What do Christian teenagers actually believe about Jesus?

I came across an interview of Mike Nappa, who recently published The Jesus Survey.  This was a survey of Christian teens who not only self-identified as Christians and as active in their youth groups, but since the survey was taken at a short-term mission site, obviously these are also ones willing to put their faith into action to some extent.

Of these precious ones, 70% expressed “persistent, measurable doubts that what the Bible says about Jesus is true.”  Of course I was surprised by this, but when I think about the culture our kids are being raised in, where they leave church on Sunday morning and/or Wednesday night, and the rest of their experience is awash in opposite messages, it’s not that surprising.  In most of our culture, living for Jesus and seeing Him work in our lives isn’t even on the table for discussion.

But here is the gold:

The data show that Christian kids who actually have strong confidence in Scripture actually experience God more noticeably in their daily lives.  For instance, four out of five (82%) of teens who have “unshakable” faith in the Bible also report possessing “strong” proof that the Holy Spirit is active in their lives.  Among kids who are uncertain about Scripture, that number is less than than half (49%).  For Christian teens who disbelieve the Bible’s reliability, only 22% strongly claim real-life experience with Christ’s Holy Spirit.

Do you see it!  Kids who see the Holy Spirit active in their lives actually believe the Bible!  Or, kids who believe the Bible actually see the Holy Spirit active in their lives!  Which comes first?  I’m not sure it matters.  It’s a symbiotic relationship.  People take a little step of faith, find out God is real, and then realize that the Bible is reliable.  Or people read the Bible, feel led to put it into practice, and find out God is there.  It’s both/and.  Experience and belief must work together, because if we don’t believe it, we won’t take a risk and try it.  And the more we try it and find out God is real, the more we believe it.

Nappa asked teens if they agreed to a set of belief statements, for example: the Bible is completely reliable, they were 100% certain Jesus had answered one or more prayers and could prove it, and they were 100% certain that the Holy Spirit was active in their lives.  Those who affirmed all of his core beliefs—he called them “Confident Christian Teens”—are outnumbered 10 to 1 in youth groups today. But they are there!  And God wants to build their numbers.  Not for the sake of us being able to “claim” them as disciples and be proud of our families and youth programs, but so that they may experience the love, hope, and transforming power of Jesus in their lives.

A “shyness” altar call

I’ve been feeling led to look more at the biblical character Timothy.  I’m not sure what God has for me here.  I did a little background reading on Timothy this morning and came across this:

Timothy is timid at times and thus doesn’t use his gifts as he should.

Thus Paul reminded him in 2 Tim. 1:6: “…to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7] For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” We too need the same reminder—to fan into flame our gifts and not give way to “…a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” When I used to speak at youth camps, I would often give a “shyness altar call.” Realizing that I wasn’t the only one who shied away from using his gifts because of shyness, I called the shy people to a safe place, and together we dedicated our shyness to God. We recognized it as a gift of sensitivity, with the danger that we use it on ourselves, and not on others as it was intended by God. (Source: Bob Stone)

I have seen this in my own life.  It took me many years to face the fact that God had made me shy, and that the blessing of being shy was sensitivity.  I was occasionally ridiculed as a child for being overly sensitive, cry-baby, etc.  But as an adult engaged in ministry, I realize what a gift this is.  Yes, I am still sensitive and sometimes fearful.  But I think God has used that to express an empathetic sensitivity to others that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

As Pastor Stone points out here, the great danger of being shy is that this God-given sensitivity may never escape the boundaries of our own fears, and never be the blessing to the world that He intended.

Lord Jesus, I don’t want to be limited by fear.  Use me to bless others.  Use me to help empower your timid, shy, sensitive, beloved ones to move past their fears and bring hope and healing to the world around them, as you intended.  Thank you for the gift of sensitivity.  Even when I struggle with the fearful tendencies of that gift, may I never be ungrateful for how you have made me.  I don’t want fear to rip me off from the amazing life you have waiting for me!  In Jesus’ name. 

Secret Church!

Been reading Radical by David Platt. This idea of “Secret Church” has been really speaking to me.

After experiencing the desperation of believers in the underground church in China, and going back to pastor his megachurch, he writes:

What if we took away the cool music and the cushioned chairs? What if the screens are gone and the stage is no longer decorated? What if the air conditioning is off and the comforts are removed? Would his Word still be enough for his people to come together?

At Brook Hills we decided to try to answer this question. We actually stripped away the entertainment value and invited people to come together simply to study God’s Word for hours at a time. We call it Secret Church.

We set a date—one Friday night—when we would gather from six o’clock in the evening until midnight, and for six hours we would do nothing but study the Word and pray. We would interrupt this six-hour bible study periodically to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are forced to gather secretly. We would also pray for ourselves, that we would learn to love the Word as they do.

We weren’t sure how many would show up that first evening, but by night’s end about a thousand people had gathered. Our topic of study was the Old Testament. After our first try we decided to do it again, and again, and now we have to take reservations because we cannot contain all the people who want to come.

One of my favorite sights is to look across a room packed with people with their bibles in their laps, studying who God is and what God has said—after midnight (we have never ended on time). Granted, we still have the cushioned chairs—though we did discuss the possibility of removing them! And we still have the comforts of a nice building with indoor bathrooms. Be we are taking steps, I hope, toward discovering what it means to be a people who are hungry for the revelation of God.

This speaks to me deeply. Lord, raise up in our community and in our churches groups of believers who would hunger and thirst after you!

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