A few years ago, during the Twilight craze that was sweeping the nation and the world and causing teen girls to violently debate the merits of “Team Jacob” versus “Team Whoever” (I can’t even remember the other guy’s name), I had the privilege to teach teens at Palmetto Bible Camp and later at a youth rally at a church in the Raleigh area. The lesson I gave at these events was probably very different from what the teens were expecting.
I started out each session by asking how many had seen Twilight (99% had), how many went to the midnight showing on opening night (again, 99%), and how many had read the books (99% of the girls had). From there I asked them to tell me the name of the female protagonist (immediately, 100% could), the name of the actress who played her (about 99% could), the names of both of her love interests (100% again), the actors who played them (99%), the name of the town and state in which the story was set (about 90% could answer this), the titles of each of the movies and books (100%), the name of the author of the books (95% could immediately answer this one), a summation of the plot of each book and movie (99% could do this off the top of their head), and how the books were different than the movies (about 90% could immediately answer this one.)
To give the long-suffering guys a chance to play, I asked them to name me their favorite professional athlete, his age, the position he played and the team for which he played, the stats concerning how well he played and the salary he earned, the stats about their favorite team’s standing in its particular league, their favorite video games, the plot of said game, their favorite movie, the star of that movie, the character he or she played, etc., etc. As with the girls, the overwhelming majority of the guys could answer these questions correctly off the tops of their heads.
I then asked how many of them were Christians. 99% raised their hands. I asked them if they loved Jesus (100%). I asked if Jesus was #1 in their lives (about 95% said yes to this; perhaps the remaining 5% could see where I was going with this by that point.)
I then asked them to quote for me John 3:16 and to tell me who said it and to whom he said it. About 40% could answer the first two questions, and none of them knew to whom Jesus was talking when he said that. I asked them to tell me what I must do to be saved. About 60% could tell me that I needed to hear God’s Word, believe in it, repent, confess my faith, and be baptized. However, when I then asked them to show me exactly where in the Bible I could find each of these commands, only 5% could show me right then and there. About another 5-10% could after a few minutes of searching.
I then asked them if they found worship services boring. About 80% raised their hands affirmatively. I asked them how many of them had jobs, and of those who did how many gave generously to the church every Sunday. Only about 1-2% raised their hands. I then asked them if they found Twilight or football boring, and if they would spend a generous amount of money to be a part of those events if given the chance. All of them raised their hands. I then asked them if they thought God would want them in heaven with him for all eternity if they care more about a movie or a sport than about praising him and learning more about his Word. The point was made.
Adults who are reading this, perhaps you might be thinking something along the lines of These kids today… Well, may I pointedly but respectfully ask us this. How different are we from these teenagers, really? When I started the ministry in my early twenties, I thought I would be surrounded by brethren who was as excited and willing to discuss the Bible as I was. It didn’t take long for me to find out that starting a serious Bible discussion outside of the prescribed Bible class and worship times in the church building was as difficult as pulling teeth for quite a lot of Christians, most of them older than me. Yet, simply mention the name of a politician, sports team, or television show and I was guaranteed to have started a conversation that in many cases would last longer than the average Bible class or sermon! Fast forward 15 years, and not much has changed.
Parents, if we want our children and their children to grow to be faithful, active Christians and thereby go to heaven, it starts by following the prescription of Deuteronomy 6:6-7. However, in order to do that we ourselves must first have that same interest and habit.
It’s no accident that God told us that the righteous man who “is like a tree” and “who walks not in the counsel of the wicked” is one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-3), before very pointedly adding, “The wicked are not so” (v. 4). Brethren, our actions speak louder than our words. What consistently comes out of us in the form of our deeds speaks very loudly as to the true condition of our hearts (Mark 7:20-23). When we far more easily find delight and interest in topics other than the Bible and eagerly spend far more time focused on those things than on the Word, let’s not fool ourselves. We’re lying when we sing All to Jesus I Surrender and None of Self and All of Thee. We’re as lukewarm as the Laodiceans and as lacking of our first love as the Ephesians (Rev. 2-3). So let’s not be surprised if our kids feel the same way and are following in our footsteps.
Rather than sitting in judgment on them for sins we ourselves commit (Rom. 2:1, 17-24; Matt. 7:1-5), let’s humble confess our sins and repent (1 John 1:7-9; 2 Cor. 7:9-11) and then let God lead both us and our children in the right paths by spending more time studying his Word individually, as a family, as a church, and with the lost.
“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (Heb. 2:1)