In our teen class we have a discussion question box. This fall we are taking the topics and questions submitted by the students and using them as our class discussion on Sunday mornings.

One of the cards (and the one we began the series with) simply said, “Keeping faith in God.”

As a parent and a youth minister, it scares me a little that teenagers don’t know how to stay faithful. I read article after article and look at research upon research concerning teenagers and faith. Most of it is negative. Depending on what statistics you listen to, between 40% and 70% of teenagers will leave their faith after graduating.

Dropping out of church while in college it the new normal. The fact that one of my students submitted this discussion topic tells me two things: 1) We have not done a good job of equipping our students to be lifelong disciples of Jesus, and 2) our teenagers want to know how!

So what does it take to keep faith in God?

I think the first place to start is by wrestling with the question, What would it take for me to lose my faith? I don’t think we consider that one enough. Would it take definitive proof that God does not exist? Would you lose your faith over the death of a close family member? Peer pressure? Addiction? Tragedy? Bad experiences with other Christians? Discovery of alien life?

Know your weak areas, those stumbling blocks with which you find yourself wrestling in the wee hours of the morning. Know your weaknesses and then shore them up. Because even though you may not know your weak spots, Satan certainly does.

What would it take for me to lose my faith? Until the answer to that question is Nothing, we’ve got work to do.

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

From Jesus’ prayer recorded in John 17 we have coined the phrase, “In the world but not of the world.” The idea is that this world is a corrupt, evil, dangerous place, but we’ve still got to live here. Jesus’ prayer is that his disciples (including us) may be in the world but not become conformed to the world’s mold. That means we don’t put our stock into the world’s systems and securities. We don’t buy into the world’s goals and morals and values. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we are strangers and foreigners in this place.

Easy peasy, right?

Unfortunately when I look around the church, especially our younger members (myself included), we look a whole lot more like the world than we should. We look, talk, act, and think like people of the world. And why is it so hard to be in the world but not of the world? Maybe it’s because we are in the church but not of the church. (Not my own idea. I heard it from a preacher not to long ago, but I can’t remember his name.)

An article came out not too long ago on entitled “3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don’t Leave the Church.” It’s a fantastic little article that has gotten me rethinking some things. Here’s the gist of the article:

  1. They are converted.
  2. They have been equipped, not just entertained.
  3. Their parents preached the gospel to them.
The students who end up sticking around realize that there is actually something to this whole faith thing. It’s not just something they do, it’s who they are. They have been changed. They have been given the tools necessary to keep on truckin’. And they have a support system of family and friends.
Wow. Who would have thought that following the biblical example of discipleship could actually work?!
Fact is we’ve been dishonest to our teens about what faith really is. We present it as a 100 meter dash that ends in the waters of baptism. Hurry up and be baptized! What are you waiting for? Splash, dunk, and done. And then we don’t see them again. Why? Because they think their race is done.
Almost anyone can run a 100 meter dash. But not everyone can run a 26.2 mile marathon. But that’s what we are trying to prepare our young people for. It’s a long, grueling fight to the distant finish line. It’s a race that lasts our entire lives.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Keep running. It’s worth it.

1 Comment

  1. Daniel, this post was very interesting. In light of the fact that I am working in Boulder, CO – where it is NOT cool, or acceptable to be a Christian – this truth is even more visible. I have recently encouraged my parents to not think about raising their children in a paradigm of protection – but through one of preparation. To not pray for safety, but to pray for courage. Satan's attacks WILL come – when they do, will our teens be ready to defend against them or succumb to them.

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