Does The Church Depend On The Innovations Of Youth?

When I was in college, I interviewed for a youth director job at a church.  In the interview, I was asked how I would conduct myself as a youth director.  I recall saying something to the effect, "Well, as a youth director, I will be sure to make the Bible and church relevant!"  Needless to say, what I essentially did was to insult the church leaders and pastor.  I also offended over two-thousand years of church history.  You see, I had this idea that the Bible and the church were irrelevant and that my youthfulness would be an asset to those older outdated church leaders and what I deemed as an out of touch church.  However, I was severely misguided.

I was severely misguided because the church is not like other sectors of our culture – the church does not depend on innovative youthfulness.  In fact, would it even be possible to respect a church that says, "Youth, please comfort us!  We are unsure about what we ought to be doing.  Do you have any good ideas that we can experiment with for worship?  Any thoughts on what this week’s sermon topic should be? “  In other words, while Google needs innovated young people to create ground-breaking apps and while Apple aspires to incorporate the fresh new ideas of youth culture, the church does not depend on the novelties of youth because historically no ‘healthy' church lets youth decide its theology and practice.  Yes, it is up to the pastors, elders, and enduring saints of any healthy church to not only guard the church’s theology and practice but to also teach them to the next generation.[1] 

But why is it this way; why does the church not depend on the innovations and trends of youth?  The answer: the church’s theology is not continually evolving.  The church is not seeking to find a new truth or discover a new product.  The church is not trying to do a new thing.  If the church’s theology were continually evolving and if the church was trying to discover a new truth or do a new thing, then by all means, the innovative and fresh ideas of youth would be needed!  However, since the church is not on a journey of discovery, but rather, already possesses all that she needs in Jesus and Jesus’ Word, then the goal of the church is not to discover truth ‘from’ its youth but to pass down truth ‘to’ its youth.  Yes, the goal is to pass down truth that was once passed down to the pastors, elders, and enduring saints when they were once young themselves.  Ideally, those who are older are called to pass down the church’s theology and practice, because they do not look down on those who are younger[2].  And those who are younger, gladly receive, knowing that they are receiving good gifts[3].

What this means is that the church is about teaching youth the theology of God’s Word, equipping them with the wisdom laden ways of the church, and showing them the richness of the liturgy so that one day these youth will be able to return the favor to the next generation.

[1] Kurt Marquart, "Liturgical Commonplaces," Concordia Theological Quarterly: Volume 42, Number 4 (October 1978): 343.
[2] 1 Timothy 4:12.
[3] Titus 2:1-8.

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