So instead of meeting their “felt needs,” the church should give them a huge dose of their “unfelt need”! What is this “unfelt need”?
I stumbled upon a website of an evangelical youth “ministry” to youth audiences to “share the gospel of Jesus Christ through music, drama, and testimony.” They give musical concerts “to meet the ‘felt needs’ of their peers.” Apparently, through Bible studies and fellowship, they grow towards spiritual maturity. Their commitment is summed up in their prayer,Â â€œLord, I am willing to do whatever you want and to go wherever you send me, so that those who have never heard will have at least one chance to become Christ followers! Amenâ€ This prayer is based on Isaiah 6:8,Â â€œWhom should I sendâ€¦who will goâ€¦And I said, â€˜Lord, Iâ€™ll go! Send me.’â€[ref]This verse is often misapplied in the sense that God was asking Isaiah to volunteer as his prophet to his people, but what was God’s message? Declared clean, Isaiah promptly responds, â€œHere am I! Send me.â€ This is where most sermons on this text would end, when a call is made to be involved in missions. But what many churches miss is that Isaiahâ€™s call here is not to preach the gospel of salvation; God wanted him to preach something that would make any missionary cringe in fear and grumble in displeasure. What would Godâ€™s message be? It’s in verses 9 and 10: Tell the people they have ears but are deaf, they have eyes but are blind, and they have hearts but are hardhearted! How long must Isaiah preach this awful message? The answer was even more shocking: till the cities, their homes, and their fields are laid waste, and the people are destroyed! He is tasked to preach this message until Godâ€™s judgment is completed.[/ref]
All well and good motives. Who would go wrong with trying to reach out to the youth? After all, recent surveys point to the youth dropping out of churches because they feel that the church is irrelevant to their existence as a result of “evangelical ignorance.” Rev. John J. Bombaro,Â parish minister at Grace Lutheran Church in San Diego, California and a lecturer in theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego,Â in his articleÂ “Face to Face Discipleship in a Facebook World,” writes, “Three decades of data have revealed near systemic evangelical ignorance of the Scriptures, ignorance of theology, church history, Christian art, architecture, and iconography and, correspondingly, ignorance of Christian deportment, both social and practical.”
So why insist on using failed methods such as concerts, drama and testimony in the face of such ignorance? It’s because the motive for “reaching out” is to meet their “felt needs.”
What are the youth’s felt needs? They need the latest fun and games, the latest fad, the latest in rap and hiphopâ€”all the latest mindless stuff.
Do unbelieving teens feel the need for the gospel of Christ? No, that is the last thing on their list (if it’s even on their list) of what they “feel” they need.
So instead of meeting their “felt needs,” the church should give them a huge dose of their “unfelt need”! What is this “unfelt need”? Like the rest of rebellious, perishing mankind, it is the foolishness of the gospel of Christ crucifiedÂ (1 Cor 1:18) and “the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:14).
How must this message be sent to the youth? Is it by the latest “Christian” rap and hiphop or drama? No, it is by hearing the gospel preached, becauseÂ “faith comes from hearing.”
Hearing what? Touching testimonies during concerts, drama, basketball games, and feeding programs? No, it is “hearing through the word of Christ” preached by those whom Christ has sent (Rom 10:14-17).
What is this “word of Christ”? It is “Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” that is preached (1 Cor 1:23).
But aren’t preaching and teaching so boring to the youth, and no one would come if their “felt needs” are not met? If they’re bored with the preaching of the gospel, then that’s evidence that they’re Gentiles to whom Christ crucified is foolishness. No music, drama, testimony, or any other gimmick would change their hearts. Only the Spirit of Christ is able to change their hearts of stone into soft, willing hearts
(Eze 36:26-27). For them, the extent of their interest is only in the entertainment, not in the gospel.
If the world’s entertainment forms are adopted by the church to seduce the youth, the Bible has a word for this: “whoring after the Baals” (Jud 2:17, 8:33). God’s warning against this idolatrous lusting is surely fitting today, “Do not inquire about their gods, saying, â€˜How did these nations serve their gods?â€”that I also may do the same'” (Deut. 12:30-31). This is because the world and its wicked ways are God’s enemies, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4), and “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
Do the youth grow towards spiritual maturity through Bible studies among themselves? No, we’ve seen how the church has produced Biblical idiots through self-taught what-do-you-think “Bible studies,” led by the blind (youth “pastors”) leading the blind.
The only real spiritual growth is through preaching and teaching in true churches by faithful ministers of the Word and Sacrament. Dr. Bombaro says that this is the best solution to correct evangelical illiteracy and ignorance of Scriptures and doctrines:
This ignorance, however, has little to do with intelligence or ability, and everything to do with literacyâ€”the kind of literacy that results from catechesis, interpersonal catechesis. Our evangelical churches are illiterate because catechesis rarely takes place … And it is only interpersonal, challenging catechesisâ€”face-to-face discipleship between the catechist and catechumenâ€”that can dispel such illiteracy, so that the baptized may not only recognize the story in its various manifestations (the contents of the Bible, confessional articles, liturgical appointments and rites, and so forth), but also own it as their integrated worldview and lifestyle.
Catechism! Catechism? Isn’t this Roman Catholic? This is a very popular misconception. The word “catechism” comes from the Greek word katechesis which the Bible uses eight times as a verb, katecheo, which means “to instruct, teach, or inform” (Luke 1:4;Â Acts 18:25, 21:21, 24; Rom 2:18; 1 Cor 14:19; Gal 6:6).
During the early church, those who made profession of faith were calledÂ “catechumens,” who then underwent careful instruction, “catechesis,” before they and their families were received into the church through baptism. This careful instruction was neglected during the medieval age, so the 16th century Protestant Reformers revived catechetical instruction by writing catechisms, notably Luther (1529), Calvin’s Geneva (1541), and Heidelberg (1563). The Roman Catholic Church’s catechism produced by the Council of Trent (1566) was a reaction to the Reformed catechisms. In his preface to his catechism, Luther wrote:
We must have the young learn the parts which belong to the Catechism or instruction for children well and fluently and diligently exercise themselves in them and keep them occupied with them …Â It is the duty of every father of a family to question and examine his children and servants at least once a week and to ascertain what they know of it, or are learning, and, if they do not know it, to keep them faithfully at it.
Luther saw the importance of the connection between catechetical instruction and the preaching of the Word:
However, it is not enough for them to comprehend and recite these parts according to the words only, but the young people should also be made to attend the preaching, especially during the time which is devoted to the Catechism, that they may hear it explained, and may learn to understandÂ what every part contains.
Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, in his article, “Fathers, Instruct Your Children,” sees the two integral portions of catechetical instruction: home and church. But the main and more important portion is the instruction given by parents at home, particularly Dads:
Parents should not assume that the church’s role is to supply the catechetical instruction that they as parents make little or no effort to provide at home. Too many times Christians labor under the false assumption that the church and its various youth programs will make up for a lack of instruction in the home … Sunday schools and youth programs are wonderful reinforcements to what the parents undertake in the home. But these can never replace the value of instructing one’s children in the basics of Christian faith.
And a side benefit to the parents instructing their children
is that they also catechize themselves in the process! In order to teach your kids and to be able to answer their questions, which are often more direct and difficult than those asked by many adults, you must learn the material for yourself. In order to teach, you have to learn!