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    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    The Compulsion of the Gospel

     "We are not in contact with another world. We are happily in contact with this world. But those disciples were other worldly...the Church these days does not have a sense of wonder" (Tozer, The Mystery of the Holy Spirit, pg. 56).

       I've been thinking lately and asking myself why teens have been walking away from faith, trying to see a pattern with what's going on and what Youth Ministry should look like in order to lead students to a life-long journey with Christ and not simply a "while you live at home" or an "until college" journey with Christ.

      One of the things I've noticed is that church for many teenagers is boring, dry and dull.  For them it boils down to moralistic platitudes that some people like to follow out of a need to feel good about themselves.  There is no real excitement about God, or about the Christian faith in the minds of these teenagers.  There is no sense of wonder or other-worldly excitement about them.

     Teens need something compelling.  If we take the compulsion out of the Gospel and numb it down to something boring, natural and fake they will not desire God.

    Teens gravitate towards the things that compel them, why have we taken the compulsion out of the Gospel?  Why have we anesthetized these teens to the Supernatural?  God is BIG, God is mighty, yet teens seem to get the message from us in youth ministry that God is an old man with a long white beard sitting in heaven, trying to keep us all in line.

      That is NOT our God.  He is not boring, dry or dull!  He is powerful, mysterious and altogether supernatural!

      Sadly, I think our teaching on the "naturalism of God" or the "moralistic platitudes" is due to our own sense of losing wonder, we are not living enough in the supernatural to be able to effectively teach about it.  So, we bore teenagers with the things we already have in our heads about God, not the things that God is capable of.

      We take an extremely radical, supernatural God and make him normal and just like our parents who tell us what we can and can't do.  What teen wants to invest their life in a God depicted like that?  What normal human being wants that?  We not only dumb down God's power in and through us, but we de-radicalize Jesus to a "guru" who said a couple of nice things. 

       Kenda Dean  makes this point really well in her book called Almost Christian (which I am now reading) and just recently on Mark Oestreicher's blog saying: "If Christianity is dangerous, then we need to act like it. Teenagers aren’t afraid of risk, but they want to know that Jesus is worth it. Young people are going to demand that we, the church, be who we say we are–people who obviously follow Jesus, which makes us “weird” in a culture based on self-actualization and self-fulfillment–or they’re just not going to bother with us at all" (, 2011).

      Jesus was weird because he was supernatural. He didn't hold to the religious or even earthly and natural constraints we as the church are living in today.  Healings, miracles, prophecy, justice were all a part of his ministry...those are all supernatural or un-natural ways of life and those things can only be accomplished by God and His power.

      We teach a way too safe gospel these days and teens just don't want to sign on to it.  I just recently preached at a Student Leadership retreat and very few of the student knew about the Holy Spirit, much less the power he gives us as believers!  The Holy Spirit is the catalyst for a compelling life!  He is our supernaturally given source of Power to live the Christian life of justice, miracles, prophecy and healing!

      The Gospel, when told rightly is a compelling story that draws one into the narrative.  A narrative that is hard, but supernatural.  When we lose teens because we're teaching a tame, lame and boring gospel, we are doing the wrong thing.

      Let's bring back the wonder in our preaching, living and teaching.  Let's call for radical self-sacrifice, supernatural living, because when teens are drawn into that type of story they won't want to leave, they'll be drawn in and give their lives to a narrative like that one!


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