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.

54 minutes

From Jim Cymbala, in Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire:

The services have to be uniformly positive, and the services can’t go longer than 60 minutes.  Even then, church is inconvenient for some, especially during football season…

One minister told me recently that two families left for another church because his parking attendants didn’t direct cars out of the lot fast enough.  What would these people have done the night in Troas when Paul preached until midnight? (Acts 20:7)

Can you imagine someone handing Peter a microphone on Sunday morning and whispering, “Okay, now, you’ve got twenty minutes. We have to get people out of here promptly because the chariot races start at one o’clock”?

The truth is that “user-friendly” can be a cover-up word for carnality.  The same people who want sixty-minute worship services rent two-hour videos and watch NBA and NFL games that run even longer.  The issue is not length, but appetite.  Why the misplaced desire?

Seriously, what will our children and grandchildren grow up experiencing in church?  Extended times of waiting on the Lord will be totally foreign to their experience.  There will be no memory bank of seeing people reach out to God.  All they will recall are professionally polished, closely timed productions. (p. 132-33)

And then we wonder why 80% of our children and almost all of our young men leave the church when they become adults!  Why do people watch the 2-hour movies and the 3-hour football games?  Because they are a source of thrill and excitement.  We were born for that, and if we don’t find it in the Lord, we will find it elsewhere.  And that’s the reason we are loosing our men.

What if we trained all of our teenage boys how to cast out a demon?  What if we trained them to listen for words of knowledge and act on them?  What if we trained them to seek the Lord for as long as it took to know His presence?  Pretty soon, the NFL wouldn’t seem so exciting.

But instead, our churches and youth groups have largely bought into the idols of entertainment and comfort.  I recently heard another father brag about how, during a building program when space was constrained, his church had gotten their service down to exactly 54 minutes.

Of course 54 minutes or 3 hours is not the fundamental issue.  But just as Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” I think we could add, where your time is, there your heart will be also.

Lord, give me the determination to surrender my time to you and to seek you with all my heart.  I confess that too often I chase after entertainment and comfort.  Lord, whet my appetite for the things of the Spirit.  Draw me into your word and your presence.  I want the exciting life of faith, where I get to see your miracles.  Give me the strength to press into it!  In Jesus’ name.

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