So let’s just get to it…I mean, let’s cut through the proverbial poo and say it straight:
Teenagers need theology.
Theos meaning God, –logy meaning study of; hence, theology is the study of God. Teenagers need to study God, they need to have conversations about God, read books about God, learn about God…regularly.
For too long we have given our teens Wednesday night pizza and ping pong, Saturday morning service projects, and Sunday morning bible studies that have the doctrinal depth of a flannel graph teaching of the Good Samaritan and gets them no further than, “God loves everyone.” (wink…nod…twinkle smile) Then they wake up one day and someone offers them a hit of this or a drink of that or acceptance from them and all of a sudden all they know is, “Who needs God, when I have all this?” Or they get a phone call their sophomore year of college, “Your mom was in a horrible accident son, we lost her” or “Your dad has cancer honey, the doctors are giving him three months” and all of a sudden all they know is, “God hates me.”
They come to these conclusions, I believe, because the God we introduce them to, many times, is the equivalent of a fairy godmother who loves us for who we are, only does nice things for us, and whose sole purpose is to make sure we are comfortable and happy…for eternity. They come to these conclusions because the Bible is treated, many times, like a follow up to our own thoughts, instead of the foundation of all thought. They come to these conclusions because we make Jesus our “homeboy,” the Holy Spirit our sherpa, and the Church is an option to be embraced or shunned at will. That God, that Jesus, that Holy Spirit, that Church are EASY to give up on, because we only need fairy godmothers when we’re in trouble, homeboys come and go, sherpas don’t always lead us the way we want to go, and options are just that…options…we can always find cooler (less hypocritical) people to hang out with.
So what’s the answer? Well…Wayne Grudem of course…just kidding, kind of. I once wrote a curriculum called Concentrate: Theology for Youth. It was a 28 week concise study of Wayne Grudem’s 1296 page Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine broken down to key points and fed to a group of teenagers in a Sunday School class. Week by week we worked our way through big truths and difficult doctrines to better understand the Trinitarian God we claim to know and love and week by week I witnessed something amazing…students actually falling more in love with that God.
Listen, systematic theology is not the answer, Wayne Grudem is not the answer, Jesus is, but how do we best introduce teenagers to Jesus? How do we best explain to them who the God of the Bible really is and what He has done through His Son and what He continues to do through His Spirit and the Church, so that they don’t give up at the first sign of trouble? A.W. Tozer once said:
“What I believe about God is the most important thing about me.”
The Apostle Peter tells us:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:2-3)
“All things that pertain to life and godliness” come to us “through the knowledge of him who called us.” If it has to do with life and godliness, that’s faith, holiness, love of others, love of the church, growth in Christlikeness…everything we need…comes through knowledge of God. What God are you giving your teenagers? Is it the God of the Bible? Is it the God of your imagination? Give them sound doctrine (Titus 2:1), give them unadulterated theology that puts God before their eyes in His full and deserved glory. Then watch them fall in love.
In August of 1958 a little trio named The Teddy Bears put out their first record with a B-side track called To Know Him is To Love Him. By December 1 it had climbed the charts and was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. An unknown 17 year old senior in high school, named Phil Spector, wrote the song after being inspired by the epitaph on his father’s headstone that read, “To know him was to love him.” The words of this simple song from the 1950s still ring true today when it comes to the knowledge of our great and glorious King, Jesus.
To know, know, know him, is to love, love, love him
And I do, and I do, yes I do.
May we give our teens all that we can to help them know their God.
May we teach them with sound doctrine that leads to life and godliness.
May we give them theology that helps them fall in love with their Savior.
May we help them…learn to follow.