A little overshare for the glory of Jesus :)

A little overshare for the glory of Jesus :)

It is Labor Day, and I am hopefully on a boat right now soaking up the last bits of summer before the hectic grind of the school year.  So instead of some earth shattering post, I wanted to simply share a sermon I preached recently with you.  Not because I am an incredible speaker, nor because it is a prophetic word to you or your church.  It is simply a little message of hope and and encouragement to live for Christ in the commonness of our lives! To keep your attention I share about my son's poor hygiene, a bit of an overshare about my sex life, all for the purpose of reminding us that Revelations 21 is our final hope, and it is the reality we are to live into today!

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Why do kids really leave the church? SEX!

220px-Let's_talk_about_sex!

After I read David Kinnaman’s newest book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church and Rethinking Faith.  I have been wrestling with some of the implications from his findings.  His chapter on sex is the one that has got my wheels spinning the most. In that chapter, Kinnaman highlights how the church’s views of purity and abstinence are directly in conflict with the lengthening of time people, including Christians, are taking to settle down and married.  Individualism is becoming the core value, and when marriage, sex, and sexuality are seen through that lens there is bound to be conflict and tension with the traditional church.  These aren't really revolutionary thoughts.  That is, until you place the changing sexual ethic and overlay it with the renewed passion in which professional church people are trying to understand why so many church kids are leaving the church and not coming back.

My hypothesis:  SEX IS THE NUMBER ONE REASON THAT PEOPLE ARE LEAVING THE CHURCH!

In every survey, in every conversation, in every seminar, and in every book we are given a host of reasons for why kids are leaving.  The fault almost always lays at the feet of the church and the poor expression of faith they portray, or the faulty model of a one eared mickey mouse student ministry, or the fact that there are not enough adults in the lives of students.

But as I thought about Kinnaman's book and my years of anecdotal evidence, it seems that those reasons are simply smoke screens to the deeper issue:  Kids and young adults want to have sex.  They want to have a lot of it, and they don't want to wait until they are 30 and get married to start.  But this reason seems so carnal, so self-indulgent, so simple.  So these students develop amazing smoke screens to throw us all the scent.

What about the dinosaurs?  Can't explain it?  Than this faith is a joke so let's have sex!  My youth pastor is uncomfortable with me because I have slept with three girls in the youth group.  This church is so judgmental!    My parents don't want me to live with my girlfriend.  I know they did before they got married!  What hypocrites!

These are not straw men:

Think about all the students that have gone through your youth group.  Think of all the students that have made strong professions of faith and then bailed.  When you unpack their protests and smoke screens, isn't the root cause some sexual encounter or lifestyle that makes them and us uncomfortable to the point where they back away?

When I ask my colleagues and as we pry back the layers, sex is always the root.  Drinking: For whatever reason, the students who drink still manage to participate in Christian community (until they have sex).   Doubt: The apologetics to address doubts of most 12-20 year olds have been written about for decades.  Sex: But once sex happens, the lines of communication get strained and ultimately cut off.

There was a time only a generation ago, where sex only was the cause for students to drop out of community.  But because many of them would get married in their early 20's, it wasn't a hard leap to jump back in to Christian community now that their sex was legitimized.  This was the case with many of my first generation youth group kids and my own peers.

Have you noticed how tentative people who are living together feel at church.  They come but they don't get too close because they know they will be judged for living together.  Many times this is too uncomfortable so they quit coming all together.  For those couples who love Jesus and long for Christian community this jump is easy to do once they have tied the knot.

"I couldn't abstain until I was married, but these young people should."

What is even more wild is how everyone seems to forget this history with their own kids or others at church.  The vast majority of couples at church have slept others and each other before they were married and many also lived together.  Once they are married, they all seem to have forgotten their past infractions and plan to put this burden of purity and abstinence on their children.  This burden was one that they couldn't carry and one that they seem to have little or no grace for people who are in the middle of this struggle.

This struggle is really for those Christians who marry in their early 20's.  But now that people are getting married much later, often into their 30's their distance from the church and Christian community has now been put on the back burner for over half their life and returning to it is like returning to a foreign land.  With so much water under the bridge, many never make it into the church or Christian community again.

We want to blame ourselves, but the sexual ethics of students and young adults is the core reason for the departure.  Is this statement too bold?  Does your experience differ from mine?  If you didn't settle for the smoke screen, would you too find sex to be the root cause?

If my hypothesis is correct, here are some questions I have moving forward:

  • Can we not let smoke screens work?
  • Can we allow students and young adults to carry the consequences of their choices and not blame ourselves?
  • Do we need to encourage students to get married earlier?
  • Why do people who failed in this area put such a high burden on our students regarding sex and sexuality?
  • Is it unrealistic to expect purity and abstinence from our students?
  • Does the church's teaching on sex and sexuality actually cause more harm then good in the discipleship of our students?
  • What do we loose if we treat sex and sexuality like we do with gluttony and materialism?  Give it a head non but don't hammer at it too much as to make people uncomfortable.
  • Is it the right call to lose so many young people as long as we teach TRUTH?
  • Can we, or should we make space in our ministries for students and young adults who are sexual active?  (and not make them hide)

What questions does this hypothesis raise for you?  What answers do you have?  May God be gracious with us all as we wrestle through this increasingly challenging issue.

Bruno Mars: Bringing romance back to youth group!

“You are beautiful, my darling, beautiful beyond words.
Your eyes are like doves behind your veil.
Your hair falls in waves, like a flock of goats winding down the slopes of Giliead.
Your teeth are as white as sheep, recently shorn and freshly washed.
Your smile is flawless, each tooth matched with its twin.
Your lips are like scarlet ribbon; your mouth is inviting.
Your cheeks are like rosy pomegranates behind your veil.
Your neck is as beautiful as the tower of David,
Jeweled with the shields of a thousand heroes
Your breasts are like two fawns, twin fawns of a gazelle grazing among the lilies.
Before the dawn breezes blow and the night shadows flee,
I will hurry to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way.”
Song of Solomon 4:1-7
 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjhCEhWiKXk]

I think it is pretty amazing that Bruno Mars could have been Solomon.  His song is really the Song of Solomon put to better words and music.  (Although comparing noses to the tower of Lebanon should make a comeback)  at its core, isn’t that what the Song of Solomon is really about, crazy, deep, romantic, infatuation;  being all caught up in her delights :)

I think it is strange that in Christian circles we try to shut down this all powerful emotion.  But, what if romance was actually a God given gift;  something that was intended to be a part of our DNA, part of our actual design?  Wouldn’t that be amazing if God really did created us to be infatuated!

If that is the case, then maybe it is a disservice to work so hard at shutting that down with our students.  When we do, we deny them one of their core emotions and unintentionally communicate that church and Jesus don’t understand what is really going on inside of them.  Because infatuation and romance consumes our students, maybe we should help them understand it and give them tools to appropriately frame it.

The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

While God has made romantic love, the the thief perverts romantic love and transforms and corrupts it.  The thief has nothing to offer in of himself.  His only strategy is to take what is already in existence and pervert it. And this is exactly what he does with romantic love, telling students to give their entire hearts and bodies over to the object of their affection.  Isn’t that such a subtle lie.  In some sense we were designed to do that, but not just to anyone, only to our spouse.

When our students buy into the perverted version of romantic love, they foolishly give their hearts and bodies to their peers who are not developmentally mature enough to care for, protect, or commit to that kind of love.  The result is all over our student ministries, students who have been devastated by awful breakups and blinding crushes.

Jesus came to give us life abundantly!

The truth that Jesus also wants to be lord over our romantic affections unfortunately sounds like bad news to our students.  Their entire world is consumed with situational ethics and instant gratification.  However, the truth is the truth.  And what needs to be communicated is that this romantic love is a good and right feeling, but the way of abundant life is to protect our hearts until it can be fully expressed in the bonds of marriage.

The trick of living the abundant life when it comes to romance is helping our students wrestle with how much of their heart they are willing to give away.  It is normal and right for them to want to be in dating relationships.  And it is normal and right for us to give them tools to help them guard their hearts and to hold them accountable as they navigate these powerful emotions.

The easy thing to do is make romantic love a dirty thing and shut down dating within our ministries.  But the truth is that every single one of our students is consumed with this emotion.  So, instead of shutting down romance, and making it shameful, why not celebrate it as the God given gift it is.  What needs to be shaped and worked out is how to guard your heart in appropriate ways.  And that looks one way for middle schoolers, another for high schoolers, another for those who are engaged, and another for those who are married.

And for me, I am going to celebrate romance in the fullest way possible with my sweetheart (who still has it after 15+ years of marriage!)  Thank you Bruno Mars!

bruno mars: bringing romance back to youth group

“you are beautiful, my darling, beautiful beyond words.
your eyes are like doves behind your veil.
your hair falls in waves, like a flock of goats winding down the slopes of giliead.
your teeth are as white as sheep, recently shorn and freshly washed.
your smile is flawless, each tooth matched with its twin.
your lips are like scarlet ribbon; your mouth is inviting.
your cheeks are like rosy pomegranates behind your veil.
your neck is as beautiful as the tower of david,
jeweled with the shields of a thousand heros
your breasts are like two fawns, twin fawns of a gazelle grazing among the lilies.
before the dawn breezes blow and the night shadows flee,
i will hurry to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense.
you are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way.”
song of solomon 4:1-7

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjhCEhWiKXk]

i think it is pretty amazing that bruno mars could have been solomon.  his song is really the song of solomon put to better words and music.  (although comparing noses to the tower of lebanon should make a comeback)  at its core, isn’t that what the song of solomon is really about, crazy, deep, romantic, infatuation.  being all caught up in her delights :)

i think it is strange that in christian circles we try to shut down this all powerful emtion.  but, what if romance was actually a god given gift;  something that was intended to be a part of our dna, part of our actual design?  wouldn’t that be amazing if god really did created us to be infatuated!

if that is the case, then maybe it is a disservice to work so hard at shutting that down with our students.  when we do, we deny them one of their core emotions and unintentionally communicate that church and jesus don’t understand what is really going on inside of them.  because infatuation and romance consumes our students, maybe we should help them understand it and give them tools to appropriately frame it.

the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

while god has made romantic love, the the thief perverts romantic love and transforms and corrupts it.  the thief has nothing to offer in of himself.  his only strategy is to take what is already in existence and pervert it.  and this is exactly what he does with romantic love, telling students to give their entire hearts and bodies over to the object of their affection.  isn’t that such a subtle lie.  in some sense we were designed to do that, but not just anyone to our partner.

when our students buy into the perverted version of romantic love, they foolishly give their hearts and bodies to their peers who are not developmentally mature enough to care for, protect, or commit to that kind of love.  and the result is all over our student ministries, students who have been devastated by awful breakups and blinding crushes.

jesus came to give us life abundantly.

the truth that jesus also wants to be lord over our romantic affections unfortunately sounds like bad news to our students.  their entire world is consumed with situational ethics and instant gratification.  however, the truth is the truth.  and what needs to be communicated is that this romantic love is a good and right feeling, but the way of abundant life is to protect our hearts until it can be fully expressed in the bonds of marriage.

the trick of living the abundant life when it comes to romance is helping our students wrestle with how much of their heart they are willing to give away.  it is normal and right for them to want to be in dating relationships.  and it is normal and right for us to give them tools to help them guard their hearts and to hold them accountable as they navigate these powerful emotions.

the easy thing to do is make romantic love a dirty thing and shut down dating within our ministires.  but the truth is that every single one of our students is consumed with this emotion.  so, instead of shutting down romance, and making it shameful.  why not celebrate it as the god given gift it is.  and what needs to be shaped and worked out is how to guard your heart in appropriate ways.  and that looks one way for middle schoolers, another for high schoolers, another for those who are engaged, and another for those who are married.

and for me, i am going to celebrate romance in the fullest way possible with my sweetheart (who still has it after 13 years of marriage!)  thank you bruno mars!