Tuesday, October 25, 2011

LHP Review: Youth, Christianity, and Higher Education


Sawler, David. Before they Say Goodbye: Thoughts on How to Keep This Generation.  Winnipeg, Canada: Word Alive Press, 2011. 235 Pages. Paper. $17.00.  www.beforetheysaygoodbye.com  www.davidsawler.com (LHP)


Ham, Ken and Greg Hall with Britt Beemer. Already Compromised: Christian colleges took a test on the state of their faith and THE FINAL EXAM IS IN. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2011. 240 Pages. Paper. $13.99. www.masterbooks.net  www.answersingenesis.org (LHP)




Youth ministry is often frustrating. So many resources merely embrace the current or next fad. Young people are busy with sports, part-time work, and other interests. And parents sometimes have other priorities to bringing their children to Church or Youth Group. 

In this way, youth ministry is like running a school. You can discipline the children, who often understand what's going on, but you can't really discipline the parents. 

The authors of today's two books give perspective on caring for the next generation of Christians.







We asked ministers, authors, teachers, youth and children’s pastors all over the world this question.

If you could tell a parent, minister, children’s or youth worker one piece of advice to help keep their children and yuth strong in their faith, what would it be?

It is common knowledge that the majority of the children, youth, and young adults who have grown up in the church do not remain.  However, many have been left wondering, ‘What? If anything can we do?’  Before They Say Goodbye is a proactive attempt to answer that question.  David Sawler has put the ideas, advice, and stories from Christian leaders from around the world in a book that will be a benefit to every reader.
We asked ministers, authors, teachers, youth and children’s pastors all over the world this question.

If you could tell a parent, minister, children’s or youth worker one piece of advice to help keep their children and youth strong in their faith, what would it be?

It is common knowledge that the majority of the children, youth, and young adults who have grown up in the church do not remain.  However, many have been left wondering, ‘What? If anything can we do?’  Before They Say Goodbye is a proactive attempt to answer that question.  David Sawler has put the ideas, advice, and stories from Christian leaders from around the world in a book that will be a benefit to every reader. (publisher's website)

I really like the proactive approach. There are no easy answers here. The Introduction gives us the parable of the sower from Luke 8 (xii) to set the proper tone. 

I also appreciated what young people themselves had to say (84). More Scripture, less illiteracy. Less hypocrisy. Get away from the megachurch model, mentorship. I will take objection to the modern unbiblical practice of altar calls and decision theology, but what the young person really wanted, "for the Spirit to move," is part of God's work in Word and Sacrament as we preach and teach the Gospel of Christ. 

In the context of caring for those hurt by the Church, the author of Chapter 05 briefly discusses infant baptism. I do not agree with how the author comes down on the issue, but I do appreciate the tact, seriousness, and respect with which the issue was handled (98). That helps me hear what is being said.


I applaud the courage and forthrightness of Sawler and his contributors in saying what needs to be said:
  • The idea that hiring professional staff to work with our children and youth means we will retain our youth is false (20).
  • As we raise our children (both naturally and spiritually), we need to let them understand that there are things we do because we are Christians. While this can [and should] include going to services, it must go beyond that into everyday practice (56).
  • Spiritual adoption means that we invite new and young believers not only into our church programs, but also into our lives (77).
  • The gospel is Good News because God is doing what we never could do. It is Good News not just to those perishing, but also to those who are now in our churches (123).
  • Counter-example: I have been told how many went looking for answers, but received non, even in the church. They have been told not to question, just to accept (151).
  • ....we must also address the psychological and social reasons that shape belief and unbelief. If we don't, it may not matter how persuasive our apologetics are (168).
  • At minimum, every church family should continue to follow up, encourage, and keep in touch with its members until they are firmly established in a new location (190).
  • They [a huge number of Christians of all ages] do not associate being a Christian, or their church experience, with "life" at all. Rather, they are more likely to believe it is a lack of life (202).
I happily recommend Before They Say Goodbye as a realistic, honest, forthright, and encouraging help to those struggling with youth ministry.


Authors Ken Ham and Greg Hall tackle the state of Christian colleges and come to some surprising and troubling conclusions. 





Will a Christian college build a student's faith or tear it down?

Parents and students sacrifice large sums of money for a Christian college education. Why? They are purchasing a guarantee their child's faith in God and the Bible will be guarded and developed. But is the Bible being taught? Will they graduate believing in the inerrancy of Scripture, the Flood of Noah's Day, and a literal six day creation?
Apologetics powerhouse Ken Ham and Dr. Greg Hall reveal an eye opening assessment of 200 Christian colleges and universities. In an unprecedented 2010 study by America Research Group, college presidents, religion and science department heads were polled on critical areas of Scripture and core faith questions.
Ken Ham is an accomplished author of some of the most popular and effective apologetics research on the market. He is the founder of Answers in Genesis - U.S. and the president of the Creation Museum. (publisher's website)
Ham and Hall's writing is in a popular style rather than an academic one, much like Already Gone. Sadly, some of America's Christian religious institutions are already gone, too. Some are uncertain of their identity and message. We face a battle for the minds and souls of young Christians in higher education.



Two-dimensional barcodes take the reader to http://creationcolleges.org to show the detailed responses of university presidents, academic deans/vice presidents, and the heads of each institution's science and theology/religion departments. While I think such a study is helpful, it has limitations that affect how helpful its results will be to me as a Lutheran.


Only colleges in agreement with the Answers in Genesis Statement of Faith are commended. Source: http://www.answersingenesis.org/colleges/all/

Bible Institutes

  • Jackson Hole Bible College (Jackson Hole, WY)
  • Grace Baptist Bible College (Winston Salem, NC)
  • Frontier School of the Bible (La Grange, WY)
  • Word of Life Bible Institute (Owen Sound, Ontario; Pottersville, NY; Hudson, FL)
  • Piedmont Bible College (Winston-Salem, NC)
  • Kentucky Mountain Bible College (Jackson, KY)
  • The Crown College of the Bible (Powell, TN)
  • Verity Institute (Indianapolis, IN)

Colleges & Universities

Seminaries

As you can see, many have a Baptist background or theological position. I'm not making any derogatory assertions here, just stating fact. 

There are honest differences between Bible-believing Lutherans (in the LCMS, my church body-NOT the ELCA) and Bible-believing Baptists. Knowing the theological position/biases of the authors is important. 

Those of us in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are well aware of work that needs to be done in-house in our Concordia Universities and Colleges. Our seminaries are top notch. And the LCMS is one of a very small number of church bodies that officially hold to a real 24-hour-day 7-day creation!


What does this book reveal? Watch the YouTube preview:
 


I recommend Already Compromised as a resource for Christian pastors, congregations, and parents to help prepare children for college (and junior high and high school). It is so sad that the secularization of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth is repeating itself in our day. 


How should the book be used in our midst? 

Read the official Questionnaire in Appendix D (228ff). Visit institutions that you are thinking about attending. Ask the questions yourself of the faculty there. Do your own research. Compare the answers you hear to Scripture and the recommended acceptable answers. Involve your pastor in the process. 


Use this book to learn about historical criticism of the Bible and the JEDP false teaching. Learn about apologetics and worldview. Teach your young people about the dangers of political correctness. And begin early. Answer their questions. Use realistic art in Sunday School and VBS.


Already Compromised is the beginning of a process, not the end of one. It is one tool that can be used to answer the question: Will a Christian college build a student's faith or tear it down? That question could and should be asked at every educational step.


It is often said that our young people are the future of the Church. And while that statement is true, it is misleadingly incomplete. All the baptized are part of the Church NOW! They deserve the best education their parents can give them at every stage, whether that is at home, a Christian school, a private school, or a public school. Parents need to reclaim their "Honor your father and your mother" mantle as the first and primary teachers of their own children so that errors in doctrine and worldview are handled early and often so that their children receive a Christian education.




Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.