Guest Post: Does Theology Really Matter in Youth Ministry?

theology-matters“Is theology really that important for youth ministry?” I would say that such a question is comparable to asking an auto mechanic, “Is gasoline really that important for my car?” Sure, a youth ministry can appear to be thriving with fun games, professionally performed music, and a growing number of students in attendance, but if it’s based on anything apart from sound doctrine, is it really a thriving “ministry”? I would say that sound doctrine is the lifeblood for every youth ministry. Here’s why:

The Bible portrays doctrine as a serious matter. The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” To men in the Bible, preaching another gospel was essentially the most harmful thing anyone could do – the word “accursed” means “eternally condemned” (Bible Knowledge Commentary). A youth minister doesn’t get a free pass on this warning just because students are younger than adults; Paul’s warning covers all generations. Why are words so strong? Think about it, if the gospel is absent in our youth ministries, then we have nothing of eternal value to offer – “chubby bunny” lasts 5 minutes tops. In all seriousness though, Scripture identifies the gospel – the message of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection – as being “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). And if we ignore the gospel (which, if you caught the connection, is foundational to “sound doctrine”), then we are running our youth ministries on something other than Christ and His Word. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want that to happen in any youth ministry.

The way you run your youth ministry is a reflection of your doctrine. Why do you teach from the Bible? Why do you minister to your surrounding communities? Why do you sing songs to God? Why do you work within the context of a local church? The way you answer these questions and every question related to “why you do what you do” will reveal your doctrinal convictions. Think about these implications for just a moment. If your view of the Bible (bibliology) is weak, then you won’t care to spend much time teaching it corporately, nor will you counsel youth according to biblical applications. If your view of sin (hamartiology) is shallow, then you distort the message of the gospel and forsake its value. There is no reason for Christ to die for people that are spiritually “okay,” who simply need a solid moral example – that’s called heresy (Christology & soteriology). If your view of the church (ecclesiology) is unbiblical, then you could care less in being committed to your brothers- and sisters-in-Christ. Plus, there will be a mentality of “anything goes” when it comes to ministry philosophies and programs – that’s dangerous. I could go on and on with countless examples, but it just goes to show that your theology will direct your ministry.

Sound doctrine affects our personal lives. You are allowed to raise your hands on this question: “How many of you have ‘asked Jesus into your heart’ at least ten times in your life?” I remember growing up with such a terrible fear of not genuinely meaning my prayer of repentance and conversion. Yes, this is a pattern found in most teenagers today as well. If you’ve read your Bible enough, you will know that “asking Jesus into your heart” is not what saves you, it’s Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross for your sin, and Him being “raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). All that a person needs to do is repent and believe in this good news. Man, I wish my theology wasn’t so messed up growing up; that would’ve saved me so much trouble. But sound theology affects more than your conversion to Christianity – it affects proper worship, evangelism, love for others, moral choices, work ethic, dating guidelines, responding to tragedies, fighting sin, etc. Every question that a teenager might have is related to theology in some way.

I am convinced that sound doctrine is the lifeblood to a healthy youth ministry. Are you?

This guest post was written by John Wiley. John is the Youth Pastor at Gospel Baptist Church in Archdale, North Carolina. He just finished his BA in Christian Ministries from Piedmont International University, and is beginning his MA in Biblical Studies from PIU this January. He is happily married to his beautiful wife Cindy, and enjoys drinking strong coffee with her on sunny Saturday afternoons while either reading or watching movies in Winston-Salem, NC.  

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What the Virgin Birth Shows Us

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to speak at The Grove Student Ministry for their “Christmas at The Grove” service. The Grove is the student ministry at Union Grove Baptist Church in Lexington, NC. Josh Evans is the student pastor and has a great blog where you can find great posts on student ministry and leadership. I wanted to summarize the message I gave and share it here on my blog.

After much prayer and study, I decided to speak to the students about what the Virgin birth shows us about God and His Son Jesus. I believe the Virgin birth shows us three important truths that can be seen in Luke 1:35 which says,

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy the Son of God.”

Gods Power. The first thing we see from the Virgin birth and this verse in particular is that God is powerful. The phrase “the power of the Most High will overshadow you” shows us that the Virgin birth was something planned and carried out by our sovereign and all-powerful God! A virgin giving birth to a child is impossible, but our God is the God of the impossible. We are reminded of this when the angel tells Mary this in verse 37: “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Christ Sinlessness. We see the word holy in this verse which means  pure, good, without any defect or deficiency or blemish. It carries the idea of being totally set apart from sin. One of the reasons Christ had to be born of a virgin was because He had to be sinless. If He would have come through the normal means of birth He would have inherited the sinful nature we are all given because of Adam’s sin in Genesis. Christ would not have been able to be the sacrifice for our sins if He had a sin nature. He had to be sinless in order to die for our sins in our place. Being born through a Virgin and by God’s power, Christ came into the world sinless. He then lived a perfect, sinless life in order for His righteousness to be imputed to us (2 Corinthians 5:21). I wrote a blog called “What the Layaway Angels Teach us About Christ” that talks more about this truth, check it out!

Christ Humanity. Christ was fully God, but also fully man. We don’t understand this, but we know it is true because God’s Word teaches it. This is why the Virgin birth is so amazing! Christ, even though fully, came down to earth and walk among us a man. The verse above ends with the phrase Son of God. This title of Christ shows us His deity as well as His humanity. This was Christ very title of Himself and used it the most Himself. He wants people to understand He is fully God, but also embraced humanity. This should encourage us because He can understand and sympathize with us as we go through life. The beginning of Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses…” Christ, our high priest, can sympathize with us, how encouraging! The ends of this verse says, “…in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Even though Christ was sinless, He still faced temptation as we do. We see this clearly in Luke 4:1-12. The reason Christ came as a human was ultimately to die on the cross for our sin and giving us a way to have a relationship with God (Philippians 2:5-8; John 14:6).

I hope this Christmas didn’t pass you by without taking a time to think about the Virgin birth of our Savior. He came through God’s power for you! He was sinless so He could die for you and give you His righteousness! He embraced humanity so He could sympathize with you! Christ came into this world for you and for me. Have we let that truth seek in this Christmas?

I hope to have the video of this sermon on here soon. Until then feel free to check out some of my other sermons I have preached over the past year on the “Preaching and Teaching” page here on my blog.

What The Layaway Angels Teach us About Christ

If you have been watching the news for the past few days, you probably saw a story on what they are calling the “Layaway Angels.” It seems that all across the country people are going to their local Kmart and Wal-Mart to pay off peoples layaway accounts. People are shocked when they find out their account has been paid off. What I find interesting is how this story teaches so much about Christ, but many people miss that and say this story reminds them of how we should be “generous” during the Christmas season. I am all for being generous, but we need to realize the Christmas season is so much than just being generous.

The “Layaway Angels” remind us of the real reason for Christmas and it is not about be generous. We all are born into this world as sinners (Romans 3:32) and the price we must pay for being a sinner is death (Romans 6:23). The good news, the Gospel, is that Christ came into this world to pay that price for us by dying in our place (Romans 5:8). Not only did He die in our place, but He gave us His righteousness because being righteous, perfect, is the only way to be in relationship with a holy God. Christ, who knew no sin, became sin so that we could be given His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). The theological word for this is impute which basically means that Christ gave us His righteousness as if it were ours. So now we stand justified (“declared righteous”) before God.

Just like these “Layaway Angels” paid off the debt of others accounts, Christ paid the debt of our account, a price we could not pay. That is the reason we celebrate Christmas! We celebrate Christmas because Christ came into this world through a virgin so He could live a perfect life and go to the cross for us. Christmas is about the Gospel! If Christ were not born, there would be no cross and no salvation for us.

I think it is important to remind ourselves of what Christ did for us as much as possible. So when you hear about the “Layaway Angels” remind yourself of what Christ did for you. He came and paid off your account so you could have a personal relationship with God.

Here is one video you can find on the web about the “Layaway Angels.”

Where I Stand on The Doctrine of Salvation

For my Bible Doctrine 2 module with Dr. White, we are having to type a ten page doctrinal statement. The following is the Soteriology (salvation) section from my doctrinal statement. Enjoy!

The Doctrine of Soteriology

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

I believe in the pure, whole Gospel of Jesus Christ. The clearest and best description of the full Gospel is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. In this passage gives us the full Gospel: Christ died, was buried, and was raised from the dead. The Gospel is no more or less than what was given to us in this passage.

Salvation By Faith Alone

Salvation is the total work of God in bringing people from condemnation to justification, from death to eternal life, from alienation to filiations (Ryrie 319). To obtain this salvation, there is only one requirement. Ephesians 2:8, 9 tells us that it is by grace that we are saved through faith. Faith was the necessary condition for salvation in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament (Ryrie 321). Salvation is by faith alone (Romans 5:1-2) and not of works (Romans 11:6; 6:23; Ephesians 2:9). Some Catholics and other denominations believe that there are additional requirements for salvation other than faith. Such additional requirements may be baptism, sacraments, etc. but faith is the only requirement for salvation. I do not hold to the Lordship Salvation view with surrender and repentance. I also do not hold to the baptism as part of salvation like the Catholics.

Salvation Is A Free Gift

As discussed in “Salvation by Faith” section, salvation cannot be earned or worked for, but is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8, 9; Romans 5:1-2; 11:6).  In regards to Ephesians 2:8, 9, Reformed Theology and Dispensational Theology disagrees on the order of events and what the “gift” actually is. The Reformed view says that regeneration come before the special call to salvation due to the fact man is total depraved and cannot do anything good. The Dispensational view says that the special call comes before regeneration. I hold to the Dispensational view on this issue and also on their meaning of the “gift.” Reformed Theology says that the “gift” is faith that God gives so we can be saved. Dispensational Theology, and my view, is that the “gift” is the total package of salvation we get freely.

Results of Christ’s Death for Believers

The death of Christ means everything to us as believers, but because of His death there are a few things He was for us and has done for us through His death. First, Christ was our substitution. Substitution means that Christ suffered as a substitute for us, instead of us, resulting in the advantage to us paying for our sins (Ryrie 329).  Basically, this means that Christ died on the cross for our sins in our place (Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 2:22; Luke 11:11; John 1:16; Romans 12:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; Hebrews 12:16; 1 Peter 3:9). The crucial for this verse for Christ being our substitute is Mark 10:45 (Ryrie 331). Second, we are redeemed by Christ’s death. Redemption means liberation because of a payment made (Ryrie 334). Since Christ was our payment for sin that we owed, we are liberated from that payment (1 Corinthians 1:30; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; 2 Peter 2:1). Thirdly, we have become reconciled to God. Reconciliation means a change of relationship from hostility to harmony and peace between two parties (Ryrie 336; Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20). Before salvation we were enemies of God (Romans 5:10), but after salvation and being reconciled with God we are now children of God (Romans 9:8) and are a part of His family which is a act of God called adoption (Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5). Lastly, Christ was our propitiation, which means the turning away of wrath by an offering (Ryrie 339). By Christ offering Himself upon the cross for us, He turned the wrath of God from us (1 John 2:2; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17) It is that by which God covers, overlooks, and pardons the penitent and believing sinner because of Christ’s death (Evans 72). In addition to these, I believe because of Christ’s death we are justified (“declared righteous”) (Romans 5:1), regenerated (“born again”) (John 3:3; Matthew 9:28; Titus 3:5), and given the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).

The Atonement

Lewis Sperry Chafer says the word atonement is the term, which men have seized to express the entire work of Christ upon the cross (Chafer 127). There are various views on that have been propagated throughout church history (Ryrie 355). The view that I believe is Scriptural and fits the best concerning Christ’s work is the Penal Substitution view. This view says that Christ the sinless one took on Himself the penalty that should have been borne by man and others (Ryrie 356). I believe in unlimited atonement, which holds to Christ died for the sins of all human beings (Geisler 347). The Scripture if full of support for the unlimited atonement, but has no support for the limited atonement that is maintained by the Calvinists (Geisler 347). The verses that teach limited atonement are: Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 22:14; 23:37; John 1:29; 3:16-17; 12:47; Romans 5:6; 18-19; 2 Corinthians 5:14-19; 1 Timothy 2:3-4, 6; 4:10; Hebrews 2:9; 2 Peter 2:1; 3:9; 1 John 2:2. Even though Christ died for all, salvation is exclusive. Thus, I hold to exclusivism which means that only one religion is true and what is opposed to it in other religions are false (Geisler 412). Our Lord makes this very clear (John 14:6; 10:9).

Eternal Security of the Believer

I believe in the eternal security of the believer (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:35; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Jude 24). Eternal security is the work of God that guarantees that the gift of salvation, once received, is forever and cannot be lost (Ryrie 379). This doctrine of security is one of the five points of Calvinistic system (“perseverance of the saints”), but it is more distinguished by the fact that it is set forth in the New Testament in the most absolute terms (Chafer 267).

Sources Used for this Doctrinal Statement:

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. Basic Theology: a Popular Systemic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago, Ill.: Moody, 1999. Print.

Evans, William, and S. Maxwell Coder. The Great Doctrines of the Bible. Chicago: Moody, 1974. Print.

Chafer, Lewis S. Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Vol. 3. Binghamton: Vail-Ballou, 1971. Print. Soteriology.

Geisler, Norman L. Systematic Theology: Volume Three : Sin, Salvation. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House, 2004. Print.

Four Lanes of the Emerging Church: Which One Are You In?

My professor, Dr. Time White (www.drtimwhite.com), showed us this video today in my Bible Doctrine 2 module and it cleared up a lot of questions and confusion I had with the whole emerging vs. emergent church movement. When the majority of us hear those two words we think they are the same thing and a lot of people use them interchangeably. We need to be extremely careful how we use these words because there two parties are going down two very different paths. I hope you will see by the end of this post the difference between being in the emerging church movement or the emergent church movement.

In this video, Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church (www.marshillchurch.org), presents the four “lanes” that are in the emergent church movement. Now, I know there are many Christians and people in ministry who don’t want to be even close to the emergent circle, but I have figured out that if you are trying new methods and new ways of ministry in your church you are in one form or the other emerging. At the end of this post I hope you will see what “lane” you fit best in, if you are ok with being in the emerging movement at all, and will better understand the views of other believers around you. Yes, even emergent and emerging people can be saved for all the legalistic people out there.

First, Driscoll talks about the emerging evangelicals. These are people who believe all the major doctrines of the Bible and our basically evangelical. While holding to their evangelical claims, they are trying new methods and want to be relevant as a Church to the culture. Dricolls brings up a good point in saying they tend to be ok with women pastors, which I do not agree with because of 1 Timothy 3:2 when it says “husband of one wife” which clearly shows that a pastor must be a man. This group is “not trying to change Christianity” says Driscoll, but are just “trying to make church more relevant.

Secondly, Driscolls talks about the House Church Evangelicals. This group wants to get rid of buildings, pastors, etc. to stop having “big church” and have “small church.” They meet in coffee shops, houses, etc. and keep it smaller in number. They believe it works well, but like Driscoll says, it does work well in countries where it church is outlawed and they have to meet in houses. I agree with Driscoll that this approach does not work best in this culture. They will tend to say this is a “Biblical approach,” but as Driscoll says in Acts 2, where this group will hold to, they meet did meet from “house to house,” but then they meet at the Temple Court in a large group for worship. This house church movement is not only effective, but not that Biblical. Now this approach for small groups is perfect! Like Driscoll says, Mars Hill Church is set up where they meet in houses for small groups throughout the week and then on Sundays meet as a large group for worship. Many other churches are doing this and I believe this is a very effective, Biblical way to do church and build a good community of believers. Too many churches are stuck on doing Sunday Morning, Sunday Night, Wednesday Night, and a hour long Sunday School hour. I believe this is a ineffective way to do church in this culture. I think meeting together for cooperative worship on Sundays or whenever you do it is necessary and commanded. I believe small groups sometime during the week is a must, It gives people a change to study deeper into the word in smaller groups and build better relationships.

Thirdly, Driscoll talks about the emerging reformers. This is the group Driscoll belongs to and he describes it very well. This group holds to most of the evangelical doctrines, but are more reformed in there theology. They tend to be reformed as in Calvinism and are more charismatic in their worship believing the sign gifts are still in operation today. That is the only thing about this group I really disagree with. I can semi-agree with reformed theology, but not all the way, but cannot agree with sign gifts still being used today. I believe the sign gifts are not needed today because the full revelation, God’s Word, is complete and we have it and the whole reason for sign gifts was for Jews because they required a sign. The issue of tongues is another whole issue I will discuss in another post sometime, but I just wanted to let you know that was the only area really I disagree with when it comes to emerging reformers. This groups loves the reformed theology and theologians. They love John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Piper, Wayne Grudem, etc. I agree with this lane practically and love what they are doing, but when it comes to their core theology I disagree just a little bit.

Lastly. Driscoll talks about the emergent liberals. As Driscoll said, this group is questioning all the main doctrines of the Bible. Like Driscoll says, “they are asking doctrines that should not be questions and definitely as pastors.” I agree and respect Driscoll for taking a stand on this. The core doctrines of the Bible, not preference, but core doctrines we must not question and hold to no matter what! The emergent village is a group that is in this “lane” and this is a dangerous round too many people are going down. Like Driscoll says, “if the Bible lied about Jesus, we lost everything!” We cannot dismiss or question the main doctrines that are clearly given to us in the Bible. If we loose and let go of these doctrines, we loose our faith. Guys such as Brian Mclaren (www.brianmclaren.net) and Rob Bell (www.robbell.com) in this group and are, in my opinion, teaching false Gospel and false theology.

In conslusion you might be wondering where do I stand and what “lane” I am in. When I look at these four “lanes” I cannot really fit myself in any of them 100%. Let me explain. I will not and cannot agree with the emergent liberals. I believe the doctrines of the Bible should not be questioned and should be stood upon with all faith. I do not agree and cannot work in the house church evangelical circle. I believe there motives and heart is in the right place, but I don’t think we need to change church, but more the less change the methods of how we do church. So that leaves emerging evangelical and emerging reformers. I would say I am a mix between these two and hold to each of them while letting go of a few things from each. For example, I love what they both are doing. They are both holding onto the doctrines of the Bible and not letting those go, but are trying new methods and making church more relevant. This is the prime example of changing the method, but keeping the message of the Gospel the same! I gree with both groups as they do this and do this myself. Methods need to change for the age, gender, culture, etc. but always keeping the same message of the Gospel! With each of these two groups I let go of a little like for emerging evangelicals I do not believe in woman pastors. For the emergent reformers, I disagree about there stance on sign gifts and believe they are not operative today. Also, I do not agree fully with reformed theology. But I believe each group as good stuff and some stuff I just don’t hold to. So not sure what you would consider me, but if I had to come up with some title it would be a emerging dispensationlists. I agree with some reform theology, but hold more to dispensationalism so will fall more on that side. But I love the emerging movement about holding to doctrine, but changing our methods and trying to become more relevant.

So where are you? Do you even want to be lumped in with the emerging movements? I would say don’t be scared to be considered to be a emerging person. The idea is good and effective. We need to consider our methods and see how we can reach more and be more effective while holding to the Gospel. I hope this post helped you understand a little more about the emerging vs. emergent movements and maybe helped you understand where you fit into all this. Ministry is important and the Gospel needs to be spread. Let’s stop arguing and debating so we can work together to spread the Gospel and build up each other in the faith!

For more info on the emerging and emergent church, check out Mark Driscoll’s chapter on it in his book Religion Saves: Plus Nine Other Misconceptions. Great book I am reading right now.