when we will meet him face to face.  We want to partake in his beauty that we now only have a taste.  Here we are in the already of the inauguration of his kingdom, and the not yet of its full consummation.  We are given Christ through his word in preaching and the sacraments.  And we are given fellowship with one another as we share our joy and longing.  Before he ascended to heaven, Christ gave his disciples a great commission and promise.  As his church will grow through the means he has provided, we are comforted by Jesus’ concluding statement: And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20b).   We may long for that day when our faith transforms to sight, but we have certainly not been left alone. 

Meditation: John 16: 7-15

Posted on Monday, June 13, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Christians Get Depressed Too, David Murray (Reformation Heritage Books,2010)

I have enjoyed listening to David Murray on his podcast with Tim Challies, The Connected Kingdom.  While I don’t follow regularly, I find myself drawn to Murray’s wisdom and humility in speaking.  I recently ordered this book for our church’s library, excited to get a small taste of his writing.  Christians Get Depressed Too is a very small book that handles a very big touchy subject, depression and anxiety, especially among Christians.  This is an exceptionally helpful, well-balanced book that can be read in a day.  Murray tackles some of the major misconceptions on this topic to an audience of both those whose struggle in this area, as well as loved ones who want to better help and understand.  The reader should walk away with a better introduction and awareness to the complexities of depression and anxiety.  He points out that we cannot simplify it into its common extremes of just a physical cause, spiritual issue, or mental issue.  I found this excerpt enlightening:

As the brain is the most complex organ in our body, it is liable to be the most affected of all our organs by the Fall and the divine curse on our bodies.  And as processing our thoughts is the main activity of our brain, we can expect this area at times to fail and break, through no fault of our own, with subsequent emotional and behavioral problems.  That isn’t to deny that a person is responsible for how he responds to mechanical, chemical, or electrical failures and faults in any part of his body.

In these cases, medication is not merely alleviating symptoms, but addressing the causes of depression—its physical causes.  Treating a depressed person with medication is often no different from giving my eight-year-old daughter one of her many daily injections of insulin for diabetes.  I am not merely alleviating symptoms, but addressing the cause—depleted insulin due to dying or dead cells in her pancreas.  And if she is lethargic, weepy, or irrational due to low sugar levels, I do not ask her what commandments she has broken or what “issues of meaning and relationship” she has in her life.  I pity her, weep for her, and thank God for His gracious provision of medicine for her (p.64-65).

As I said, the book is well-balanced so he does get into spiritual and mental issues as well.  But Murray does a good job of pointing out how many Christians cause great harm to people when insisting that depression is only a sin-problem and ignoring physical causes.  He does this in a gentle, loving tone that I could only aspire to.

Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

So I was having one of those rare moments where I’m all alone driving.  That’s right: cool, thirty-something mom cruisen’ the highway in her minivan with the windows down—in search of a good song. I landed on a ditty by Cage the Elephant, Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.  If you’ve heard it, you know it has a great beat for trying to pretend you’re in any other car than a minivan.  But of course, I’m a housewife theologian so I end up analyzing the song.  Lead singer, Matt Shultz, sings from the perspective of a guy on his way home, approached by a prostitute, then mugged, only to go home and see a preacher on the news arrested for stealing from his church.  When he asks the prostitute and the mugger why they are resorting to their acts, their response is the chorus:

You know there ain’t no rest for the wicked,

Money don’t grow on trees,

We got bills to pay

We got mouths to feed                                                                                                   

Ain’t nothing in this world for free.

Oh no

We can’t slow down,

We can’t hold back

Though you know we wish we could.

You know there ain’t no rest for the wicked,

Until we close our eyes for good.

 After the preacher is arrested, the singer concludes:

But even still I can’t say much

Because I know we’re all the same,

Oh yes we all seek out to satisfy those thrills…

And back to the chorus.

 I certainly agreed that there ain’t no rest for the wicked.  Although, it is such a horrific truth that I didn’t feel comfortable singing it in my “cool mode.”  I’ve already written an article on active rest for the believer, so that may be a good precursor to this one.  I began thinking how everyone wants rest.  What a great promise it is for the Christian to have eternal rest in Christ.  And what a great gift we have in this present world of suffering to be given Sunday: a day of rest from our labors, a taste of our eschatological hope to be fed and clothed by our Savior.  We rest in the efforts of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  I thought about how to witness to the lead singer: anyone who relies on their own efforts is wicked.  He was right in his conclusion about the human condition—total depravity.

 But Shultz was wrong about one thing.  The wicked can never close their eyes for good; therefore they will never have rest.  Rev. 14 explains that the wicked shall “drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation.  He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night...” (10-11a). 

 My Spurgee preached about this torment: But what is sin to be in the next state?  We have gone so far, but sin is a thing that cannot stop.  We have seen whereunto it has grown, but whereunto will it grow? For it is not ripe when we die; it has to go on still; it is set going, but it has to unfold itself forever.  The moment we die, the voice of justice cries, “Seal up the fountain of blood; stop the stream of forgiveness; he that is holy, let him be holy still; he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.”  And after that, the man goes on growing filthier and filthier still; his lust develops itself, his vice increases; all those evil passions blaze with tenfold more fury, and, amidst the companionship of others like himself, without the restraints of grace, without the preached word, the man becomes worse and worse; and who can tell whereunto his sin may grow?...What I am when death is held before me, that I must be forever…Where death leaves me, judgment finds me.  As I die, so shall I live eternally (Spurgeon’s Sermons, Vol. 1, Thoughts on the Last Battle, p. 283-4).  How scary is that?

 Just as Sunday is a taste of the believer’s heavenly rest in Christ, the unbeliever’s constant restlessness in their own efforts is a taste of their eternal state.  Here is an opportunity for us to share the good news of the gospel to those tired of struggling in their own efforts.  Our own attempts at righteousness and joy always fail.  Out of love for our neighbor, we can’t let them be fooled into thinking one day they can close their eyes for good and that’s it. 

 So there went my “cool moment.”  Am I the only one who kills a cruisen’ buzz?

Posted on Thursday, June 09, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

The Gospel Commission, Michael Horton (Baker Books, 2011)

When Jesus pronounced what we call the Great Commission: All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:18b-19); did his disciples decide that what Christ did and taught might be too creedal or intellectual for their audiences?  Maybe they could focus on their own personal experiences and moral achievements, persuading unbelievers how wonderful Christianity will be for their life and families.  Nope.  They taught it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And they suffered and died for it.  Poor, uneducated Gentiles were converted by this gospel, risking their lives as well.  It certainly wasn’t mere sentimentalism and moral improvement they were dying for.  In their conversions, they already died to their selves, and were living for the reality of the good news. 

When people say that they don’t want to bother with theology, they are saying they don’t care to learn about the One they are supposedly putting their faith in.  So what is your faith?  What do you believe?  Why do you believe it?  Who is Jesus?  That is theology.  When people claim that they don’t need to go to church to worship, they are saying they don’t think they need to observe the things Jesus has commanded.  They have a better idea for how a Christian should worship their creator and savior.  Was the Great Commission just a suggestion?

Here’s another blurb from Horton:

I find it easy to talk about myself.  I can relate my interpretation of “how I got saved,” and who can argue?  It’s my experience.  However, believers witness to facts of history with which all people are obliged to reckon.  Many believers, much less unbelievers, have never heard an intelligent defense of Christian claims.  So we have to learn the story and the doctrines that arise from it.  We have to live in that story, as regular recipients of the ministry of preaching and sacrament.  In other words, we have to become disciples.

And the more that we grow in this knowledge and experience of Christ, the more prepared we are “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” and to “do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15).  Those who know what they believe and why they believe it do not need to rely on clichés and memorized formulas.  They do not need to be coaxed or browbeaten into sharing their faith.  It becomes part of everyday relationships and ordinary conversation. 

When Christ is being delivered to us weekly in Word and sacrament, the corporate gathering of the saints becomes the field in which a harvest grows.  We bring home leftovers from this weekly feast and dine on rich morsels each day.  Some pastors print suggested Scripture readings and questions to ponder throughout the week—as takeaway from the last Sunday and in preparation for the next.  Sometimes there are also Scripture passages and questions from the catechism recommended for family instruction throughout the week.  In all of these ways, the regular banquet of the people of God is the gift that keeps on giving each day. (p. 182)

Posted on Tuesday, June 07, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

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Have you heard this one: It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice?  It sounds like a good adage.  I always find myself training my children in the art of niceness.  It’s, “be nice,” or, “that isn’t very nice!”  Nice is mannerly.  Mannerly is important.  But it’s more important to be kind than nice. (I know, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.)

Nice is a behavior.  We learn niceness.  It can be very fake.  Haydn might not want to let the little girl at the ball field play with his Batman, but I tell him to be nice and share.  Zaidee may want to tear her sister’s eyes out for instigating.  I tell Solanna that she’s not being very nice to her sister, and Zaidee that she should go for her mouth if she wants true lex talionis justification (just kidding on that last part).  But seriously, my kids are already pretty nice.  They get it.  I do my best parenting when I cut past the nice stuff and get to the real spiritual matter—a kind heart.

For example, “Solee, what does it reveal about your heart that you want to provoke your sister to anger?”  When I take this approach, I am often met with pursed lips and silence—like I just don’t get it.  But she knows I do.  And I know I just made her think about her own spiritual condition.

There’s a difference between niceness and kindness.  A nice person is agreeable, delicate and subtle.  While this is very helpful behavior that is useful to society, these can also be very manipulative traits.  A kind person is benevolent, compassionate, gracious and favorable.  The difference is striking.  Sometimes, my niceness is the very thing of which I need to repent.  Since I do have a “nice” disposition or personality, I often find it to be a struggle in my Christian walk.  I sometimes find myself being agreeable when I don’t really agree; I lack certain boldness for Christ because I want people to feel comfortable; and in my continuous desire to please people I miss the opportunities given to really serve them.  My temperament is nicer than my husband’s.  I know that Christians may judge spiritual growth by our level of niceness.  I find myself judging the well-behaved, nicies as the more spiritually mature.  But this is one way God has used my marriage to Matt to expose my own misconceptions.  As C.S. Lewis put it, “A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might be even more difficult to save” (Mere Christianity, p.215).  Not being predisposed to a nice temperament, my husband is more keenly aware of his dependence on Christ.  And he is also one of the most loving people I know.

But let’s get back to our children.  In a book I’ve recently quoted, Kenda Creasy Dean observes how our teenagers have taken our social cues on niceness to become indifferent, noncommittal clones of one another.  “As a social lubricant, ‘nice’ is a cheap and versatile adjective; it offers a nod without commitment, in religion as in other spheres…American teenagers ‘tend to view religion as a Very Nice Thing’—meaning that religion may be beneficial, even pleasant, but it does not ask much of them or even concern them greatly, and as far as they can tell it wields very little influence in their lives…The Bible has much to say about kindness and compassion but says nothing at all about being nice”(Almost Christian, p.33).

Maybe we need to reexamine the virtues that we are teaching.  Lewis reminded us that God wants to make us new creatures, not just an improvement of our old selves.  As a matter of fact, he puts to death our old self, niceness and all.  The new creation has a spiritual fruit: kindness.  Whereas niceness mainly stems from a love of self, kindness grows out of love for God and neighbor.  It is certainly a more difficult teaching.  But of course, we begin by looking at the One who is the epitome of kind. Jesus Christ wasn’t always nice.  As a matter of fact, he was downright offensive.  But he was kind to the worst of sinners, including me.  He sacrificed his very life to forgive my sins, and give me his kindness.  That’s the message that changes a heart of nice to a heart of kind.  That’s what I want to teach my children.

Meditation: Gal. 5:22

Posted on Sunday, June 05, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is telling the American Church, by Kenda Creasy Dean (Oxford University Press, 2010)

We are so concerned with facilitating a cool atmosphere for the youth at church.  The trend has been to convince our kids that church can be cool and we won’t cramp their style.  We try to accommodate to the shorter attention spans and make the message entertaining.  We have youth groups meet in their own lounging wing, separating them from their un-cool parents & Co.  Is this really helpful to our children?  Not according to the recent National Study of Youth and Religion…

Sociologists consider a young person’s sense of belonging in a religious community to be a more accurate predictor of his or her adult religious involvement than regular church attendance.  Caring congregations help teenagers develop what social scientists call “connectedness,” a developmental asset accrued from participating in the relational matrix of authoritative communities—communities that provide young people with available adults, mutual regard, boundaries, and shared long term objectives.  Highly devoted teenagers readily defend Christianity’s communal aspects.  Aaron, the sixteen-year-old black Protestant we met earlier said bluntly: “Christianity…is not something you just live.  You have to practice.  You can’t live it all by yourself, you need to go to church.”

Congregations are important sources for both interpersonal and spiritual support for highly devoted Christian teenagers.  Peer relationships matter.  Religious teenagers’ closest friends tend to be other religious teenagers (nonreligious teenagers’ closest friends are usually other nonreligious teenagers, suggesting that peers reinforce religious identity in both directions).  Yet equally important are adults who befriend teenagers.  Compared to their peers, young church-attenders are far more likely to have adults in their lives with whom they enjoy talking, and who give them lots of encouragement…Highly devoted Christian teenagers mentioned pastoral friendships with affection.  While most teenagers in the NSYR (81%) told us they have never talked to a pastor or youth pastor about a personal issue or problem, most highly devoted teenagers did so frequently. (p. 72, 73)

They might be intimidating with their funny jeans and texting madness, but our youth need us!  There are plenty of avenues outside of the church that can entertain and keep the kids separated from the adults.  Church is a place where we come together united in Word and sacrament.  If we are united in Christ, why are we dividing ourselves by demographic interests?  People leave churches these days over a lack of youth programs.  Is that biblical? Is it more important for my kids to have a mountain top experience at some Christian concert or Hershey Park trip, or to be faithfully nurtured, discipled, and connected within the whole congregation of Christ’s followers?

Posted on Friday, June 03, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

It’s that time of the year again—graduation season.  This is such a huge rite of passage into the beginning stages of adulthood.  I’ve received several announcements by mail from friends and family who have finished their grade school career; inviting me to the party their parents are throwing for them.  I look at their professional picture attached, and think about myself at that age.  Scary.

What’s even scarier is the startling statistics out there about this age group and their faith.  Some of the latest numbers show anywhere between 70 and 80 percent of so-called Christian teens abandoning their church by their sophomore year in college.  The National Study of Youth and Religion has found that while most teenagers call themselves Christians, they don’t really have any knowledge of the content or history of their faith—nor do they really care.  The researchers have dubbed this dubious spirituality Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.  Here is the sum of their “faith”:

  1.  A god exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. 
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God is not involved in my life except when I need God to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die. (Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean, p.14)

The gospel message is mysteriously absent from most of these teenager’s ideas about who they are, who God is, and what their relationship is with Him.  As it turns out, teenagers and twenty-somethings seem to be a big mission field.  There are several important key factors that have led to this great decline in handing down our faith.  Obviously the gospel message itself is not being told and taught to our children.   As I have been reading some different books related to this subject, the one area that I want to focus on in this short article is mentoring. 

Michael Horton always likes to say that we have segregated people by age in the church from the womb to the tomb.  We start with the nursery, and move onto children’s church, youth group, college/single’s groups, groups for divorcees, widows…but how often are we together in church?  When my husband and I were helping out with our youth group, we quickly noticed how cut off they were from many of the adults.  And, as a defense, I recognize how hard it is to build a relationship with a teenager—it can be very intimidating.  Matt and I prepared weekly lessons for Wednesday nights and I hope that they were beneficial.  My oldest daughter is now attending the youth group with a new, young leader that is doing a great job.  She is very excited to be there and eager to learn on a new level.  I’m glad that her new leader is putting the time into the group and that her relationships with the youth at our church are growing.

But even more so, I know that she needs to connect with some older women, and even some of the younger girls.  One of the amazing things about the church is how it brings people together in a new family relationship.  In the covenant community of God’s church, friends are brought together that may not particularly have sought one another out.  Solanna knows how to make friends her own age.  I want her to be a part of the multi-generational, supernatural covenant family.  Hopefully she learns God’s word from her parents, but I also want her to see it reinforced in the conversations and lives of other families in my church.  It’s nice for a young, energetic youth leader to get our kids fired up.  But they also need to be in the context of people who can articulate and model their faith in marriage, tragedies, celebrations, and the everyday ordinary life.  Do our kids have various people to look up to in the faith?  Are you developing relationships with younger people in your church?

Of course, mentoring is a biblical idea.  But our culture has a tendency to turn everything into a program.  I do believe the word mentor is helpful, but it’s not about assigning yourself to someone or visa-versa.  It’s about making an effort to be a friend to all ages.  In these friendships we have something to offer and something to learn.  Remember the influence you have as a woman of God, and pass down what you are learning.  One particular girl from my youth group was abrasive and stubborn to my invitation for lunch and coffee.  In my mind, she wanted nothing to do with me or my efforts towards a relationship.  Something made her show up anyway, and we have had many dates since.  Now she is a young adult and I am privileged to call her my friend.  In my home she has seen the implications of the gospel in my life: both my shining moments and the areas in which I struggle.   My hope is that in passing down my faith while sharing my life, my younger friends will learn some of my lessons sooner.  Having been included in my circle, they've certainly seen my humble stumbles, and most importantly, how God is faithful.  The journey of faith is hard, but real.  It is not always entertaining, but it is exciting.  It is not fabricated; it is authentic.

Passing down our faith should be something that all age groups are interested in.  Whether you have children of your own or not, you still have something to teach.  Let them know that you care and they matter.  The good news is for all to hear, so start sharing your faith with those younger than you as well.  Maybe you already do.  Please leave a comment to share some of your own ideas.

Meditation:  Titus 2: 1-5