Whether it is the most recent school shooting, the lyrics of the latest Drake album, the newest Netflix series that raises concern over explicit content marketed to teens, or even the drama surrounding the Covington students; make no mistake, culture is warring with itself. As I mentioned in my last article, the church is literally caught in the middle, and our students are on the front lines. I offered some of my thoughts on the disturbing trends and where those trends may lead us in the future. But I left the conversation with how. How do we help our students face these trends head-on with confidence in hand and Christ in the other?
The task is far too great. At least that is what parents and pastors tell me. Let’s be real; we are so busy with managing the day-to-day; our schedules do not allow for any flexibility, yet we all agree that the stakes are far too high to ignore. So my goal here is to offer some simple (and what I think are doable) solutions. But like what every parent and leader know all too well—to teach it properly, we must do it ourselves.
There is a lot of talk about post-truth, relative truth, subjective truth, etc. And a lot of discussion about the damaging effects of these ideas. However, what we often miss is how we introduce our students to the nature of absolute truth. As older generations, we came to accept and appreciate that the final authority for truth must exist outside of ourselves—as in the Bible. So much so, that to think otherwise almost seems silly. But this isn’t the case for younger generations. Our job, then, must be to educate students on the nature of truth, the difference between objective truth and subjective truth, why comments from Jesus are objective, and why facts don’t care much about your feelings.
I am constantly amazed at the reactions I get from students once they see relativism in action. On the one hand, they laugh at the prospect of claiming that absence of truth is a true statement. On the other hand struggle to wrap their minds around that Jesus’ claim to be God exists completely independent of their thoughts, feelings, or opinions.
The Bible is not only the authoritative, inspired, and inerrant Word of God, and deserves our attention and respect; it is also an ancient text—and ancient texts are often hard to understand and interpret, much less apply to our lives thousands of years after it was written. Reading the Bible takes considerable effort and prayer. So as leaders and influencers of youth we have to be sure that we are teaching students from the Bible without worry of its relevancy or offense. Our job is to be faithful to Scripture.
Further, culture is always on, the stream of information never ceases, and our students are always connected. The days of entering our homes to turn the world off are long over. Students have to be trained to process this constant stream of culture and filter it with a biblical worldview. That does not happen by reading a morning devotional each day, attending youth group each week, or a high powered retreat each year. Those are all great. But we need more. More focused attention. More that challenges students to think about what they believe and why.
It is easier to cripple in fear than to stand in boldness. Boldness requires the willingness to sacrifice. It requires us to plant ourselves firmly and not to flinch. But we often forget in our highly individualized western world that Scripture teaches us that it is all but impossible to display boldness consistently alone. We need community (Acts 4:23-31), and our students need their mentors and leaders to be the example.
“Just as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Those were Jesus words to his disciples in a locked room not long after the resurrection. It was their commissioning into the world. They had been prepped and prepared. Despite their fear of the unknown, they possessed a hope unlike any other. A hope that Peter says can’t be held back (Acts 4:20). A hope that is infectious. A hope that not only remedy’s many of life’s problems but hope that brings dead things to life.
As followers of Christ, we walk with that same hope—students included. We walk into our jobs, coffee shops, gyms, school, daycares, and grocery stores with a hope that ushers in new life. If you influence the life of a student, then it is your responsibility to help train them to live missionally. They need to see that the classes they are in, the social media channels they are on, the friends they choose, even the families they have been given are all divine placements to see the great commission carried out.
As older generations, it is easy to see our youth as less than what we were. Focussing on the negative comes almost natural. But, it is these students who are entering the workforce, impacting the economy, the future pastors our churches, and charting the course for Christianity’s future—taking what we hand off to them and moving it forward. It is our job to be sure we are handing off a faith that reflects Christ, a mission that is focused on the gospel, and wisdom that can only come from God.