The Church

3 Ways to Guarantee Teens Leave Your Church

Last week I was on Unlocking the Bible (the blog of pastor and author Colin Smith) with this tongue-in-cheek piece on how to get teens out of your church.

Does your church like teenagers?

Most would answer a hearty and enthusiastic, “Of course!” Why else are you buying all that pizza, offering all those programs, and doing everything you can to teach and care for your teens? You want to keep them in church.

But lurking in many hearts is a different feeling, something churches would never say out loud that simmers silent and deadly below the surface: They actually don’t like young people.

Three Ways to Guarantee Teens Leave the Church

For them, teens are too messy, too moody, too dramatic, too distracting, too obsessive, and too immature. The problems, sins, and struggles teens deal with are just too much. These churches’ greatest fear isn’t losing their teens; it’s keeping them. Deep down they desperately want to know, “How do I get young people out of the church?”

Fortunately for those churches, I have three sure-fire ways to guarantee young people leave – and don’t come back.

1. Teach them spiritual milk, not meat.

If you want to push young people away, don’t go deep with them. Avoid theology. Stay with the superficial, the fluffy, and the familiar. Teach them the story of David and Goliath—but make the point about facing our personal giants, instead of God working for His glory. Preach moralism, niceness, and how to be a good citizen, with a Jesus twist. Then, when life gets difficult and they experience trials, their skin-deep spirituality will fail them, and they will leave the church.

Teach them what to believe, but not why they believe it. Tell them God exists, that he’s in control of everything, that Jesus rose from the dead, but give them no foundation for those truths. Skirt Scripture, discourage questions and healthy discussion, and exalt feelings. Then, when teens enter the real world and encounter challenges to the gospel, their shaky faith will crumble and they will leave the church.

Whatever you do, don’t teach them about sin. But if you must, keep to the big ones – murder, adultery, grand theft auto. Teens’ self-esteem is fragile, so do all you can to preserve it. Avoid talking about lust, loving their enemies, showing humility on social media, modesty, or other touchy teen subjects. Then, when they’re faced with the temptation to be exactly like the world, they’ll naturally give in – and leave the church.

The Conference I'm Going To in December

Yesterday registration opened for a conference I have been looking forward to for months. It's CROSS.

In 2013, this student missions conference hosted their first conference in Louisville, Kentucky (which I live-streamed from my basement in Halifax). Then, a year and a half ago they held a one-night simulcast, and, after watching it, I wrote about it here. But this December they're hosting a full four-day conference in Indianapolis, and I couldn't be more excited to attend in person this time.

From December 27-30, dozens of godly men (like John Piper, David Platt, and Kevin DeYoung) and a few godly women will speak to thousands of college-aged kids about the global cause of Christ. Musicians Trip Lee and Matt Boswell will lead worship, and Dad and I will soak it all in.

This is what the website says about CROSS:

"CROSS aims to mobilize students for the most dangerous and loving cause in the universe: rescuing people from eternal suffering and bringing them into the everlasting joy of knowing and worshipping Jesus.

CROSS is not a church. It is not a new campus ministry. It is not an offshoot of any existing ministry, as thankful as we are for so many likeminded movements and organizations. The aim of CROSS is simpler and more focused: We are a conference that, we pray, may be used of God to mobilize students in the cause of frontier missions for the glory of Jesus Christ. That’s our passion, our purpose."

Something tells me you'll be hearing more from me about this conference as it draws closer and especially once I've attended. After going to TGCWC last month with 7,000 other women, I'm pretty psyched to attend a conference full of passionate Christian guys and girls my age. I'm eager to hear truth preached and see the glory of Christ lifted up in light of the call of gospel work. 

And I am now counting down the days: 153 sleeps until CROSS.

If You Want to Know About the Persecuted Church, Watch This

As I mentioned last week, I was privileged to attend The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference in Indianapolis from June 16-18. My mind is still flipping and flopping with all the heavy truths, rich worship, and striking joy I encountered, and a post is brewing in my mind on all that the experience was for me.

One of the most unexpected moments of blessing and enlightenment came during a panel on the persecuted church. Led by Nancy Guthrie, four people sat on it: D.A. Carson, K.A. Ellis, Mindy Belz, and Nastaran Farahani. Together they discussed the persecuted church. It was horrible and wonderful all at once. The persecution they talked about was horrible, but the hope they highlighted was wonderful.

Take just an hour out of your day and watch (or listen to) this deeply moving and enlightening panel.

*Also, all the media from TGCW16 is now available here. You can watch every plenary session and listen to every breakout.

There's Always More to Learn

Always. There is always more to learn.

One of the most poisonous, anti-biblical, anti-intellectual ideas in the world (and especially evangelicalism) is that you don't need to be taught. The Bible presents human knowledge as incomplete. No Christian has everything figured out. There is always more to learn and room to grow. 

How We Learn
Right now I'm taking a course on the background, nature, and purpose of the Gospels. While I was at first a little ambivalent about taking it, Dad encouraged me to sign up. "You need to keep learning," he told me. Currently I'm in the fourth week and unit of the course and am delighting in soaking up fresh, new truths. I'm delighting in learning.

That's also why I decided to take Tim Challies' reading challenge this year; they help me learn. Books are profound teachers, sometimes shockingly eye-opening and other times subtly gentle. They're catalysts for my growth.

Why We Learn
In his marvelous book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney lists learning as a spiritual discipline. In an article about this subject, he writes:

The Christian life not only begins with learning, it proceeds through a process of lifelong learning. This includes deeper discoveries of intimacy with God, an ever-growing grasp of the Bible and its doctrines, a greater awareness of our sin, an increased knowledge of the person and work of Christ, further implications of what it means to follow Him, and more. 

Learning is an utter necessity for the Christian. But, as Dr. Whitney also says, "To emphasize learning as essential to following Jesus is not advocacy for egghead Christianity. Like Jesus, we want both a heart for God and a head for God." 

Absolutely. We want to both learn and love God. 

But these aren't divorced ideas, as if one really does happen in the organ of our heart and the other happens up in the goo of our brain. Learning and loving are interconnected. Learning should be an expression and a fuel for love. Love is the motivation and the fire. Learning is a precious tool, and love is its fruit. 

The End of Our Learning
Some Christians think that when they die, there will be no more learning. All at once ... boom. They'll know it all. No more studying, reading, or listening. But this idea can be found nowhere in Scripture. In fact, it seems to present the opposite. Only God is omniscient, and that's not an attribute He will share with us. It's like His omnipotence. We won't be all-powerful after our death. Why would we be all-knowing then? 

Sure, we'll know more things and we'll know things more fully, but even after death, I believe we'll keep learning.

So there really is always more to learn. It's an idea for today and for eternity. It's not a burden but a blessing, a gift. Take joy in learning, and let that motivate your love for the source of all truth and knowledgeGod Himself. 

The Root of All Saving Christianity

J.C. Ryle was an Anglican bishop and the author of the stunning work, Holiness

I'm only a few chapters deep into Holiness but am finding myself constantly struck and convicted and moved and blown away by what I'm reading. These paragraphs are from his chapter on sin, conveniently titled, "Sin."

The plain truth is that a right understanding of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are "words and names" which convey no meaning to the mind. The first thing, therefore, that God does when He makes anyone a new creature in Christ is to send light into his heart and show him that he is a guilty sinner.

The material creation in Genesis began with "light," and so also does the spiritual creation. God "shines into our hearts" by the work of the Holy Spirit and then spiritual life begins (2 Cor. 4:6). Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies and false doctrines of the present day. If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul's disease, you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies.

I believe that one of the chief wants of the contemporary church has been, and is, clearer, fuller teaching about sin.

One Mom's Journey Into Foster Care

Did you know that May is National Foster Care Month?

We have a foster mom in our church who never fails to amaze me by her sacrificial service to the kids she takes in. Reading about foster parenting is always so heartrending, I can't imagine what it's like for the moms and dads who do it. 

Today at Randy Alcorn's blog, there's a wonderful piece by an active foster mom. Why don't you check it out?

I have not given one back yet. At least not one that I have had for more than a few days, one that I have fallen in love with. Friends tell me you cry the day you find out they are leaving, and you cry the day they leave. Then you start all over again, fall in love again, say goodbye again. Sometimes I wonder if I will be able to do it, give them back, but of course I will, whether or not I think I can. This is what I signed up for. This is foster care.

I cannot remember what exactly brought foster care to the forefront of my mind, but in a mind like mine, when something comes to the front, it gets stuck there. So I read about it, talked about it, prayed about it, and I became compelled to do something.

I was compelled by the stories of children, just like mine, living right across town from me who were hurt, starved, raped, ignored. I was compelled by the statistics that predict these kids’ futures: jail, pregnancy, homelessness, further abuse. I was compelled by admitting what is true: God created them, loves them, values them, and died for them, just like He did for me and my own children. Ultimately, I was compelled by the most compelling thing: the fact that I, too, was rescued. These kids were just like me: helpless, hopeless, fatherless.

So, that was it. I had to do something. But my husband and I are a team; we do “somethings” together. And so began the months of talking, praying, and struggling through what this something was. We know God loves orphans, we know God wants us to love orphans, but does that mean we have to upend our happy “one-boy one-girl, all we ever wanted” family to love them?

3 Ways You Can Serve Teenagers In Your Church

I'm over on The Gospel Coalition today with this article on teenagers, church-members, and service.

Some think teenagers are precious works in progress, and others are overwhelmed by their messiness. Many church members think serving teenagers is a lot like serving babies: there are those who have the “gift” of youth ministry, and those who simply don’t.

And let’s be honest—teenagers can be messy. I’m a teenager, and I admit that. We aren’t always the easiest to serve. Even those of us following Jesus are still young, inexperienced, and have much to learn. We’re in a different stage of life than any other church member, and so it can be difficult to relate to our persistent challenges, struggles, and questions.

But whether you know it or not, the teenagers in your church need you. They need the whole church—pastor, stay-at-home mom, single, married, retired—to love and welcome them as fellow members of the family.

Over my 18 years in the church, I’ve seen three ways every church member can (and should) serve their teenagers: by getting to know us, by not underestimating us, and by teaching us. 

Why the Church Is Vitally Important for Every Christian

Stephen J. Nichols writes:

Mention the church to a group of Christians and you are likely to get a mixed response. Some might say that, while they do love Jesus, they don’t love the church. Others might respond, “Of course we love the church.”

God has ordained the church, a fellowship of the flawed, to carry out his purpose and will in the world. When we consider the biblical teaching on the church, we realize the church is vitally important for growing in Christ. Like a branch that grows because of its connection to the tree, we thrive when we stay connected to the church.

To explore this issue, it is necessary to consider what the Bible says about the church.

Before we can look at what the New Testament (NT) teaches about the church, we first need to see what the Old Testament (OT) says about life and worship.

God instructed Moses to build a tabernacle—a portable tent that represented the presence of God dwelling right in the middle of his people. The tabernacle and later the temple were the places where God ordained the sacrifices to be carried out and the festivals to be celebrated. The tabernacle and temple functioned as the central place of instruction and teaching about God and his will for Israel. From the tabernacle and temple, Israel sounded forth loud and joyful psalms of praise and worship to God.

The instructions for building the tabernacle required it to be at the center of Israel’s encampments. Later, Jerusalem, the site of the temple, was seen as representing the center of the land of Israel. The tabernacle and temple were not only to be viewed as the geographical center of Israel; they were also intended to be the spiritual center of Israel. Like spokes of a wheel that fan out from the hub, what occurred at these worship centers was to affect every aspect of Israelite life.

The church did not officially come into existence until the day of Pentecost, after Jesus had died and had risen. However, even in the Gospels we learn many things from Christ concerning the church.

Read the rest here.

Why I Need You (And You Need Me)

There is something innate to our humanity that fears loneliness, some drive that puts us in people's way. Even the greatest introvert among us loves to be with her family and treasures contact with her closest friends.

That's why I cried during Castaway. There was something so heartbreaking about a man lost in isolation - a man who needed community so desperately that he painted a volleyball, named it Wilson, and talked to it like a friend.

Physically, he could survive alone. But not emotionally, not mentally.

Our desire for community was God-given. Back in the beginning, when the world was paradise and its inhabitants vegetarians and one man named Adam lived, God said: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him" (Genesis 2:18 ESV). And He made Eve.

We were made for people, to do life with others, to love and be loved, to laugh together and cry and talk and just be together.

The thing is, our need for community betrays our lack of autonomy. We frequently fool ourselves into believing a vain lie that we are totally self-sufficient creatures - that we don't need anyone, that we have the power to survive on our own.

But our desire for community reminds us that we are needy people. We are dependent creatures. And this need reminds us that we don't just need people; we need God.

He created us for community in His image; we were made to reflect Him as a relational being. Our relationships with people remind us that the God who created me and you and the sunshine and stars and the mountains and laughter and smiles and everything our eyes can take in - everything beautiful - He wants a relationship with us, His people.

That's why I don't want to be alone. I was not made for isolation, for a burlap robe and a hermitage in the wilderness. I was created for community, to reflect my relationship with the greatest Being in the universe in all my interactions with smaller, imperfect, God-created beings in my universe.

People need people. And that ultimately reflects our need for God.

Photo courtesy of Dave B and Flickr Creative Commons.

Please Don't Fall Asleep in Church

God's Word is sufficient for everything in our lives - to guide us and lead us and teach us and act as a standard by which we are to live.

But God has also given us the church to help interpret His Word through preaching and edify and foster community among His people. He knows the weakness of our own hearts.

John Calvin suggests that the church gives us "eternal helps."

"But as our ignorance and sloth (I may add, the vanity of our mind) stand in need of eternal helps, by which faith may be begotten in us, and may increase and make progress until its consummation, God, in accommodation to our infirmity, has added such helps, and secured the effectual preaching of the gospel, by depositing this treasure with the church" (Calvin, trans. Henry Beveridge,  Institutes IV, i, 1, p. 672).

Have you ever considered how blessed we are to have the church? How lonely, how sinful we would be without it?

The church is endowed with "treasure," Calvin says - the treasure of the gospel. When the pastor stands behind the pulpit and delivers a sound message from God's Word, that is a gift of God to His people.

In The Pilgrim's Progress, Christian was travelling to the Celestial City, but he would have failed many times if not for the Evangelist. The Evangelist came to him more than once to preach the truth to him and to lead him away from trouble. The Evangelist didn't save Christian; what the Evangelist preached did. And Christian was eternally grateful for how the King saved and corrected him through the Evangelist.

Please don't fall asleep in church. Please don't harbor bitterness against God's people. Please go to church.

We've still got a long way until we're home, but God's church has been equipped to offer us eternal helps. Take them. And rejoice in them.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Art4TheGlryOfGod.

5 Ways to Make God's Name Famous

God takes His name seriously. That's why we have the third commandment:

"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain" (Ex. 20:7).

We must - with no exception - use God's name with the honor that it deserves. A part of that means making it famous, bringing glory to Him by spreading His name.

That's what we talked about in Sunday School yesterday. My dad offered five ways to make God's name famous.

1. By calling upon His name (Acts 2:21).
We honor His name as holy by recognizing that it is the only thing that can save us. He is Savior; we are not.

2. By telling people that there is no other name by which they can be saved (Acts 4:12).
We honor His name as holy by recognizing that there is power only in His name. And we expressly tell the world that so that they can share our hope.

3. By preaching and teaching in Jesus' name (Acts 4:18). 
We not only evangelize but we also take the time to systematically teach others the gospel by relying on the authority of Jesus.

4. By suffering in Jesus' name (Acts 5:41; 1 Pet. 4:16)
We show the world our allegiance to His name when we suffer for the gospel. We show His sufficiency; He is truly all that we need.

5. By living in worship and obedience to God so that Jesus' name is exalted in our lives (Acts 11:26).
Ultimately, how we live our lives should make His name famous. We should be modelling to the world that His name is exalted in our lives.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Justin Vern.

How to Pray for Africa

I am stoked that in three weeks I get to see Conrad Mbewe preach live. Nicknamed "the African Spurgeon," I am sure it will be soul-stirring and deeply edifying. (If you're in the Halifax area, visit here for more information.)

In the video below, Mbewe gives North American believers some practical advice on praying for Africa. I know that this will motivate me to pray for this vast continent more and give me wisdom on how to do that.

I Want a Diverse Church

Right now I am embroiled in a brand new course on elements of intercultural communication. As I read through the first chapter in my textbook, I was struck by an essay on globalization and homogenized unity and, in particular, this quote:

Harmony is predicated on diversity and difference. The opposite of harmony is sameness. The "great unity" is diametrically opposed to homogenized unity. The greatness of the "great unity" lies in its convergence, confluence, integration and harmonization of different colors, sounds, tastes and experiences. Harmony embraces difference. Without difference, harmony is impossible. If we do not mix spices, we cannot make tasty soup. Without different sounds, there is no music. Without different colors, there are no paintings. (Intercultural Communications: A Reader. Samovar, Porter, and McDaniel, p. 75).

And that reminded me of the church.

The community of God's people is not a robot factory. We are not conformed to a static sense of sameness. We are different - different ages, different colors, different shapes and sizes, with different personalities and tastes and voices. We are diverse.

But we are unified. We are in harmony together because we share one bond that transcends any peripheral dissimilarities. We are united around Christ, and so we can embrace our differences. There is in fact beauty in diversity.

So celebrate the differences in your church, but rejoice in your harmony. For we are all one and the same in Christ Jesus.

7 Ways to "Hold Fast"

In Philippians 2:16, Christians are called to "hold fast" to the Word of God. Theoretically we may understand that, but practically? In my dad's sermon yesterday, he highlighted seven ways that Christians can hold fast to the Bible. May you be encouraged, convicted, and motivated anew by this list.

1. We hear the Word of God (Eph. 1:13).
2. We read and apply it (1 Thess. 2:13).
3. We study and interpret it carefully (2 Tim. 2:15).
4. We meditate on and memorize it (Col. 3:16).
5. We are taught it (Gal. 6:6).
6. We speak it (Phil. 1:14).
7. We love it (Titus 2:5).

Hear his full sermon here.

"The State of Theology" in America Today

Yesterday Ligonier Ministries published an infographic of the findings of a recent study, titled, "The State of Theology." This study is important for a variety of reasons; first, because our theology impacts every area of our lives. It shapes and drives us as humans. A.W. Tozer's oft-quoted line rings dead true: "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." Second, this study better equips us for evangelism. Furthermore, it gives us better insight into America's religiosity and what the majority of our culture believes, as well as the majority of Evangelical Protestants. 

With sobering statistics, it sheds a slice of light on the theological convictions of Americans today. And the results aren't pretty.

There are six categories in the study: God, sin, heaven and hell, pluralism, ethics, and the church. The results consistently show a taming of God, a minimizing of (or disbelief in) sin, a belief in heaven but not in hell, a resounding advocate for pluralism, poor ethics, and a dark misunderstanding of the role of the church in society.

The conclusion of the study reads like this:

Our culture is anti-theological - we are in a new dark age.

"These responses show that we have a true mission for the church, to help the church think through and proclaim these doctrines." - R.C. Sproul  

The state of theology is more important than we realize. Dr. Sproul has said often, "Everyone's a theologian." This study demonstrates the stunning gap in theological awareness throughout our nation, in our neighborhoods, and even in the seat next to us at church.

Read the results of the study for yourself here.

Image Credit:

Study: American Public Thinks Religion's Influence is Waning

The article below is a little different from what I usually post at It highlights a study done by the Pew Research Center about the influence of religion in the sphere of politics in the United States (which I think has a lot of impact on Canadians). There are some important takeaways from it that Joe Carter points out well. A few of them include:

Nearly three-quarters of Americans (72 percent) now say that religion is losing influence in American life, with 56 percent of the public as a whole saying it is a “bad thing” that religion is losing sway in the U.S.

One-third (34 percent) of evangelicals say it has become more difficult to be an evangelical Christian in the U.S.

The public is now evenly divided on the question of whether churches and other houses of worship should express their views on day-to-day social and political questions: 49 percent say they should do this, while 48 percent say churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters.  

Read the rest here.

The Gospel: A Review

The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Ray Ortlund is a book that is at once the same, yet different. There are many books on the gospel, some good and some terribly bad. But The Gospel is different than any other book. Ortlund shows, first, the beauty of the gospel in a simple, biblical way - without extra trappings or flashy stories. But he then connects the gospel to the church (particularly the local church) and shows how it creates a gospel culture within our churches.

This book is another title in the ministry 9Marks' series on the nine marks of a healthy church. At the beginning of The Gospel, Ortlund explains the purpose of this book:

The purpose of this book, then, is simple. I want to show how Christ puts his beauty into our churches by his gospel. That explains the title of this book: The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ. Beauty is powerful. ... We possess, in the gospel alone, God's wonder-working resources for the display of Christ among us. And as you read, I hope you find yourself thrilled with the beauty of Christ. That's my ultimate goal.

But what is the gospel? Chapter one, titled "The Gospel for You," is focused on John 3:16 and unpacks this familiar verse phrase by phrase. It succinctly yet robustly explains fully what the gospel means for the individual. Ortlund says it like this:

God, through the perfect life, atoning death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, rescues all his people from the wrath of God into peace with God, with a promise of the full restoration of his created order forever - all to the praise of the glory of his grace.

The second chapter is called "The Gospel for the Church" and is focused on Ephesians 5:25 (scroll over the reference to see the verse) and explains how "the doctrine of grace creates a culture of grace where good things happen to bad people." The third chapter, "The Gospel for Everything" is on Revelation 21:5 and focuses on the "bigness" of the gospel and how it impacts our future.

The fourth chapter shifts into exploring further implications of the gospel - "specifically, what does the gospel create in this present world that wasn't here before?" Chapter five is titled "It Isn't Easy, But It is Possible" and is framed around Galatians 2:14 and the difficulties of creating a gospel culture within the church. "What We Can Expect" is chapter six and is based on the encouraging verses of 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 as Ortlund asks, "As our churches press further into gospel doctrine and gospel culture, what can we expect to see?" In the final chapter, "Our Path Forward," Ortlund wraps everything up with Revelation 14:4,

"They follow the Lamb wherever he goes."

He ends by pointing out three treasures the church should reach for: power, courage, and love.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The Gospel is a book that any church member should try to get their hands on. It will make you love your church better, but more importantly, it will draw your eyes to Christ to make you love him better. This Bible is centralized in this book, Christ glorified, and the church magnified. What more can you ask for in a book?

Buy The Gospel here.

*I received a copy of this book from Crossway through their Beyond the Page review system. I was not required to give a positive review

Image Credit:

Welcome to the Culture of Youth

I have grown up in a culture that trumpets a strange theme: young is the ideal and old is an insult. This theme is deeply entrenched among the mires of the images and beliefs the culture transmits to me. Media shouts it from the roof tops, both explicitly and obviously implicitly. The workplace tells me. The government tells me. Simply put - this culture places an overwhelming devaluation on age.

I don't think I could ever count all of the anti-aging products sold at a cosmetics shop, or how many Ellen DeGeneres Cover Girl commercials I see on TV. This culture is obsessed with youth. Why do you think calling someone "young" is at the height of compliments, while calling someone "old" is offensive and tactless? This culture, unlike most in the past, values young over old.

Now make no mistake - the physical effects of aging are no blessing. They're a curse, one which resulted from the Fall. But the underlying maturity and intense societal value of those older in age is a blessing that no young person can have. Yet culture mocks. With an obsession over looks, the remarkable role that the elderly play in our society is brushed aside. Young people are prettier than old people - so in the eyes of this culture, that somehow makes young people better.

I began this post by calling this cultural theme strange. And it is. This idea has only become mainstream in the last few hundred years, and compared to the Bible, it is shown to ring sharply false.

Over and over throughout the Scriptures, we see the model of the old training and teaching the young (e.g., see Paul's counsel in Titus 2:1-10 and Solomon's (among others) wisdom in Proverbs and Song of Solomon). The older generations are given the greater tasks and responsibilities, and the young are meant to watch them, learn from them, and grow because of them. The older are the wiser and the more godly; the younger the more foolish and spiritually immature. That is the way the world works. Yet in God's economy that doesn't make the old necessarily better as people than the young. We are all of equal value and inherent dignity in God's sight.

That is how God designed it - older should be greater in wisdom and spiritual maturity and the younger should respect and grow from them.

"Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life." (Proverbs 16:31)

That doesn't mean that there aren't some young people who are wise and mature beyond their years or older people who lack that maturity. But it does mean that with more years comes more wisdom. And we should praise that! We should rejoice with age and celebrate the birthdays that mark more maturity.

But recently I've discovered that this peculiar cultural theme is not always just "out there" in the world; rather it has leaked into the church. May we strongly combat this! Age is not a curse. Scripture shows us that with it comes wisdom and abundant blessings.

This strange cultural theme has had a massive impact on how we (even as Christians) view age. Let's reject this false trap that youth is the ideal and growing older is a curse. May we shun the devaluation of age. May we embrace the ideas presented in Scripture that with age comes blessings and maturity, and may those of us who are still young seek out those older than us and learn from the wisdom that they have

Image Credit:

The Greatest Institution on Earth: Part 5

Why should teens be involved in their local church? That's the question I've been exploring in this series, The Greatest Institution on Earth. Check out the Introduction, Part 1Part 2, and Part 3. As I end this series, know that this list of reasons why teens need the church is by no means exhaustive. Search for more ways and reasons, but in this post I'll look at the fourth and final reason:

4. The church presents an opportunity and foundation for service
There's a widely-believed yet quietly-spoken lie alive in many churches today that teenagers cannot serve in the church. Teenagers are not mature enough, or spiritual enough, or simply responsible enough. And sadly, though I'm attempting to avoid deprecation of my generation, sometimes this is true. There are teens that are immature, worldly, and irresponsible. But the Christian teen should not be so. And if they long to grow closer to Christ, they must be given the opportunity for service in their local church.

This will look different in many different churches, especially based on the size of their church. Bigger churches will have more opportunities, smaller churches less. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It will simply look different.

This will also look different based on teens' areas of interest and gifts. This will change how we approach service. That's not to say that we should never do something we might dislike or may perhaps make us uncomfortable. What is does mean is that God has given us unique strengths and skills, and it should be our desire to joyfully use them to serve the church.

But why service to the church? I mean, teens are busy people! We have all these other institutions that we're involved in - sports, relationships, school, family. Do we need to be serving the church? Can't we be content humbly serving another institution? Is that not "Christian" enough? 

Teens need to serve the church.  Yes, they should be serving their families and teachers, but the church (as I have attempted to explain) is different than any other institution. It's a community of believers. It's also like a family. If teens are serving their families, they know how important that is. Family constitutes a blood bond, but more importantly an emotional bond. Most of us desperately love our families and, as we get older, we see that we have a responsibility to them - that of service. We can repay some of our parents' service to us, and we can strengthen relationships with siblings by serving them. That is how a good family is to operate.

The church is not different - but it is. We are a family, not of blood or emotions, but of a spiritual bond. We are members of Christ's body, and so we are all expected to serve Christ as we serve each other. The Christian adult is not merely allowed to serve; they're encouraged! That's because the New Testament writers of the early church never just commended service; they commanded it! (1 Peter 4:10; Galatians 5:13; Romans 12:10-17) 

Why aren't teens called on to serve then? If we have demonstrated ourselves to be mature and responsible with a genuine faith, I believe that we should be encouraged to serve in the church too. This is the culture of low expectations for teens; our society is pervaded with these ideas that teens cannot and should not be expected to "do hard things." Or even, more responsible or mature things. Yet teens are capable of so much more than these expectations

But how? What are some practical ways that we can serve? As I've said before, this will look different in different churches with different scenarios.Here are just some ideas from personal experience and from my own church:

-- Children's Ministry. Teens have a fantastic opportunity to display the gospel and model Christlike character to those younger than us. This is definitely a specialized interest, and girls may feel more gifted in this than guys. Talk to your children's ministry leaders about possibly helping out at VBS or a weekly kid's ministry.

-- Music. Most churches have a music team(s) that lead congregational singing. There are opportunities for both musicians and singers to participate in this ministry. This obviously relies on some gift and ability, but it can be an excellent way for teens to serve.

-- Tech. This may not seem like much of a ministry, but it absolutely is. Whether it's recording your pastor's sermons or projecting slides onto the screen or adjusting mic volumes, in this day and age, this work is totally necessary. And as young people tend to be more familiar with computers and technology, you can serve some of the older members of your church who struggle to do this on their own.

-- Cleaning/Yard Work. Naturally, this sounds like a pretty unglamourous job. It also depends on the size of your church, whether it's cleaning the whole church or offering to clean out a closet or basement, you may be surprised how much this background service would help someone else out. It also can include cutting the church lawn, washing windows, and shoveling snow. 

-- Senior's Ministry. When we lived in Texas, I had such a neat opportunity to serve in a Friday morning senior's games fellowship and lunch. I got to simply talk to some of the seniors, hear their stories, gain their wisdom, and honour them. I realized how amazing these people really are! Teens can unconsciously adopt the cultural attitude of dishonour toward seniors, yet they have an opportunity to serve them. 

This list is by no means exhaustive. Teens can also serve as ushers, through prayer ministry, hospital visits, or many more opportunities. Look at your own church; see where there is a need for you to serve. And then do it. For the church is a community of servants. So if you are involved, you must serve.

Image Credit: