I realize that it has been a number of weeks since I last posted. I hope everyone had great Christmas and New Year’s holidays. We spent them with family, friends, and food.
In the intervening weeks since the holidays, my husband and I have spent much time evaluating and reevaluating a number of things in our lives, many of which relate to our church. We had been struggling with whether or not we should even think about looking for a new church home for a while now, but we were not making any decisions on this until after the holidays. The state wide youth conference for our denomination took place a couple of weeks ago. And since we teach the middle school class at church and usually chaperone youth events, my husband and I chaperoned the trip. We also chaperoned this same conference last year and were not at all impressed. We chalked it up to a poor choice of speaker and hoped it would be better this year. What we encountered this year disturbed us greatly. We went in with our eyes wide open and listened intently to the message presented to the teens who came from all around the state.
The speaker is a motivational speaker who speaks in public schools about AIDS awareness and abstinence. He lost a wife and baby daughter to AIDS in the 1980s after his wife received contaminated blood in a transfusion, then passed it on to her unborn child. He spoke a lot about sex. I do not necessarily object to this per se, as long as it is presented well and they are given the Biblical reasons for abstinence until marriage. Even sharing statistics about STDs and pregnancy is all right with me. It is important to combat society’s message that everyone has sex with whomever they want and that it is normal. But the way he talked about the topic was inappropriate. Our sixth graders – both boys and girls – described his as “creepy” to us later. He talked about the Garden of Eden, and mentioned Eve being tempted by the serpent…but never mentioned sin. He instead skipped right over that topic and related it instead to sex. He went so far as to say that it was okay to “look at the apple, touch the apple, lust after the apple” just so long as they did not “bite the apple”. He used the word apple as a substitute for sex. We thought maybe he was just playing the devil’s advocate and that he would correct this, but he did not. So it is still the first session, and he is entertaining the kids quite well as a storyteller. He has not mentioned sin, talked a lot about sex, and said that lust is okay (which contradicts what Jesus says about lust in Matthew 5:28-29). When we came home and asked our middle school students what they had gotten out of the weekend, one quoted him verbatim on the above statements about the apple. When we asked her if that was true, she said no, because lust is wrong; this then led to a discussion on the verses mentioned above.
The rest of the conference went on with more of the same: AIDS awareness, feeding the hungry, and sponsor a Compassion child – you can even donate more to help a Compassion child with AIDS receive medicine and food for their whole family. What my husband and I both found to be missing was the Gospel – the message that we are all sinners, that Jesus is the perfect Son of God who came to earth, lived a perfect life, died in our place for our sins, was raised from the dead, and lives eternally in heaven. Sin was never mentioned, nor our need for a savior. They mentioned once that if you wanted to accept Jesus as your savior (without specifying what He can save us from, or what He did for us on the cross), to rededicate your life to God, or just wanted prayer, to come forward. We never once heard the word “sin” mentioned the entire weekend. It was really sad. Here were gathered teenagers from all over the state gathered for the once yearly conference, and we did not even share the truth of the Gospel message with them. My husband and I were both extremely disappointed. Sadly, the new youth pastor, his wife, and the other adult chaperones thought the conference was great. When I mentioned to one of them, after the first session, that the gospel had not been presented, she just stated that maybe that session was just his “hook” to get their attention…that she was sure it would be presented later. I had to ask myself, and my husband had the thought as well, what kind of evangelistic conference does not preach Christ first and foremost? All we heard preached was a social gospel about helping the poor and those with AIDS. We came away with the thought that if this is what our denomination stands for and thinks is important, then maybe we should search for something different.
It has been two weeks since that trip. Benjamin and I have prayed about it and discussed it. We have not quite come to a decision to leave our church yet. Classes have begun at the University and he has a pretty sizeble load this semester, as well as his normal professional day job, and a Saturday job as well. He spoke with the youth pastor today and notified him of his plans to step down from teaching Sunday school classes. He has quite a bit on his plate and it is unfair to the kids if he cannot give more time to preparing, teaching, and chaperoning. This is a hard decision because we have a vested interest in these kids. We both enjoy them and want to see them grow and mature, both physically and spiritually.
This grieves both my husband and I. We believe we are to fulfill the Great Commission given to us by Jesus Christ:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
This is the most important thing for us to do as Christians. If we do not preach Christ, what makes us different from those who are not Christians?