By Donnie Rader
It is becoming quite common for churches to plan a young people’s lectureship, special week-end, or Saturday study. I have been invited to and participated in some of these programs. Usually these consist of three or four “lectures” by young preachers whose material is geared toward young people and their needs.
I certainly am not opposed to preaching the gospel to the young, old, or middle aged. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with a lectureship, young preachers, or material designed to help teenagers live the Christian life. However, I do have some concerns that I think are legitimate. Please consider them carefully.
One of the things that concerns me about these “young people’s lectureships” is what it may imply about our regular services or gospel meetings. When we have a special series that addresses the needs of the teenagers, that implies that other times that we preach the gospel is not for them. It implies that other messages (on the home, the church, divorce and remarriage, fellowship, instrumental music, the work of the Holy Spirit, forgive- ness, etc.) are not for them.
We have enough problems with young people showing no real interest in spiritual things without feeding that problem.
The gospel is for all who are accountable (Rom. 7:9). That includes the young and the old since they all are of part of “every creature” (Mark 16:15).
It is interesting that we don’t hear of anyone having a “seniors” lectureship for those who are retirement age and beyond. If we did, would that not imply that the regular services or sermons were not really for them?
Oh, I know of no one who plans or participates in these who would claim that this implication is the message they intend. My question is about what seeds are planted in the minds of our young people.
Some of these events are quite casual and informal by design. I understand that the motive is to be able to “re- late” to the young folks and make them feel comfortable. I wonder why it has to be casual or informal to benefit the teenagers or college folks. Could we be feeding an attitude that robs God and service to him of the dignity and respect deserved?
Our liberal brethren for years have had “youth ministers.” No one opposes young men preaching the gospel. However, the idea of a youth minister is that his work is primarily for the young folks. We could argue the same point here that we have about the lectureships. Could it be that the concepts are similar? If so, how long before we begin to see youth ministers among us?
Similar Concerns in the Past
In November 1942, N.B. Hardeman warned of similar things. Read carefully the following from his sermon “The Mission And Work Of The Church.”
It is the duty of the overseers to feed and to develop the members of any church. To do so does not require the organization of something unknown to the Bible. Many brethren have looked upon our young people’s meetings with some degree of suspicion. If we are not careful, we may have an organization not at all different from others which we now condemn. Really, brethren, I have failed to find anywhere in the Bible where there is a difference made in teaching or church work between a young fellow and an old fellow. Just where is that passage which intimates that the church should be divided according to years? Brethren Srygley and Tant taught that such distinctions evidenced our drifting away. To say the least of such, there is danger. I submit to you preachers that we should be exceeding careful lest, in our enthusiasm to make a big show, we turn apart from the straight and narrow path and have within our midst something that the Lord does not want (Hardeman’s Tabernacle Sermons, V:53).
What I Am Not Saying
Don’t misunderstand the warning of this article. I am not saying that it is wrong to have classes or special studies for young people. I defend the right of churches to have classes for various age groups. In such an arrangement the Bible study can be geared to the level of the student (from pre-schoolers to the adult).
The point is that we be careful lest we leave some impression that we don’t intend to leave.
Why Not Just Preach To All?
I am as concerned about our young people as any. I know there are topics and warnings they need to hear. However, I wonder what is wrong with just preaching the gospel (the whole counsel of God — Acts 20:27) to everyone? Some things will apply to the old (Tit. 2:2), some to the young (Tit. 2:6), some to the married (1 Cor. 7:3-5), some to parents (Eph. 6:2-4), some to children (Eph. 6:1), some to elders (Acts 20:28), some to men (1 Tim. 2:8), some to women (1 Tim. 2:11-12), some to aliens (Acts 2:38) and some to the child of God (Acts 8:22). Yet the gospel is to be preached to all.
Balanced preaching can make the young, old, parents, and children feel that the message is for them. Paul told Titus to preach the sound doctrine (Tit. 2:1). Yet, various people would be addressed in the doctrine that he preached (vv. 2-15).