Categories
The End of Many Books

Irreversible Damage

This was one of the least enjoyable, least hopeful, more quotidian nightmarish books I’ve read (listed to) in a while. I learned some things about the transgender contagion/cult that I wish I wouldn’t need to know.

It also increased my commitment to encouraging image-bearers of God in the glory of being either male and female (Genesis 1:27), including my own son and daughters, as well as the young people in our church and school. Though the author is only conservative in comparison with the gender activist ideologues, and though she’s primarily just asking for people to slow down and ask some questions, even she has been tagged as a hater by some. There is little left to imagine how much contempt there is/will be for consistent Christians.

I do not recommend listening to this book with your young kids around. I do recommend that dads and moms do better than simply affirming every doubt and dysphoria their kids bring up, and perhaps hearing Shrier’s collected stories of loss and angst and dereliction by parents and “professionals” would be a wake up call.

4 of 5 stars

Categories
The End of Many Books

The Vanishing American Adult

by Ben Sasse

Reread this again with the ECS Board. Fantastic all the way through.


This book is fantastic in almost every way. If the Senator would have used BC and AD instead of BCE and CE, and not capitulated on the age of the earth, then it would have been amazing. As it is, I still give it five stars, will be giving copies of it away as gifts, and encouraging everyone I know to read it. Really, really, good all the way to the end.

5 of 5 stars

Categories
Bring Them Up

You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly

Trapped in Neverland by Carl Trueman underscores the ugliness of today’s world “because it prevents many from ever growing up at all.” Here’s one more tempting bite:

I have had too many run-ins with students who act like five year olds and, when held to account, express all the pouting resentment that one comes to expect from a generation that demands respect but refuses to put in the time and effort to earn it.

I almost hate to tack on this link to Trueman’s sensible article, but for some (sick?) reason it brought back memories of my parents’ favorite song, You’re the Reason Our Kids are Ugly.

Categories
Lies Teens Believe

A Vision for Young People

Here’s a great start to a new series on a gospel vision for the rising generation of young people. From someone who’s in the thick of parenting and pastoring youth:

living for the glory of Christ is not on hold until you are eighteen or twenty-one. There is a way for six-year-olds to make much of Christ and a way for ten-year-olds to make much of Christ and a way for sixteen-year-olds to make much of Christ. And there is a way for parents and church leaders and all of us to create a matrix of relationships and teachings and expectations and blessings that awaken young people from the emptiness and aimlessness of our popular youth culture and give them a vision for Christ-exalting significance throughout their pre-teen and teen years.

Categories
Lies Teens Believe

Is This Nirvana?

Or, Why Being a Youth Pastor is No Paradise.

Phil Johnson recently wrote a pungent post that smells like teen spirit on the dangers of dumbing down teaching to young people. He pointed out at least two problems with this minimalist approach to youth ministry.

First, most strategies intended to attract young people to the church are counterproductive. This is because you can’t win someone to spiritual, eternal realities when you focus on earthly, temporal activities. Why would they want to stick around for God when the pizza is gone?

Second, Phil stated,

Youth ministries…deliberately shield their young people from the hard truths and strong demands of Jesus. They tailor their worship so worldly youth can feel as comfortable in the church environment as possible. They squander the best opportunities of those formative student years by minimizing spiritual instruction while emphasizing fun and games. They let their teens live with the false notions that believing in Christ is easy, sanctification is optional, and religion is supposed to be fun and always suited to our liking.

In other words, dumbed down discipleship is not really discipleship to Christ at all. Not only do we fail to win their interest in church we lose their souls. Minimalist youth ministry actually keeps young people from Christ rather than attracting them to Him.

That’s not good.

Of course, that is the typical approach of most youth groups and that’s certainly how we youth pastors are perceived. Because of that it is not a good day to be a youth pastor. When I meet people at Starbucks (or on a plane or at Burger King or wherever) I often wince when they ask me what I do. How do you humbly say, “I’m a youth pastor, but probably not exactly like the ones you know”?

On the other hand, it is a great day to be a youth pastor. As Phil said, we have “the best opportunities of those most formative student years.” Young people make devoted disciples and fanatical worshipers. Biblical churches and pastors will charge their youth to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Young people will reap great spiritual rewards as they take responsibility in the Body and “when each part is working properly, [it] makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” That is as close to heaven on earth as we get.


Comments (copied)

Drew said November 15, 2007 at 10:57 am:

Hey Sean, I know exactly what you mean about telling people you’re a youth pastor. I’ve actually had people ask me when I’m going to become a real pastor. It seems that the evangelical church’s opinion of youth ministry is at an all time low. In the context of my church, this has proven to be a real blessing b/c the contrast between a Purpose Driven Youth Ministry model and a biblical model of discipleship and sanctification could not be more stark. When parents see what it looks like to minister according to Colossians 1:28-29 they crave that kind of ministry, not just for their kids but for themselves as well.

Sarah said November 15, 2007 at 9:54 pm:

I am so thankful for the great, true, and solid “food” we get in One28.

In chapel this past week the speaker said just as one footnote about how youth pastors today are expected to be all fun and be jumping around crazy without being sensible. Thank you for the reminder, that helps me remember to be thankful.

Mijah said November 15, 2007 at 11:14 pm:

I totally agree that the church must see that souls are at stake in youth ministry.

P.S. – Second to last paragraph, last sentence: I think you wanted a “not” in that.

SKH said November 16, 2007 at 10:31 am:

Drew, it is one of the greatest joys of ministry when God vindicates His name and His ministry model. While part of His plan apparently includes not letting everyone “get it,” there’s nothing better as an under-shepherd than when He enables sheep to get it.

Sarah, thank you for the encouragement!

Mijah, it’s like we’re playing for keeps or something. And thanks for the typographical post script; changes have been made.

Dave Cleland said November 16, 2007 at 10:46 am:

“Why would they want to stick around for God when the pizza is gone?”

I had hoped Cat Tuesday would be the hook that kept ‘em coming after the last slice was gone. Alas, I was wrong.

Seriously though, even with all the statistics floating around out there about kids leaving church after high school most churches continue to look for answers in the wrong places. It just goes to show that all statistics can do is shock. Unless churches are providing a biblical alternative to popular youth ministry parents are still feeling around in the dark for a solution.

Categories
Lies Teens Believe

Serving the Next Generation

The church is responsible to serve the next generation. For example, we must “relentlessly extol the maturing and strengthening effects of the only infallible life charter for young adults, the Bible.” Here’s even more about A Church-Based Hope for “Adultolescents.”

Categories
Lies Teens Believe

Teenagers Are Irresponsible

The second lie teenagers believe is that they are, intrinsically, irresponsible. “Research” shows their brains have not yet fully developed so they can’t be expected to act appropriately. They are not ready to answer for their actions. Experts define adolescence as an extended season for experimentation and prolonged preparation. The teen years are for development and responsibility must be deferred.

Inevitably, the teenagers is a disappointment, whose combination of adult capacities and juvenile irresponsibility sows personal heartbreak and social chaos.” (Hine, 8)

Our government doesn’t hold teens responsible. We’ve created an entirely different legal system to segregate younger lawbreakers from older ones. We’ve written new laws with lower standards because we don’t think they are able to make right decisions and behave appropriately. Many parents, teachers, and youth ministries have done basically the same thing by postponing opportunities to fail, as well as by protecting young people from the consequences of wrongdoing. We’ve gift-wrapped the excuse for them.

Shifting blame and shirking responsibility is as old as sin. Adam did it first when he sidestepped culpability in the garden–and he wasn’t even a teenager (Genesis 3:12). “It’s not my fault; it’s her fault.” And then he went even further and said “It’s the woman You gave me.” Adam was shameless enough to claim his sin was God’s fault.

Teenagers walk a similar path of unreasoning when they disavow responsibility. “I’m just a teenager.” Who does that blame? It implicitly points the finger at God. It’s almost as if they said, “God is in control of how old I am, and since He has me in this stage of life as an adolescent, He can’t hold me responsible.” They also take that to mean no one else can either.

But here is the crucial question: when a teenager disobeys God, is it a lesser offense in God’s sight? Is the penalty for adolescent sin more along the lines of purgatory rather than eternal death? No. God’s law opens no loopholes for teenagers. His standard remains perfection for all His creatures, including those who are still growing. We may be slow to hold teens responsible morally and spiritually; God is not. Church leaders, especially those of us who are parents or youth pastors, do young people no favors by failing to prepare them for God’s judgment.

Categories
Lies Teens Believe

An Addendum on ADD

One of the compelling issues in the adolescence, ADD, and ADHD phenomena is the possibility of genetic or hormonal causation. We are told that if it can be scientifically determined that certain actions or attitudes are inherent in a person’s physical make-up, then we are obligated to consider their behavior normal and should remove moral responsibility from the discussion. After all, if they can’t help it, we shouldn’t expect it.

One of my points in the original post is that most of the deviant behavior diagnosed by doctors in adolescents has nothing to do with biology or endocrinology. Instead it is entirely related to hamartiology–the study of sin. And though I tried to state my case carefully, acknowledging the possibility of certain physical conditions that affect one’s conduct, a few additional or clarifying thoughts came to mind.

First, the Bible indefatigably reveals that sin is the dominant human problem, that sin originates from within our own hearts, that sin has a commanding influence on our behavior, and that we are morally responsible to God for our sin. Scripture holds us accountable, not others, our circumstances, our upbringing, our DNA, or anything other than the passions of our flesh. Since teenagers are human (some may still be waiting for medical confirmation on that one), their supreme trouble is sin.

But second, even if someday doctors do discover a biological basis for inattentiveness, laziness, rebellion, etc., that will not change our accountability before God.

I think there is a striking similarity between this subject and the argument for normalizing homosexuality. My wife has made this point in personal conversations for many years, and earlier this month Albert Mohler published a foundational article at his blog on the connection between moral responsibility and biological causation. As scientists look for “genetic or hormonal cause for sexual orientation,” see if some of Mohler’s take-away points don’t apply equally to the “genetic or hormonal cause for teenage disobedience” discussion. He encourages “Christians who are committed to think in genuinely Christian terms” to “think carefully about these points:”

1. There is, as of now, no incontrovertible or widely accepted proof that any biological basis for sexual orientation exists.

3. Given the consequences of the Fall and the effects of human sin, we should not be surprised that such a causation or link is found. After all, the genetic structure, along with every other aspect of creation, shows the pernicious effects of the Fall and of God’s judgment.

4. The biblical condemnation of all homosexual behaviors would not be compromised or mitigated in the least by such a discovery. The discovery of a biological factor would not change the Bible’s moral verdict on homosexual behavior.

9. We must stop confusing the issue of moral responsibility and moral choice. We are all responsible for our sexual orientation, but that does not mean that we freely and consciously choose that orientation. … We do not always (or even generally) choose our temptations. Nevertheless, we are absolutely responsible for what we do with sinful temptations, whatever our so-called sexual orientation.

10. Christians must be very careful not to claim that science can never prove a biological basis for sexual orientation. We can and must insist that no scientific finding can change the basic sinfulness of all homosexual behavior.

So Christians who identify sin as the problem and the sinner as responsible do not need to fear the future discoveries of science and medicine. Even if biological factors are found in sexual orientation, teenage rebellion, or any other kind of temptation for that matter, personal culpability for sin is not removed. The Bible exhorts us to rebuke sin as sin–even in teenagers–and urge them to repentance and to consider themselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

UPDATE [7:53AM March 15]: The original post by Mohler is still making waves, upsetting both conservatives and liberals as seen at The Christian Post (HT: Challies). Again, Mohler is not saying that there is a biological cause for homosexuality, he says if a connection is eventually pinpointed, it still won’t change the person’s moral responsibility to God for breaking His law.

Categories
Lies Teens Believe

Teenagers Are Incompetent

Today we’ll address the first of the six lies of adolescence. Remember, by the name “adolescence” we are not simply referring to the biological changes that take place in a person over a small period of time (i.e., puberty). In our culture the word is more than a convenient catalog of the days, months, and years of being a teen. Adolescence refers to a mindset, and now an entire sub-culture, that has been established by certain lies that need to be laid bare.

1. Teenagers are incompetent.

The first lie of adolescence says teens are not quite competent, in some ways not really complete humans. Thomas Hine said, “The concept of the teenager rests…on the idea of the adolescent as a not quite competent person, beset by stress and hormones” (The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager, p.4). Someone who is “incompetent” is a person who fails to have or show the necessary skills to do something. This lie presumes that teenagers don’t yet have the necessary skills for life. The church version of the lie maintains teens do not have the wisdom or ability for spiritual life.

To be sure, growth and maturity is a process. There is no reason to expect teens will have the wisdom and competence that they will when they are 30, 50, or 70. But the lie of adolescence implies that because teens are not as mature as they will be someday, it is okay for them to remain childish. Many parents defend their child’s incompetence like it is a right while others even insist that it is unreasonable to expect them to grow up!

This low expectation has far reaching consequences. Because we believe the lie that teenagers are incompetent we don’t expect them to be responsible, so we don’t give them responsibility, and the downward spiral is perpetuated. We’re not surprised when they fail. We anticipate their excuses. And now even medical doctors are dispensing excuses for their incompetence.

For example, one diagnosis of teenage incompetence comes in the form of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). ADHD is a behavioral disorder found mostly in boys that renders them incapable of paying attention for any significant length of time. Those with ADHD are easily distracted and physically incapable of sitting still. Currently, ADHD is understood to be “a persistent and chronic syndrome for which no medical cure is available.”

There have been some very excellent advances in medicine and technology in our day. Of course, some of those advances have enabled us to become really good at packaging our bologna. ADHD may just be old bologna in new packaging. When I was growing up, failing to pay attention was called rude, and 1 Corinthians 13:5 exposes rudeness as a lack of love. Getting low grades in school didn’t mean that you had a disorder, it typically meant that you were sluggard. Proverbs 6:6-11 clearly designates laziness as a moral problem, not a medical disorder.

I am not denying that there are legitimate disabilities that make it difficult for some people to learn and that may even make it hard for some people to sit still. In fact, I don’t love sitting still for long periods of time. Maybe I have adult ADHD (which of course is now a sanctioned diagnosis from medical professionals). But isn’t it obvious what happened? The kids diagnosed with ADHD grew up and, low and behold, it didn’t go away. But the reason their inability to pay attention didn’t go away is because it’s not an adolescent problem, it’s a heart problem.

For the majority of young people, hyperactive behavior, unwillingness to pay attention, habitual forgetfulness, etc., is just plain selfish. Selfishness says that my plans and what I want to do with my time are more important than what you want me to do. Not paying attention to someone else has more to do with focusing on yourself (cf. Philippians 2:3-5). That is selfishness and pride, not a disorder. Selfishness is a sin.

The lie of certain adolescent incompetence paints a pathetic picture of teens. But to believe that every teen is incompetent ignores thousands of years of capable and accomplished young adults. Consider David the shepherd boy as he defeated the giant, Daniel the exile who stood up to the Babylonian king, Mary the young mother of the Messiah, and even Jesus Himself as a young man in the temple confounding the wisdom of the Scribes. The Bible specifically exhorts young people, “Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but be an example of the believer” (1 Timothy 4:12). Scripture assumes teens are capable of spiritual competence with the Spirit’s help.

Of course, saying that teens are incompetent not only casts an ugly shadow on teens but it also calls God’s competence into question. Is adolescent incompetence so powerful God cannot overcome it? Or does He just not care about teenagers to begin with? We must press to this final point of trusting God at His Word and looking for His grace in our young people. Buying into the cultural lie that adolescents cannot be spiritually empowered to live wisely merely reveals a deeper problem, namely a belief that God cannot or will not use our teens for His own glory.

Categories
Lies Teens Believe

The Birth of Adolescence

In 1904, G. Stanley Hall published a book titled, Adolescence: It’s Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion and Education. Regardless of our opinion on his title, this is the first documented writing on adolescence. Let that sink in. The first time someone delineated adolescence as its own stage of development was 1904. Similarly, the term “teenager” was first published in the magazine Popular Science, but not until 1941.

The thesis of Hall’s book and his assumption about adolescence is that everyone between the ages of thirteen and eighteen is in a constant state of turmoil. Life is stormy for every teenager, a constant series of crisis and violent reactions. And this presupposition was based on his belief in evolution. The backbone of his argument was the evolutionary process, where through a sequence of events an organism passes by degrees to a different stage. Thomas Hine summarized Hall’s argument as,

The development of the individual mirrors the evolution of the species as a whole. He saw the adolescent as a savage, prone to violent, disruptive, impulsive behavior. The good news was that, just as humanity evolved to a higher form, adolescents will grow out of their savagery….[T]he optimism inherent in the notion that adolescence is something you’ll eventually grow out of does survive. (p.36)

So first, the idea of adolescence is based on the faulty assumptions of evolution. And second, the idea itself has only been around for 100 years!

Of course, Thomas Edison didn’t get his patent for the light bulb until 1889. I say that because I recognize just because something is relatively new in history doesn’t automatically make it invalid or unacceptable. New and helpful discoveries are frequently made. But it is also important to recognize that adolescence is not a timeless category, it is a modern invention and in this case, being “new” is not in favor of it’s being true.

But the biggest problem is not that adolescence is a new idea, it is that the idea of adolescence is unbiblical. The purpose of this entire series is to expose the origin of the lies of adolescence while also providing a more positive biblical approach with examples of young people from the Old and New Testaments. It will also address the impact of adolescence on youth ministry and offer more specific counsel to youth pastors.

Before we do that I need to share a few qualifiers. First, please understand that I have no intention to attack particular individuals, churches, or parachurches. But I do have a strong desire to assault false ideologies. An ideology is an orientation, a bent that characterizes the thinking of a group of people. And adolescence is just that. It is a social invention, an artificial concept, a lie. It is a myth that wrongly dominates the mindsets in our families, our schools, our society, and our churches and it must be challenged with truth.

Second, there is no denial that growth is a process. I happily acknowledge that the changes in a person’s life, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, are progressive and gradual. Incremental maturity is seen in small stages or steps that are followed by still more stages and steps.

But even though normal growth is gradual, gradual growth is still growth! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a child doesn’t become an adult overnight, but that is not the same thing as giving a person a free pass from pursuing maturity and responsibility because that person is a teenager.

I also make no denial that most teenagers act like…teenagers. The world and the church are filled with 12-20 year olds with adolescent mindsets. What I deny is that this is how it has always been and how it must be. I believe we have created this context and it only continues because we keep giving it credence. Ideas have consequences and the consequences of believing the lies of adolescence are no myth, they are very real. We in the church must work to change our collective thinking as God’s community before we will see any change.

Let me also say that I am thankful for God’s patience with me, and a rejection of adolescence is not equal to an approval of intolerance for or impatience with those who are in the growing process. My challenge is to those who argue that adolescence grants them the right to stay stagnant and prolong immaturity and irresponsibility as long as possible.

There is no doubt that the influence of our culture is profound, persistent, and real, but it is largely an act of human imagination. No matter what else you come away with from this series, the purpose of every pastor (and every parent too) is to present every man complete in Christ. The NRSV translates Colossians 1:28, “to present every man mature in Christ.” Whatever age you are, wherever you are on the road of maturity, the goal is always increasing maturity in Christ. Teenagers are no exception.

So, the earth is not flat, and most people have never thought it was. You know what else? Teenagers are not incapable of responsibility or maturity, and most people have never thought they were. To believe otherwise is to believe the lies.