Tuesday, December 18, 2007

youth specialties does it again!

The following letter came to me from Youth Specialties. I don't mind the title of "Don't be afraid," I am very concerned with the lack of content which seems to permeate with YS. I can look the other way when language such as "dude" is used. I understand their worldly thinking here. But when a question comes up of "what do I have to be afraid of?" and the response completely ignores what the fear should be focused on, then I have a problem. Suppose someone actually makes the statement, Why should I follow Jesus and what do I have to be afraid of if I don't? YS response is this -- "if you don't have a sense of what you should be afraid of, you might not be fully living...into the reality of what Jesus brought." And that's it? How is that going to help anyone? If someone does not know why they should fear, he is right in saying that they probably don't know much at all, but YS should have taken it a step further. Why should we fear God? Because if we are not saved, He will judge us on our sins and cast us into hell. I guess YS does not want to scare people into repentance. Remember that God loves you and we should not fear Him. Read the letter for yourself. Let me know what you think. Why is it so hard for YS to mention the need to repent of sins?

Dear Youth Worker:

"Don't be afraid."

That's how the Christmas story starts in Scripture. Twice, in fact. First, the angel shows up to Zechariah (telling him about his future son, John) and says, "dude, chill."

Then the angel shows up to Mary and says the same thing (well, probably not the "dude" part).

Is it just the being-startled-by-an-angel part that precipitated that calming word? Seems to me it was so much more than that. The messenger wasn't only saying, "Hey, I realize I'm a strange sight, and I've just materialized in front of you in a way that is likely startling." The angel was, I believe, defining a path. The angel was speaking words that would need to be remembered over and over as the arrival of the Christ-child would completely up-end the world of those intimately involved in his birth.

You see it coming, right? You and I, my youth working friend, are intimately involved in the arrival of the Christ. I mean, sure, we're not physically there. But this is our story! Since we get to be children of God, Jesus is both our brother and our savior. Jesus IS OUR STORY.

So the "don't be afraid" should come to us too.

You might be thinking, "Afraid? What do I have to be afraid of?" Well, my contention would be that if you don't have a sense of what you should be afraid of, you might not be fully living into the upside-down, kingdom-rearranging, first-shall-be-last, love-your-neighbor reality of what Jesus brought (and continues to bring).

The truth: you have plenty to be afraid of. But be not afraid. This is one of those wonderful (and sometimes annoying, if we're honest) paradoxes the Bible leaves us with: Fear God... Who loves you unconditionally and tenderly. God is all powerful and all loving... But seems to regularly not intervene in human suffering. We're in this world and are called to engage this world... But, ultimately, we're not of this world. The creator of the universe... Often speaks in a still, small voice. You have plenty to be afraid of... But don't be afraid.

Let's be honest: working with teenagers, no matter how much you love them and are called to this ministry, is cause for fear. They're a messy lot. The work is never done. The needs are never fully met. The demands and expectations of youth ministry pull in every direction, often in opposition with one another. If you live into this calling, sooner or later, you'll get hurt; you'll get ignored; you'll be misunderstood; you'll be blamed; you'll be misrepresented; and you'll screw up.

But, be not afraid.

For unto us a child is born. And "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

We love you. During this busy Christmas season in youth ministry, we pray that you catch a glimpse of the One, the Savior, God among us, Emmanuel.

Marko, and from all of us at Youth Specialties

There you have it straight from YS! Be not afraid, if you are saved, but beware if you are chasing after false idols!

I found this excellent link on mormonism!


Timm said...

Well, now I feel better. The Angel of the Lord told Zechariah, "Don't be afraid." I can see how that would obviously apply directly to me. Like you said, that's not the part that bothers me most, it's the lame gospel presentation you highlighted in red.

I used to be the Youth Director at my church. Oh what I wouldn't give to have all those watered down lesson's back for just one chance to preach the true gospel to those kids.

pastorbrianculver said...

You know what is sad...
if you did present the true gospel to them, you would probably have their parents mad at you! How dare you tell little johnny that homosexuality is a sin. How dare you tell my little susie that the way she dresses might cause boys to sin (it's their problem if they have lust issues!). That is why we must proclaim the gospel regardless of what people think. They need to hear the true gospel like you said!!

nate said...

OK, here we go again. I will just go ahead and say it, "I like Youth Specialties!" Now that I have gone on record I will point out the purpose of this e-mail, which I recieved by the way. The purpose wasn't to present the gospel to a bunch of youth workers and pastors (who are already on their mailing list), but to encourage them as we move through the Christmas season. You do have a good heart and a passion, that is obvious, but sin doesn't need to be preached in every e-mail that is sent out (especially to those who should already be Christians).

pastorbrianculver said...

I understand that you like YS, that was pretty obvious. You say that it isn't necessary to preach about sin "especially" to those who are already christians. Unfortunately, we do not know who are all truly Christians. There are many who profess to be Christians but they are not. They are the ones that will say, Lord, Lord and Jesus will say to them, depart from me you worker of iniquity. I would rather error on the side of making sure everyone got the true biblical message as opposed to erring on the side of "let's have fun!!"

michelle said...

i'm never quite sure why people have such a hard time explaining the Gospel. i don't share the Gospel nearly as much as i should, but when i actually do, i hope i explain it in clear terms that leave no doubt for a person why he must be saved...

pastorbrianculver said...

I would suggest going to www.wayofthemaster.com and watching as many of their witnessing clips as you can. It will help give you confidence and it will help you to be biblical in your presentation! Hey, at least you have tried to evangelize, there are many people who don't even put forth any effort!

nate said...

I didn't hear "let's have fun," in that Christmas message. I heard don't be afraid because God is in charge. Could you possibly be reading too much into what was written?

pastorbrianculver said...

So an angel of the Lord would actually say, "dude, chill??"

Let's be honest: working with teenagers, no matter how much you love them and are called to this ministry, is cause for fear.

There is no need to fear working with teens, especially if you are called. Although, you'd be hard pressed to find the actual position of youth pastor in the Bible. But, I understand the need to minister to the youth. But why, just because they are youth, is it necessary to change the message from God? His Word is sufficient! The minute you start making His angels out as being surfer-dudes, you make the whole spiritual aspect turn into a cartoon just to appease the youth. the overall theme of YS seems to hinge on the "let's have fun" and not offend anyone by mentioning sin and the need to repent.

I heard don't be afraid because God is in charge.

Yes, God is in control, but for the unbeliever, they should be afraid and we are to believe with fear. Is it possible YOU have not read "enough" into this message??

nate said...

I wouldn't have a problem if an angel of the Lord said, "Dude, chill." The actuall verbage isn't as important as the message, especially if it is contecting. As for being hard pressed to find the position of youth minister in the Bible, you would also be hard pressed to find most of the positions that our churches and denominational organizations have. Does that make them any less important, or does it mean that we have been able to see needs and meet those needs where able? As for reading enough into this, I try to take people at face value when they write, especially if they are trying to be encouraging. I guess that is why it bothers me that you haven't.

I am glad I could add a little discussion to your blog, but now I must do some work. So until, or if we meet again, Merry Christmas.

pastorbrianculver said...

Merry Christmas to you, Nate, and your family. I pray that God's blessings will be with you all.

S.J. Walker said...


I appreciate this so much. My wife and I have started teaching the High School Sunday School class at our church. They have getting a mixed batch of Rick Warren, dare2share, and a little bit of who knows what up to now.

We were directed to start studying through Ephesians to start with. It has been good thus far.

Please pray that we can be faithful to what God has placed in our incapable hands. If good comes, that is, "fruit that will last", it can only be by His doing.

Check out our lessons when you get the chance, I would appreciate your input very much.

Your Brother


pastorbrianculver said...

Hi Sam,
Lessons look good! If I understand correctly, you are just starting out as Sunday School teachers at your church? I think one of the things I would do if I were you would be this...
I would want to know the level of knowledge of the kids before starting. It would be easy to start at a point and to get into Scripture but it is quite possible you have kids there that are still lost. Try asking them some leading questions such as these...
1. Why are you a Christian?
2. What must you do to go to heaven?
3. Do you believe in hell and what is it like to you?
4. Where will a homosexual go when he dies? a murderer? a thief? a liar?
5. Will a Muslim, a Hindu, a Mormon go to heaven?
You will find that many kids (I have asked these questions in my church) do not have an answer as to why they are a Christian other than their parents are one. Most will just say you have to believe in Jesus to go to heaven. Be looking for a response that says belief is more than just believing, it is obedience and repentance of sin. Many will say hell is real but many will make fun of it like it isn't real. They will say a murderer will go to hell but the others will go to heaven because God is a God of love. They will most likely say that Mormons will go to heaven because they are "christians."
I just wanted to throw that out there because it amazed me to see how much the kids did not know (high school kids). When you see what they know, you can make sure they know the essentials!

S.J. Walker said...

Thanks Brother,

Very good advice. The question that has been pressed on me to ask folks, not just these dear kids, is exactly HOW does God save a person's souls?

Some answers are encouraging, some are terrifying, others are simply heartrending.

Thanks Brother, and keep up the good work on Mormonism as well, it is pervasive here in western CO.

pastorbrianculver said...

ask 25 people outside of church and you will most likely get 25 different answers. Ask 25 people in church and again, you will most likely get 25 different answers. Too many pastors have failed to preach God's Word effectively.

Roland said...

I like YS.
And I agree with you. They did it again.
Taking the message to the youth instead of expecting them to come to it. And trembling in fear at that.
Interesting website, Brian. It does make me think.

Have you seen Youth Specialties statement of faith? I like it. What do you think about it? Too honest?

layneh said...

Due to how you feel about how people changed the Angels words, I am curious how you feel about the Bible,"the Message"? My next thought would be how you feel about a children's Bible.

I am not arguing that watering down the Bible is bad, I am curious if it isn't 6 one way, and half a dozen the other?

pastorbrianculver said...

A friend of mine gave me "The Message" Bible a couple of weeks ago. We were meeting in his house last week and the Scripture we were working from was John 1:1-16, we only got through the first verse. Before we started, I had a few translations read outloud. One of the ones we heard was from "The Message." That is one book I don't think I will ever be going back to!! Hard to stomach the wording he uses. As far as a children's Bible, I guess it depends on their respective ages. I think you are right when you say it might be six of one and half a dozen of the other. For the sake of clarity for a little child, we need to keep it simple so long as the original meaning is not lost. As for the Message, I think there is dangerous territory there that might cause someone to not get the intended meaning. I looked up 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and there is not anything there that specifically talks about homosexuals not going to heaven. If I remember right, it was more about relationships and loving one another. A homosexual can say they love one another and say there is nothing wrong with that. The Message does not convict their souls or their conscience. I believe the Bible to be God's Word and when man tries to get too involved, he will ultimately make mistakes that can have devastatingly disastrous results.

pastorbrianculver said...

Hi Roland, I used to be a fan of YS. When I used to lead the youth at my church, I would invariably go to YS to find some resources. But that was back when I was not truly saved. Once I changed my life around with God's help, I saw some glaring areas that needed attention and YS was neglecting those areas. Sure they actively take the message out to the youth. But they lack the "whole" message. They tell you that Jesus is cool and that He loves you. But they shy away from saying God is also a God of wrath to those still living in their sins. That is where issues of homosexuality is accepted within the church, because they have been told that God loves them and would never send a person to hell who was displaying love, regardless of whether it was with a person of the opposite sex and within the bounds of marriage. I copied below what he says about the church. here it is:
We believe in the Church.
We know—it's flawed, inconsistent, institutional, bureaucratic, even embarrassing sometimes. Yet it is also incredibly heroic at other times. Whether we like it or not, want to attend it or not, we're stuck with it. There are a lot of parachurch organizations out there that are a lot more glamorous at first glance, but the Church is the Body of Christ, and that's pretty glamorous too. The Church is not optional, it's not up for discussion, it's been around ever since Jesus, and it's still here. That's good enough for us.

See, I have a problem with the wording here. "Were stuck with church." "it's embarassing." "The church is not optional, it's not up for discussion."

I think in their statement of what they believe, it is very important that the youth and the youth leaders understand what the purpose of the church is. Not one mention that we come to church to "worship" God, to be "edified" by His Word, and to "fellowship" with other believers. When I wasn't saved, I never caught that those things were missing. I was more interested in "where's the fun stuff that my kids can do at church?" Then how about the following statement listed here:
Mostly we're scared of it, scared in a good way, because whenever we read it and try to live by it, God shows up and that's pretty terrifying

I'm not sure he has a true understanding of what the "fear of the Lord" is. Telling people that he is scared of the Bible does not give me much confidence in him. When we try to live by it, God shows up and that's pretty terrifying?? You know, when I am obedient to God's Word it is assuring to me to know that it pleases God, and also the more obedient I am to God, the more Satan will start firing his arrows at me trying to create doubt. When I actually started to evangelize out in the streets, that is when Satan attacked the hardest. He never attacked me when I was behind the pulpit because I wasn't preaching God's Whole Word. He never attacked me while I was leading the youth because "I was not leading them to a SAVING relationship with Christ." We must preach God's Law to the youth. Kids have no fear of God because they don't know "why" they should fear Him. So they continue to live in their sins. They have sex, homosexuality is rampant in the youth groups, they lie and are disobedient to their parents, they steal, they are no different than the world. The girls dress in a way that is totally inappropriate so as to bring attention to their bodies, thus causing others to sin with lust. If all we are doing is using "cool" language to reach the kids and there is no "meat" to the discussions as to what they must do, then we are doing them a disservice. Gee, time to get off my soapbox. Sorry about that!!

Roland said...

"We believe in the Church.
We know—it's flawed, inconsistent, institutional, bureaucratic, even embarrassing sometimes. Yet it is also incredibly heroic at other times. Whether we like it or not, want to attend it or not, we're stuck with it. There are a lot of parachurch organizations out there that are a lot more glamorous at first glance, but the Church is the Body of Christ, and that's pretty glamorous too. The Church is not optional, it's not up for discussion, it's been around ever since Jesus, and it's still here. That's good enough for us."

I view it as half full.
I see them as saying we're stuck with it to mean that there is no better thing out there, nor will there be. It's all on context and how we perceive it.
That is why I like some of what you are doing. Sharing the law. Too often, though, hearers only know that they are being judged and condemned (which may very well be true!) But they do no hear often enough about the love and grace Christ has given.

I come from the opposite side as you Brian. I came from an overly fundamental, hard-line Baptist church. I am not disagreeing with your viewpoint, just saying that there be more to it than what you, or even I, see.

God Bless.

pastorbrianculver said...

That's right. God's Law should ALWAYS be accompanied with God's Grace! It is when we see how wretched we really are in God's sight, that we fall before Him and humble ourselves to Him. Then we offer God's wonderful act of love towards us that while we were yet sinners, God sent His Son to die for us! It is a wonderful story! And so true!