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Confronting the Culture

By Carey Huffman

It’s almost an unwritten rule for working with teenagers: give it to them straight, but don’t get in their faces. The culture breaks the rule—on both counts. Society constantly slaps young people with images and behavior that virtually force them to dismantle and reconstruct their value system to realign with the mores of contemporary culture. And the stark reality is, that the behavior of church kids and professing "Christians" is not vastly different from youth in society at large. In Generation Next, George Barna cites no more than a 10% disparity in exposure and experience with, pornography, cheating, stealing, sexual intercourse, and attempted suicide. The Culture has indeed crept into your classroom, and you must confront it head-on.

Begin by recognizing the fact that many issues and concerns facing students today require more than the isolated attention in services, events, and other broad ministry settings. These questions warrant coverage in an ongoing context of practical, systematic Bible study that provides time to deliberate difficult issues of faith and life. In this high speed, low reflection society, many of our students will never withstand the challenges facing them in contemporary society unless we adequately address, on a regular basis, pervading concerns and questions such as these:

Who is God, and what does He say about himself?

You’ll find no shortage of opinions about God and what He must be like. Consequently, many are wondering—if there really is a God, has He told us something about himself? Since teens today tend to be very experiential, especially in matters of faith and religion, youth ministry must provide more than opportunitiies to worship and respond to challenges—it must confront them with the need to know God. Although that relationship cannot simply be taught, the faith that inspires it will grow as students learn more about God’s attributes and actions through His Word.

What is right?

No matter how self-assured teens come across, moral uncertainty abounds. In a 1995 survey, George Barna found that over 3/4 of non-Christians and nearly 60% of "Christian" teens believe there is no such thing as absolute truth. It is doubtful that attitudes have improved in the last several years. Josh McDowell states that "in postmodernism, there is no objective truth. And truth is not to be discovered; truth is to be created. Whatever you think is true, is true...Whatever you perceived to happen is just as true as what actually happened."

It’s difficult to understand, let alone combat, such skewed reasoning. However, the Word thoroughly exposes the futility of human reasoning and reveals the One whose unchanging character and unfailing compassion are the proven basis of right and wrong.

What about tolerance?

Teens today are passionately tolerant, embracing nearly anything that is culturally acceptable. This also means that they are often intolerant of those who appear closed-minded or "judgmental." While our biblical stance on issues must remain uncompromised, our approach needs to be typified by grace and understanding. It must become apparent that our spiritual convictions find validation outside of our own reasoning. Let the ever-relevant Word speak for itself, so students can see God’s unending compassion for the sinner and eminent judgment on sin.

Isn’t there more than one way?

Young people today are openly passionate about religion—but they insist on defining it their own way. In other words, god is whatever works for you. In a recent George Barna survey, over half of the teens agreed with the statement, "all religious faiths teach equally valid truths." In the days ahead, it will become increasingly common to encounter young unashamed "Christians" who consider it presumptuous to "impose our beliefs" on those who are equally sincere in other religious faiths.

We must maintain, and help students explain, salvation in Christ alone—based on His own claims from the Word. A student’s faith is not likely to survive without biblical training that equips them to share absolutes in a morally and spiritually pluralistic society.

Will my future be fulfilling and secure?

While worldy misperceptions run rampant regarding the restrictions imposed by a biblical Christian lifestyle, the most frequent prohibition in the Word is actually "Do not fear…." Even in the midst of trouble and confusion, a student who is grounded in God’s Word possesses an unworldly contentment. Above all else, extensive time in the Word yields peace, by revealing God’ plan in action and how it applies to lives today.

Who am I and where do I belong?

Many people, young and old alike, have no idea where they are going, and persuasive influences from all avenues of society are more than willing to step up an drag them in many unwitting directions. Teens, looking for their purpose and place in life, are often overwhelmed by a myriad of insecurities. Getting students into God’s Word on a regular basis helps them develop their ultimate sense of identity and purpose in Christ.

W•W•J•D?

I heard it just the other day, "How can I do what Jesus would do if I don’t know what He would do?" While the answer to that question may not always be obvious, the Source of the answer is very accessible. T-shirts and bracelets that pose the WWJD question are ok, but it’s time to get beyond speculation. In His Word, students will "See What Jesus Does," and Who He is. If they follow His example, the world will see too. The goal of discipleship is to be and do like Jesus, and that goal will be accomplished as we follow Christ’s commission to "go…teaching them to obey…."

In the midst of a culture mounting an ever-increasing assault on true Christian faith, your class can help students rise to the challenge by providing the opportunity to address the tough topics already on their minds. Students will see the relevance of their faith to everyday life, and be prepared to stick with it when the inevitable challenges arise.

Here is an example of how you would tie these questions into a lesson on the Holy Spirit: What does the Holy Spirit reveal about "Who God is" (glorifies Christ) or How does He help us determine "what’s right?" (He will lead you into all truth). How does The Spirit confirm that Jesus is the "only way?" How does the He direct you into a "fulfilling future"? What does the fact that the He dwells in you say about "who you are?" And how does the Holy Spirit show us and help us to do what Jesus would do?