06 September, 2005

Who's going to reach the teens?

There has been a serious question on my mind lately that deals with what heritage we have to hand to our children. I do not mean inheritance, but more importantly, what is the religious heritage that we have to give to our children? The Reformed and Presbyterian heritage is one that is sacred to many, and the distinctives of the Reformed Faith are worth living for, as well as worth dying for.

Now that I am a father of two, (Anna Grace, 22 months, Owen Justice, 2 months) I see so much differently than I did as a single man and even as married man with no children.

One thing that I see different is that of the instruction of children. Scripture speaks of instruction in many places and is most frequently connected with that of our children. As Reformed Christians, we understand the covenantal nature of our God and his dealings with men. We understand that the promises of God are for us and our children.

How do these promises manifest themselves in the lives of our children? We deny the notion that the promises come to our children through baptismal regeneration, as is the teaching of the papists. We believe that the promises come to our children through grace, but also that we have a biblical imperative to teach our children the truths of the faith.

Moses knew the covenantal nature of God, as well as the need for the true religion to be passed on to our children. He says in the book of Deuteronomy:

And these wordes which I commaund thee this day, shalbe in thine heart. And thou shalt rehearse them continually vnto thy children, and shalt talke of them when thou tariest in thine house, and as thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest downe, and when thou risest vp: And thou shalt binde them for a signe vpon thine hand, and they shalbe as frontlets betweene thine eyes. Also thou shalt write them vpon ye postes of thine house, and vpon thy gates. (Deut 6.6-9, Geneva Bible 1599)

Notice that the instruction from God is not that we ONLY need to teach the children the truths of God, but that we also need to live it ourselves. This is part of the same command: the words shall be in YOUR heart. A friend once told me that providentially speaking, the normal way that God works is that faithful parents have faithful children and that unfaithful parents have unfaithful children. This answers our question. Who is going to reach the teens? God is through his grace. What is the means that God is going to use? The initial means that God is going to use is that of the faithfulness of their parents. He is also going to use the faithfulness of the church in their living out the truths of the Reformation.

This means that as a covenantal community we have responsibility as well. Pray for the young people in your church. Encourage parents to teach the catechism to the youth. Show that you love the truths of the Reformation. Most importantly, walk uprightly before all men, showing forth the love of Christ by your words and your deeds. These are ways that we can keep our heritage alive so that it can be passed on to another faithful generation.

Youth To Be Instructed in Godliness. (Chapter 25, Second Helvetic Confession)

The Lord enjoined his ancient people to exercise the greatest care that young people, even from infancy, be properly instructed. Moreover, he expressly commanded in his law that they should teach them, and that the mysteries of the sacraments should be explained. Now since it is well known from the writings of the Evangelists and apostles that God has no less concern for the youth of his new people, when he openly testifies and says: Let the children come to me; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:14), the pastors of the churches act most wisely when they early and carefully catechize the youth, laying the first grounds of faith, and faithfully teaching the rudiments of our religion by expounding the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the doctrine of the sacraments, with other such principles and chief heads of our religion. Here let the Church show her faith and diligence in bringing the children to be catechized, desirous and glad to have her children well instructed.

Discussion points:

-How can those without children aid in the advancement of the faith?

-How well are we catechising our youth?

-What else can be used as tools for reaching the Reformed youth?


Mr. Baggins said...

Good to see another friend of attachment parenting. Do you have a particular blog on it? I am actually trying to write a book on the subject with my mother-in-law. I think that Ezzo is off his rocker, and doesn't understand the first thing about babies. Btw, I am a good friend of Johannus Weslianus. We got examined together in Siouxlands Presbytery. My name is Lane Keister, and Johannus has a link to my blog (if you are interested). You could also join a discussion group on the New Perspective on Paul that I have set up on Yahoo groups. Here is the URL:
Good to meet you.

Manda said...

Great post, Nate.

James w. Lanning said...

maybe you should be a Youth Pastor, nate.

Eva Lemmon..? said...

Heh heh heh. I think the only way to get through to teens is put them all on a work detail. Cough cough, mission trip....

julia said...

Reaching teens with the Gospel is no different than reaching a 5 year old or a 55 year old. All of us young or old must be taught the doctrines of grace and how the Holy Spirit applies them in our life. Too many in the church today make their kids memorize,Westminister standards or Shorter Catechism or Heidelberg or Canons of Dordt. The children or others must be made to understand WHY we learn them. Otherwise as a 7th grader asked me, now that we have learned this doctrine, what do we DO with it?
But the real question is, do the teachers in today's church know what they are really teaching?
What I observe being taught is to memorize the doctrines of grace and then go exercise holy sweat to be holy and acceptable to God.
So the emphasis is Law, Gospel (free in Christ), Law( now go and keep the law in your own strength, a la progressive sanctification, or experiential piety or whatever the puritans like to call it). You are heading for a works-based salvation if you follow that route. You create little pharisees who just point fingers and are extremely prideful.
No, the answer is to teach anyone to defend these doctrines (Defense of the Faith) first of all in the church. We love these doctrines so much that we stand up against error. Now, where is THAT taking place in the church? We are too afraid to exercise faith? Then we better self-examine to see if we DO have faith. The fruit of the Spirit WILL abound richly of all those who have faith. The Holy Spirit ensures that it will. However the only thing that we as Christians are responsible for is our continuing sin against God. Leave the sanctifying to the Holy Spirit. Put the emphasis upon God and His truth, namely Jesus Christ and then the teens and 5 year olds will truly understand what Faith is and understand their place in the church and the world.