Having spent a lot of time with youth over the past few years I have developed quite a few wonderful relationships. It is enjoyable to me to see these teens mature into young adults, especially if they are growing in the ways of the Lord. But many are those who fall off the radar, who drift into nothingness and they are slowly, and fatally, absorbed into the world.
As high school graduation looms large in our community, a month or so away, I find myself thinking of those young lives about ready to enter the world. But are they ready? Are they truly prepared for what awaits them? The answer, at least in MY mind is "uncertain" . . . leaning towards "probably not".
Several of my young friends from the youth groups I have been a part of have chosen the military for their post-high school careers. They have gone off to boot camp already. It's fun to see their pictures on Facebook, selfies in their military garb, their bodies changing shape right before our eyes as they train and exercise, preparing for whatever might come their way.
Think about that for a moment. The first thing a new recruit does when he joins the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines is . . . train. They get ready. Ready for what? They get prepared, both physically and mentally, for battle. Battle in an ever-changing and uncertain world.
According to The Barna Group, most of today's young Christians will leave their faith upon exiting high school. (see Barna Survey). Why? Well, in my opinion, and in the opinion of J. Warner Wallace (more on him in a moment), it is because the church is not TRAINING their youth for when they hit the real world. What's that verse?
"6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6
The Bible says TRAIN! We are to train our children, not entertain them, not goof around with them, not even TEACH them. Although teaching is very important it is not the same as training.
If you were going in for open-heart surgery would you want a doctor who has been trained in the operation he was about to perform, or would you rather have someone who has only read a book about it. It's no different with our faith. Our teens go off to school, untrained in the ways of the Lord, and the first atheist professor they encounter removes what little faith that student ever had.
So who's at fault? Youth pastors? Nope. WE are. The parents. We turn our children over to youth pastors thinking they will do the job and we no longer have to. Really? They see our kids one, maybe two hours a week. Can't get much training done in that short amount of time.
Training involves lots of time. It involves sacrifice. It involves selfless individuals willing to learn and be taught. For the soldiers on this page, and also for us, without that desire to give up one's self in an effort to be made stronger, there is little hope of surviving in battle.
Now, about J. Warner Wallace. I was listening to a Christian radio talk show the other day and this guy was on. He was talking about training our kids rather than simply teaching them. [His words inspired me to write this story] He turned TRAIN into an acronym which stood for Testing, Requiring, Arming, Involving, Nurturing.
We must test our children to find out what they do and do not know. We should require them to read, memorize scripture, and serve others in the community. We need to arm our kids so when they venture out they are prepared - arm them with the truth of God's Word and the ability to deliver the Gospel. Get them involved with opportunities, not only to serve but opportunities to share the Gospel and defend their faith. And we must nurture our children. When they experience a battle and get wounded we must love them and allow God to heal them through us.
The enemy we face "prowls around like a roaring lion," searching the herd for the weakest target he can find. Then, in a moment they are not expecting, he attacks and kills his prey. We must not be weak when the attack comes. We must be strong. We must . . . train.
"6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen." - 1 Peter 5:6-11
People Get Ready by Jim Cole