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Awakening Teenagers (and the Church) to the Supremacy of Christ

Here is the question: Who is God’s Son today and why does it matter?

At the moment of His second coming, Christ will appear, more majestic and powerful than we can possibly imagine. He will split the heavens. All humanity will see Him for who He is.

Now, do the teenagers in your home or church know that who He will be on that day is precisely who He is today? Do they know that His sovereign glory then is His sovereign glory now? When they prayed this morning, do you think they were seeing Christ on His throne? A more troubling question is, do we as leaders really know Him like that?

In the Old Testament, God spoke through the prophets, and He revealed Himself in many other ways. Beginning two thousand years ago, He has chosen to reveal Himself most clearly in His Son. This is a perfect plan since the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature.

When the Son had made purification of sins, He was enthroned at the right hand of the Majesty on high. The Father then announced that in this age of the church, God the Son is to have supremacy.

But in the U.S., in the 1960s, things began to go wrong. Believers generally shifted their primary focus to becoming more prosperous, comfortable, and happy. They still held to Jesus, but just as their church mascot and an addendum to pursuing the American dream.

Kenda Dean suggests a parasite, a symbiote, entered the American church. This parasite, later to be named moralistic therapeutic deism, quietly began replacing the true Christian faith.

In our day most believers still speak of Jesus but mostly concerning the days He walked on earth. They are more likely to picture Him sitting on a big rock with giggling children in His lap than reigning from the throne of heaven. Sermons, Bible lessons, and church hallway conversations are almost completely devoid of any focus on the transcendent majesty of who the Son is today.

In our day most believers still speak of Jesus but mostly concerning the days He walked on earth.

One of America’s best-known worship leaders recently confided a heartache to David Bryant. He said, “Often it feels to me as if, for many of our people, singing praise songs and hymns on a Sunday morning has turned into an affair with Christ. … Too many of us are far more passionate about lesser, temporal concerns such as getting ahead at the office, finding personal happiness in a hobby, driving a new car, or rearing well-balanced children. But we rarely ever get that excited about Christ Himself, at least on any consistent basis. Except when we enter a sanctuary on a Sunday. Then for awhile we end up sort of ‘swooning’ over Christ with feel-good music and heart-stirring prayers—only to return to the daily grind of secular seductions to which, for all practical purposes, we’re thoroughly ‘married.’”

Over 80 percent of U.S. congregations are either stagnant or dying. In proportion to population, there are fewer than half as many churches today as there were only a century ago. In fact, the United States is considered by some to be one of the largest unchurched nations in the world. Many church members have slipped so far in their view of Christ that they almost need to be reintroduced to Him all over again.

I often hear church teenagers say, “I just love Jesus. He’s always there for me.” It’s as if they have a little buddy who rides in their pocket. This little Jesus stays out of the way until they need to pull Him out and poof some problem or difficulty away. Then they can put Him back in their pocket to be mostly irrelevant to their lives until they need Him again. It’s a little Jesus.

We need to listen carefully to the voices of Christian Smith and others. Teenagers do not have such a weak faith because they have rejected the faith of the church. They have a weak faith because they have almost perfectly absorbed the weak faith of the church. The core problem is not with teenagers; it is with adults—with us.

Teenagers do not have such a weak faith because they have rejected the faith of the church. They have a weak faith because they have almost perfectly absorbed the weak faith of the church. The core problem is not with teenagers; it is with adults—with us.

In Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry, Rick Lawrence says, “Many of us want Jesus to give us more of what we want, we want him to do it fast and make it easy for us, and we want guarantees that our fun won’t be compromised if we follow him.” Rick says we may “end up graduating class after class of young Pharisees—teenagers who are pragmatically associated with the benefits of ‘religion,’ but not desperately in love with Jesus.”

We have spent decades talking to teenagers about the centrality of Christ but almost never about the supremacy of Christ. Centrality is about keeping Christ at the center of who we are, where we are headed, and all we are doing.

Supremacy speaks of so much more. It proclaims Christ’s right to keep us at the center of who He is, where He is headed, and how He is blessed. Jesus does not exist to come down here and make my life a little easier. I exist to stand before Him in awe-filled worship and to join Him in bringing His kingdom on the earth. It’s never all about me. It’s always all about Him.

We sometimes say, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Perhaps it would be better to use David Bryant’s words: “God loves His Son and has a wonderful plan for Him, to sum up everything in Heaven and earth under Him as Redeemer and Lord; and He loves you and me enough to give us a strategic place in it.”

But sovereign God always is achieving His sovereign purposes. Just now there is every indication the Father and the Spirit are initiating a movement—waking the church to the reigning glory of the Son. A growing number of us are praying for a full Christ awakening in the American church. A Christ awakening unfolds whenever God’s Spirit uses God’s Word to reintroduce God’s people to God’s Son for all He is.

A Christ awakening unfolds whenever God’s Spirit uses God’s Word to reintroduce God’s people to God’s Son for all He is.

In your church perhaps that awakening will begin with you. Maybe the Spirit will immerse you in books, Scriptures, and prayer about the current majesty of the Son. Then perhaps your new vision of the enthroned Christ will splash over on parents and other youth leaders. Soon after, maybe you will see your teenagers filled with wonder concerning King Jesus. Then maybe, just maybe, a Christ awakening will spill out of the youth room and will begin to flood the entire congregation.

I know this: The fulfillment of every hope and dream you have for your church begins when the Spirit awakens believers to the majesty of the Son for the glory of the Father.

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Richard Ross

Richard Ross

Professor of Student Ministry.

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