Sixty percent. That's the casualty rate in terms of teens and young adults abandoning church. The analogy that comes to mind is the First World War, where most of the casualties didn't happen suddenly. Trench warfare at places such as the Somme, the Marne, or Verdun introduced a new kind of "war of attrition." The German and French armies locked in a death struggle, settled in trenches, grinding each other down. They fought not so much to win a decisive victory as to wear down the enemy slowly, mercilessly chipping away at numbers, supplies, and morale. The contention of this issue of Modern Reformation is that unless we are much more strategic about how to keep our kids, we will continue to lose just such a war of attrition to modern culture. The current casualty rate should give us shell shock.
In our Christ & Culture article, Professor T. David Gordon suggests a few family practices and habits that can be used to resist the tendency of our age toward distraction from the good, the true, and the beautiful. Next, Reformed minister William Boekestein reflects on the notion that God, not us, should have the first say in how we worship. And in another fantastic installment from Presbyterian pastor Zach Keele, we reflect on the astonishing fact that "Jesus will not stray from the bitter way of the cross." Like Isaac who carried the firewood for his own near-sacrifice, Jesus willingly carried his cross to Golgotha. While Isaac went unwittingly, Jesus knew full well what awaited him on the hill outside the gates.
In our features section, pastor and well-known family counselor Tedd Tripp gives us good news: Children aren't saved by our parental works. That's a weight that no parent could (or should) bear. Our responsibilities lie in other areas, such as recognizing the reality that we live in a religiously diverse—even chaotic—environment, more exotic than we realize, according to WHI producer Shane Rosenthal. As expatriates know, the connections between faith and family are all the more important in foreign territory. For parents and children, Rosenthal recommends a practice of regular informal questions and answers about faith and day-to-day existence.
What, then, falls to the church for care of our children? This is the question that Tom Wenger, a church planting pastor, considers as he looks at the pros and cons of youth-specific ministry. Does it fracture the body? It can, but not if the goal is to "enfold" these younger sheep into the entire life of the body. To that end, seasoned youth ministry experts Brian Cosby and Dave Wright provide invaluable advice on both youth ministry curricula and conferences. Concluding this theme, Michael Horton uses the Heidelberg Catechism and Reformed baptismal forms to encourage us to "take the long view" and remember "the sure promise."
We won't win a decisive victory for our children against the powers and principalities of this evil age. Fortunately, that's a victory that Christ already secured. But until his return in glory, when he'll make footstools of his enemies, we need to wage this war of attrition with far more thought and care. It's for the sake of our children.
Ryan Glomsrud (D.Phil., University of Oxford) is Executive Editor for Modern Reformation and a Postdoctoral Fellow in the History Department at Harvard University. He earned his M.A. in Historical Theology from Westminster Seminary California and B.A. from Wheaton College, Illinois.
Issue: "Keeping Our Kids" May/June 2014 Vol. 23 No. 3 Page number(s): 4
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