Recently I was speaking at an evangelical youth camp where many of the participants were active Christians. Some of the young people were well versed in scripture being able to quote various sections by chapter and verse if needed. One element that struck me was that many kept articulating that we are all sinners. Whilst I might agree with them on theological grounds, in my experience it is not common for young people to talk like this; many young people don’t understand the language of sin.
It seems that many evangelical styles of youth ministry have been focusing in on young people being sinners in need of a saviour. I think most of us will agree theologically that we are all sinners even if we are hard or soft on the exact language we use. The issue is not theological but cultural; is the “we are all sinners” argument an out of date cultural image for young people? Are the young people and youth leaders in our churches using that language because they understand it or do they just adopt it because that is the language of their church?
Recently I heard two speakers mention that many young people today already have a low opinion of themselves, that they know they have many flaws they don’t need the church to remind them of that. they suggested that young people seek connection in the peer group because it helps them blend in and cover up their flaws. So is the church preaching a message that is that different to the rest of the world? Perhaps we aren’t if we only give young people confirmation that they are flawed. We need to separate our message out from the self-help industry which articulates our flaws but if you buy this new book it will rescue you from yourself.
As Christian we preach that Jesus is the saviour of our flaws and weakness. We should be a little different to the dominate culture which teaches that with our own hard work we will be better. Perhaps youth ministry needs to teach young people the language of being saints. In Christ we are a new creation, no longer our old selves but saints.
Galatians 2:20 reminds us: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” In the power of the Holy Spirit, young people are not weak sinners but powerful witnesses to the Resurrection.
When I was young, in the 1990’s, our youth group heard a talk by our church leader inspiring us to be Saints of the new Millennium. We were reminded that we called by God to be a generation that made a difference in the world. Back in the 1990 the young people were told by business to get a good job and earn you way to the top; top young people are told they can achieve anything they want to. So perhaps this current generation knows they can make a difference in the world but do they realise that God called them to do this? Perhaps this generation of young people in our youth ministries need to hear that they are called by God to be saints, set apart for the work of God.
Perhaps in youth ministry we need not just the sinner language or saint language but both. We are a new creation in Christ, saved from our sins in order to be the saints who help build the kingdom of God.
Please leave a comment.
markoffaith, MarkofFaith, mrmarkmcdonald, markoffaith.net