Points to Ponder: Of course the young are leaving

Points to Ponder
Of course the young are leaving
By Pastor Whitmore
Weekly Contributing Writer

I may have inadvertently come upon the answer to the question: Why are the young adults today leaving the church? So many parents over the years bring their little ones to church and then when the kids are old enough to drive, they're gone. Churches are trying to find ways to reach out to the young and draw them back. Seminars, books, and consultants abound to tell us how to do it. But trying to bring them back may be a rather futile effort once we realize why they left. Or why, with their bright analytical minds and wisdom they haven't discerned that it would be good to be part of a faith community.
At Paine College in Georgia some years ago, Chaplain Roy Lamotte preached the shortest sermon in the college's history. The title was longer than the text he had preached:
"What Does Christ Answer When We Ask: Lord, What's in Religion for Me?"
The complete context of his sermon was one word: "Nothing." He explained that the one-word sermon was meant for people brought up on the 'gimme-gimme' gospel. It seems to me that we keep trying to preach that; trying to please and entertain. It's as if church is a place for "good people to have a good time doing good things." Compared to all the other options available on a Sunday, the logical young person would conclude that he already is a good person (because everyone raised him to believe that), that he does good things in his other activities; and that there are more fun and interesting things to do on a Sunday than come to church. And that's true. To say, "I get nothing out of it...the music, the message, the Sunday school"...would be right on; just as Chaplain Lamotte said. I think that even Jesus would agree with them. How so?
Jesus discouraged "church growth." One guy tells Jesus he'll follow Him wherever He goes. Jesus responded, "Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head" (Luke 9:58). Sounds rather demanding, huh? Then He calls a man to follow Him, but that man wants to delay til after his father's death and burial. (More convenient to the young man's priorities.) The Lord bluntly replied, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the Kingdom of God" (vs 60). Another guy tells Jesus, he's ready to go but first he has to "bid farewell" to his family. Again, Jesus is not sensitive to the needs of the young and what they must do.
"But Jesus said to him, 'No one having put his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God'" (vs 62).
Where is the gentle Jesus, meek and mild? Where is the tolerance? The inclusiveness? Such demands are so..."un-American." Now there's a point to ponder.
If any of those would-be disciples had asked Jesus what was in it for them if they followed Him, it would be kind to say, "Nothing." In fact most of the first disciples died for Him. And over the last twenty centuries, thousands more have given up everything for the gospel. No fun. No entertaining programs. No air conditioning, no heat, and for many no food, no freedom - and no thanks. (So many suffer and die anonymously, known only to God.) That's what real membership in the real body of Christ has to offer. Jesus put it this way:
"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 10:3739).
To commit to Jesus Christ and His church is to be a part of something that's bigger than oneself. It is a gift to God to give your time, your wealth, and your talents to the Lord's work and in the Lord's house. Church is not about you. It's about Him. The 'gimme-gimme' gospel, as Chaplain Lamotte called it, is contrary to the one Jesus preached and lived.
"In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him" (I John 4:9).
And therefore, Jesus says to us:
"Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me...For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul. Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"
(Mark 9:34, 36-37)
When asked how long it took Chaplain Lamotte to prepare that one-word sermon, he said, "Twenty years."
Hopefully, this generation of TAGS (Talented and Gifted) won't take that long to get it.

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, 12624 Trinity Church Drive, Clear Spring, MD (1/4 mile east of Clear Spring on Rt. 40). Listen to Pastor Dennis on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs, at 10:45AM and 10:45PM, both days. www.hilltopchristianfellowship.com.