by Terry Camsey, Major –
Did you see that interesting article in the New York Times (October 6, 2006) about trends concerning teenagers and church?
It suggests that Christian leaders are warning one another that their teenagers are abandoning the faith in droves. More than 6,000 pastors are hearing “dire forecasts from some of the biggest names in the conservative evangelical movement” in an unusual series of meetings being held in 44 cities this fall. This is in response to a claim that if current trends continue, only four percent of teenagers will be “Bible-believing Christians” as adults. “That,” the article suggests, “would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation.”
When my wife and our extended family came to the United States in 1972, I found myself teaching a Bible class for teenage girls at (then) Hollywood Tabernacle Corps.
No matter what the topic slated for discussion, those girls always seemed to direct the conversation to what they felt to be the imminent rapture.
My advice was that the challenge was to be always ready in their spiritual life, whenever the rapture occurred…which could be many years away since no one could know for sure. “Be ready!”
It seems to me that today there are many (of all ages) who are praying for the rapture to come soon. Many of them point to the signs of the times regarding the potential imminency of that event when Christ returns.
This may well be a trap set by the evil one to take our focus off the ministry that Christ mandated of his disciples, including us—today’s disciples—a command to make disciples of all nations.
Regarding the second coming, Christ’s first disciples asked, “And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus responded, “…of that day and hour, no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but my father only.”
And, more specifically, “And this gospel will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14). No doubts there…we shall never ourselves discern in advance the second coming…and until then we are to get on with the job of evangelizing the world!
This suggests to me that, if we fail to evangelize the world, he may never come back. We certainly cannot delegate back to him that ministry and sit on our hands looking for signs and praying for that event until he finishes the job and comes back.
Here’s the rub.
If the number of laborers in the vineyard is shrinking as rapidly as suggested in that New York Times article, then we—as we age—must take drastic action to insure that our teenagers are not lost and that they grow up with the same evangelical zeal as we saw in the Founder’s day. If we do not, then who will finish the task?
We see (and fear) such missionary zeal in other non-Christian religions, some of which are growing rapidly in the western world.
Song #409 in our Song Book asks:
“Have I the zeal I had
When thou didst me ordain
To preach thy word and seek the lost,
Or do I feel it pain?
It’s a good question!