Here’s another post from Pastor Matt that I think offers some more helpful insight into how we should approach young people with Christianity. The point of this post is that relationships matter.
When I was attending North Hollywood High in the fall of 1990, there was a kid in one of my classes who often followed me on my walk home to my apartment off of Magnolia Boulevard. He did the Four Spiritual Laws and Roman Road presentation. He spoke about he and his family’s faith in Jesus and wanted to know if I would come with them to church. But he never asked a single question about me personally. I always declined his invitations and eventually he moved on to someone else.
[…]Looking back, I had a very fuzzy understanding of the Gospel. I (and I think many people who call themselves Christians) are what theologians call “semi-Pelagians.” I believed anyone could come to the altar but if they wanted to continue to be welcomed in the pews, they had to clean up their act and do so almost overnight. The culture of Christianity at large appeared to me to be that if you came to faith and continued to struggle with lust, a foul mouth or whatnot then there was just something wrong with you. I felt the church was more about behavior modification than grace.
I needed someone who I knew loved me to sit down with me long before all of these problems arose, look me in the eye and tell me how easy and how difficult it is to be a Christian. I needed someone cared for me to unpack 2 Corinthians 5:21 and point out that by being “in Christ” I would be judged by Christ’s perfect life instead of my own. I needed to know that the faith is not about “keeping the rules” but about doing things and not doing certain things to show my love and gratitude to God for what He did for me. I needed to be able to read the Bible, especially the Old Testament, in a way that always pointed to Jesus Christ. I needed to understand that God has graciously given us the spiritual disciplines of fasting, prayer, serving the poor, worship, etc. to help me grow. I needed to hear that all Christians struggle with sin and will, to a certain degree, until they go to be with the Lord or He returns to be with us.
I needed good theology, good spiritual practices, good apologetics and good relationships. I needed knowledge and it needed to come from someone who I knew loved me even though I was thoroughly unlovable. You can’t just leave this to the church staff because they do not have to time to meet with everyone and people with a chip on their shoulder about the church (like I had) feel like they are just doing it as part of their job. All young people in the church, especially the “troubled kids” need this. It is a lot of work but anyone’s eternity is worth it, isn’t it?
I think that I do my best work away from the blog when I take on atheists or new Christians or Christians who want to grow one on one and focus on them for long periods of time. Sometimes, it’s talking to them on Skype. Sometimes, it’s rewards for doing well in school or in their Christian lives. But all the best work is done one on one. That’s when you really get a chance to get to know people and to care about them.
I think the most important thing you can tell a young Christian is to focus less on mere following of the rules. I always ask them more about making a plan for their lives that achieves something amazing for God’s kingdom, while still not breaking any of the rules. The following the rules is not the key thing to focus on. The key thing here is your relationship with God. So you should find out what needs doing, and just do it. If it’s intelligent design research, then do it. If it’s finding early NT manuscripts, then do it. If it’s working for the ADF defending religious liberty at the Supreme Court, then do it. If it’s becoming a Christian professor at a secular university, then do it. If it’s debating an atheist cosmologist, then do it. If it’s promoting the free market system which alleviates poverty, then do it. If it’s protecting democratic countries from aggression by being a soldier, then do it. Stop making Christianity a dull prison, and start making it a blank canvas for a masterpiece.
Don’t worry, he was an atheist then, and now he’s pastor Matt, thanks to God’s grace.
In this post Pastor Matt talks about why he was once an atheist.
I am sometimes asked, by both skeptics and believers alike, why I was once an atheist and what convinced me to become a Christian. I will answer the latter in another post but let me deal with the former now.
I am a “PK” or “preacher’s kid.” My father served as the founding pastor of the largest church in southern Ohio. It is a non-denominational, evangelical congregation that grew very quickly.
As a PK, I was privy to a lot of “inside information” and it was not encouraging. I learned men and women who sang hymns with passion and shouted “Amen!” with gusto during the sermon were cheating on their spouse or on their taxes.
By the time I was a teenager I understood why those who called themselves Christians lived secret lives–they wanted to believe but really didn’t. I understood because I became one of them.
I was an active member of an ’80′s evangelical youth group. So, I rocked out to Stryper, had comedian Pat Hurley tapes and volunteered for the children’s ministry, which consisted of videotaping episodes of Superbook and The Flying House for the kids. However, I actually seriously doubted if God even existed.
I was struggling with the normal sins of a teenager and begged for help in prayer. I also petitioned God on a regular basis to feel His presence but that didn’t happen either.
I eventually came to the conclusion that Christianity simply didn’t work. I declared myself an atheist at age fifteen and remained an unbeliever for the next ten years.
I ran away from home at age fifteen as well eventually making my way to Hollywood. During those days I partied like it was 1999 (until 1997) and like Aldous Huxley is quoted as saying decades before, I came to not even want God to be real because even the possibility interfered with my desire to create my own morality.
Christianity is not something where you just profess it and suddenly you are automatically perfect. You get the gift of eternal life immediately by faith in Christ, but becoming more like Christ takes time. It’s easier to act consistently with the teachings of Christ if you have spent the time studying, practicing and growing as a Christian. You shouldn’t expect perfect behavior on day one – that is crazy. You should expect that as your beliefs become more solid, then your outward actions will change naturally. And often what you hear at home and in the church is not the best for finding truth through investigation and debate.
It would be terrible to have to put out “good” actions when you never settled the questions of what is true and how are we going to apply what is true in our own decisions. Sometimes, I think that young Christians face too much pressure to appear to be perfect when no one has been willing to help them work through the grounding for the behaviors they are expected to display. And I think a lot of the behaviors they are expected to display are either not important or not Biblical. Behaving like a Christian should be natural – it should proceed from free inquiry, not dogmatism.
Now I’m skipping a lot, but here is his advice for people who were in his situation:
I’ll get to my conversion later but keep in mind: (1) just because a person attends a church, even if they are a PK, that he or she truly comprehends the Gospel because I didn’t a full understanding; (2) pastors need to constantly remind their parishioners that sin is easy and living for Christ is difficult because believers are part of a cosmic struggle; (3) the spiritual disciplines are invaluable especially so for young people; and (4) there are many solid arguments for the existence of God and few for materialism and all Christians deserve to know them.
I’ve spent some time mentoring young Christians who had fallen away for some period of time, and I always make a point of asking them why. Their answer is usually something like this: “I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I didn’t care because no one else cared.” The first thing to do with a person who is rebelling is to get in there and start to ask them questions and get involved in helping them to succeed in their lives. People do bad things because they feel that no one cares. So you better start caring for these young people, whether they are smart, dumb, pretty, ugly, poor, rich, popular, unpopular – it doesn’t matter. They all have souls, and they were all made to know God. Get in there and be real with them before they make a mess of their lives.
Super-mom Lindsay sent me this article about by a former feminist who was once opposed to children, then had 4 of them in 5 years.
Up until my mid-20’s I was firm in my belief that I never wanted to have kids. A combination of events made me reconsider the issue, and by the time we got married I was open to the idea of having some pre-set, small number of kids and had begun thinking about the precise timetables on which I would have them.
[…]It would have been inconceivable to me to imagine that constantly having my plans derailed by pregnancies and not even having any idea when I’d be done changing diapers would be an improvement over my fully controlled, well-ordered life, but it has been.
[…]Lately I’ve been imagining what I would say to 2003 Jen if I could go back in time and give her a crystal ball to show her what her future would be like. I’ve been trying to imagine how I would talk her down from the balcony ledge after the crystal ball got to the “four kids in five years — and doing NFP!” part, how I could possibly convince her that this life is not only not a recipe for misery, but the true fulfillment of everything she thought she wanted.
I would love to tell you that I’d simply be able to explain that each child is such a joy and a blessing, but that would not have resonated with Old Jen; I might have agreed, but ultimately I would have said that those joys and blessing are just too much hard work. “I just don’t see how that kind of life could be anything but miserable for someone like me,” I would have said.
So how do you convince a woman that “hard work”, i.e. – self-denial, self-control, self-discipline, self-sacrifice – while caring for children could actually lead to a fulfilling life? And most importantly, that it should not be postponed in pursuit of something that appears more fun, more thrilling or more important (according to a feminist measure of fun, thrills and importance).
She makes 5 points in her post.
3. “It’s not what you do, it’s whom you serve.”
A product of secular society, I’d fallen into the common notion that the way to find true happiness is to focus on yourself more and other people less. It makes perfect sense, after all: doing pleasurable things for me is fun, sacrifice and hard work are not fun; ergo, the secret to happiness must be to live for myself as much as possible. Right?
How shocked I was to discover that I was wrong — dead wrong. Part of fully understanding the concept of vocation was understanding that a vocation is not to be thought of as “what you do” as much as it is “whom you serve.” It was nothing short of revolutionary to hear the concept that God has called every one of us to serve others, that living for yourself is not a valid option; that the key to deep fulfillment, to finding your very purpose in life, is as simple as finding out the specific way in which you’re called to serve. Do that, and you will find peace.
It sounded not only too simple to be true, but too difficult. As a spoiled only child the idea of living to serve sounded terrible. But once I actually took a leap of faith and tried it, I had no doubt that this was truth.
Next,I want to talk about one of the young Christians I mentor, and then about the woman I supported for President in the 2012 election.
I spent Friday night playing with one of the young women I mentor. This is the one who did the BS in computer science, and is now doing the MS in computer science. After playing a few rounds of “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes”, she mentioned the salary from her internship this summer. She asked me “what am I going to do with so much money? I think I had better stop thinking so much about myself and find some people out there to help”. And I was so pleased. Because this woman, more than any of the other young people I mentor, is my replacement.
J. Warner Wallace likes to talk about training your replacement, and I have several replacements, but none better than her. I remember when she was younger, she was a bit more selfish than now. She still organized events, like bringing Frank Turek, Tim McGrew, etc. to speak on her campus. But she never showed much interest in one-on-one care for others. It was my hope that just like me, she would react to computer science salary with a sense of obligation to others, and so she has. And that’s how I think women ought to be. They should be educated, they should be successful – but they should be open to the needs of others.
The woman I admire the most in the world is former GOP Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who was my first choice for President in 2012. I had been following her for many years before that, when she was just a state senator. I liked her because of her interest in apologetics, as well as her focus on her family.
Nearly two decades ago, a stay-at-home mother and onetime federal tax lawyer named Michele Bachmann felt a spiritual calling to open her clapboard home here to troubled teenage girls.
“We had our five biological children that God gave to us, and then he called us to take foster children into our home,” Mrs. Bachmann told a Christian audience in 2006. “We thought we were going to take unwed mothers in,” she continued, adding, “We took 23 foster children into our home, and raised them, and launched them off into the world.”
Today Mrs. Bachmann is Representative Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, first elected to the House in 2006, and now a candidate for her party’s nomination for president. In Washington, she has grabbed the spotlight as a staunch fiscal conservative and brash Tea Party leader. But a look at her life here shows that it was her role as a mother, both to her biological children and to her adolescent foster daughters, that spurred her to seek public office.
[…]Mrs. Bachmann’s political awakening began with her deep disenchantment with the public school system.
[…]By the late 1990s, with her own children enrolled in private Christian schools, Mrs. Bachman was upset by the education her foster children were getting in public school. Teachers gave them “little special attention,” and many were “placed in lower-level classes, as if they were not expected to succeed,” she told a House subcommittee in 2007.
One brought home “an 11th-grade math assignment that involved coloring a poster,” she testified. Another “spent an entire week watching movies.” A third “remarked to me once that she was in ‘stupid people math.’ ”
So Mrs. Bachmann immersed herself in the minutiae of Minnesota’s graduation requirements. She worked with a conservative researcher and began giving talks in church basements.
[…]The Rev. Marcus Birkholz, the pastor at Salem Lutheran Church, which Mrs. Bachmann attended for years, calls her “a lady with energy and a heart” whose uncompromising “support for the unborn” extends beyond fighting abortion. “She sees the whole picture,” Pastor Birkholz said. “It’s not just bringing a child into the world; that child has to be nurtured and educated.”
[…]Mrs. Bachmann, whose biological children now range in age from 17 to 29, worked until her fourth child was born. (Her youngest, Sophia, is headed to college this fall, while the eldest, Lucas, is a medical resident at the University of Connecticut, pursuing a specialty in psychiatry.) Friends remember her planning neighborhood picnics and organizing bicycle parades.
“I had all these balls in the air that I was juggling,” she said in an interview with Minnesota Monthly last year. In choosing to leave work, she said, “I finally realized my dream, which was to be mom of a big, happy family.”
What does it mean? It means that women ought not be horrified by husband needs or children needs. They should not be opposed to responsibilities, expectations and obligations in relationships. Sometimes, the path to greatness means taking a few years off from work to homeschool your kids. After all, isn’t it better for God to have FIVE Christian kids who will surpass you in influence? Michele didn’t get involved in politics by thinking of herself. She got involved in politics by thinking of her children, and her 23 foster children.
Here’s my advice to young women: 1) Study something hard that pays. 2) Work a few years and get debt free. 3) Marry a good provider in your mid-to-late 20s. 4) Have as many children as your husband can support. 5) Be actively involved in the education of your kids (with apologetics, too). 6) Open your home to kids who don’t have a mom or a dad. 7) Teach your kids the importance of caring for others. 8) Run for President (as a Republican).
Dr. Frank Turek is a dynamic speaker and award-winning author or coauthor of four books: Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to make their Case, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, Correct, Not Politically Correct and Legislating Morality. As the President of CrossExamined.org, Frank presents powerful and entertaining evidence for Christianity at churches, high schools and at secular college campuses that often begin hostile to his message. He has also debated several prominent atheists including Christopher Hitchens and David Silverman, president of American Atheists.
Frank hosts an hour-long TV program each week called I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist that is broadcast Wednesday nights on DirecTV Channel 378 (the NRB Network). His radio program called CrossExamined with Frank Turek airs on 122 stations every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. eastern and is available continuously on the free CrossExamined App.
A former aviator in the US Navy, Frank has a master’s degree from the George Washington University and a doctorate from Southern Evangelical Seminary. He and his wife, Stephanie, are blessed with three grown sons.
loving another person can mean opposing the person when they want to do something wrong, even if they hate you
what did Jesus say about marriage? (see Matt 19:4-6)
what did Jesus say about sexual morality? (Matt 15, Matt 19)
the same-sex marriage debate is about whether to compel people who disagree with the gay lifestyle to validate and normalize it
P1: the government has an interest in marriage because it perpetuates and stabilizes society – this is the purpose of marriage
P2-4: government can take 3 kinds of stances towards behaviors: promote, permit or prohibit
government promotes behaviors when it has an interest in them
same-sex relationships should be permitted, but not promoted
Q1: if same-sex marriage had serious negative consequences, would you reconsider their position?
Q2: are heterosexual relationships the same as homosexual relationships?
Q3: what would society be like if everyone married according to the natural marriage definition: one woman, one man, for life?
Q4: what would society be like if everyone married according to the same-sex marriage definition: man/man and woman/woman?
Should Christians care about law and politics? or should they just preach the gospel?
They should care because people often get their cues about what is moral and immoral based on what is legal and illegal
Many of the social problems we see today can be traced back to problems with marriage and family
Children do much better when they have a relationship with their mother and their father
Same-sex marriage necessarily destroys the relationship between a child and its mother or its father
When a country embraces same-sex marriage, it reinforces the idea that marriage is not about making and raising children
same-sex marriage shifts the focus away from the needs of the children to the feelings of desires of the selfish adults
does homosexuality impose any health and mental health risks?
what has the impact of legalizing same-sex marriage been in Massachusetts to individuals, schools, businesses and charities?
how same-sex marriage poses a threat to religious liberty
how should you respond to the view that homosexuality is genetic?
My biggest concern is religious liberty, and we are seeing how same-sex marriage has proven to be incompatible with religious liberty. But I also care about children… I want them to have mothers and fathers who put their needs first. How did we ever get to this point where the ever-changing feelings and desires of adults are somehow linked to marriage? Marriage is about a commitment – it is the subjugation of feelings and desires to responsibilities and obligations. It is a promise. A promise to commit to love your spouse and children regardless of feelings and desires. It requires more self-denial, self-control and self-sacrifice. Not less.
So, the topic for this post is whether it’s OK to get divorced.
What does the Bible say?
I noticed a lot of people getting divorced these days in the church, and trying to justify why they are allowed to divorce and why they should be allowed to pursue remarriage. So I’m first going to quote from an article from Focus on the Family by Amy Tracy.
God is very clear, however, that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). He also says, “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). According to the New Testament, there are two justifications for divorce: infidelity (Matthew 5:32) and desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15).
Now, I had always taken the rule of Dr. Laura for this. She says that you can get divorced for adultery and abandonment (as above), but she allows allows for physical abuse and drug addiction. But it looks like the Bible is more strict than Dr. Laura, even.
What does the evidence say?
So let’s see if there is any reason outside the Bible that explains why the Bible tells people not to get divorced. The UK Daily Mail reports on a study on the effects of divorce.
Divorcing parents who try to maintain an amicable relationship for the sake of their children are doing nothing to help them, a major study suggests.
The impact of the split on youngsters is the same whether or not the mother and father keep cordial links, it found.
[…]The new study, the first in 20 years to examine how the behaviour of separated parents affects their children, was carried out by US academics.
It covered 270 parents who were divorced or separated between 1998 and 2004 in an unnamed US state that compels divorcees to take part in an education programme on ‘co-operative co-parenting’.
Of these, 31 per cent considered their relationship with their ex-spouse as ‘co-operative and involved’; 45 per cent were ‘moderately engaged’ with their divorced partner, with some conflict between them; and 24 per cent said their co-operation was ‘infrequent but conflictual’.
They were asked to say how their break-up had affected the youngest child in their family. The average age of children involved was eight years.
The study, published in the academic journal Family Relations, said that children of divorced parents are more likely than others to suffer ‘external’ symptoms such as behaviour problems or drug abuse, more likely to have ‘internal’ difficulties like anxiety or depression, and more likely to do badly at school.
But the researchers, headed by Dr Jonathon Beckmeyer of Indiana University, found that these children’s problems were no worse if their parents continued to row and bicker with each other after the divorce.
The study said ‘despite the expectation that children fare better’ if their divorced parents develop a co-operative relationship, the behaviour of children as assessed by their parents ‘did not significantly differ’ between the friendly and the fighting groups of divorcees.
So the take-home lesson is this: there is no such thing as a divorce that doesn’t hurt the children. If you’re thinking of divorce and you have children, just don’t do it. And the Bible sides with the children against the selfish desires of their parents – telling the parents to be careful who they marry, and to give up their happiness in order to provide stability for the children.
One more thing. I run into a lot of people who think that life is unpredictable, and that you just have to pursue happiness, fun and adventures and how that somehow the universe or God or whatever will make all the selfish hedonism “work out”. That’s false. Marriage is not like a slot machine. There are things you can do now to prepare your character for marriage. There are things that your marriage candidate should be able to do to be prepared for marriage as well. If both people practice self-control, self-denial and self-sacrifice before marriage, that’s a good sign that they will be able to make a commitment that lasts. Indulging your desire to sky-dive, surf, zip-line and travel for adventure does nothing to prepare your character for what marriage will require of you.
Marriage is not an engine for personal fulfillment and happiness. You don’t get out of it when you don’t feel happy. Marriage is about changing your character to make you more mature, and providing a safe, stable environment for children to grow up in. The reason so many people are divorcing today is because they think that marriage is a consumer good – that it should be fun. But it’s not designed to be fun, it’s designed to be a challenge. If you stay committed to it, it does produce a return in the long run.