Question:

I read your questions and answers often, and find real, godly and biblical solace in them. I trust your judgement and wanted to ask you several things.

My family has been attending churches of Christ since before we are born, and I could not see myself anywhere else. I'm a teen in the youth group here, and we have a healthy biblical outlook in our church. However, many of my friends are discontent with being here. They are constantly wanting to go to other churches with more "in touch" worship services and more "interesting" preachers. I feel like this is not only too much like church-shopping, but it isn't taking spiritual matters into consideration.

This has just caused me to grow more and more despairing of the state of American Christianity and the future of my peers. The church is attacked more and more on every side, even by people and groups who were supposed to stand solid for Christ.

What can the church do against such reckless hate? I understand that it's wrong to despair, but do you have some practical ways to fight despair and to fight the good fight continually?

Thank you for your time.


Answer:

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain" (Philippians 2:12-16).

It is not unusual for teenagers to go through a phase of wanting to be independent of their parents. They will select styles simply because it isn't something their parents wear. Even though they are following the crowd of other youths, it makes them feel unique.

Another motive actually comes from childhood. Children start out with a very self-centered view of the world. It is all about what I want and what makes me happy. Sadly may people don't lose that selfish streak when they grow up. As you noted, the focus is not on what God wants, but what pleases them the most. "For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).

But the real core of the problem is that they are not looking at themselves as belonging to the church they worship with. This is a widespread problem that doesn't just affect young people. When people talk about the local church in terms of what "they" do instead of what "we" do, you know there is a disconnect. If I notice that there is a problem in the congregation, then is my problem because I'm a part of the congregation.

For yourself, you need to realize that your salvation is dependent on what you do and not others. Other people might influence you for good or ill, but in the end you only answer for your own choices. "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself" (Ezekiel 18:20).

For your friends, ask them what worship is for and for whom is it for. The correct answer is that worship is the praising of God. If they get that one right, then ask them if the giver of worship or the receiver of worship is the one who decides what constitutes appropriate worship. Verses such as: John 14:15, 21, 23; I John 2:3-6; 5:2-3 all tell us that the way to express our love for God is to do His commandments. When the goal is to do what pleases me most, I have lost sight of what I am supposed to be doing.

Once this is established, then when someone complains about the local church or says another church is better, asked them how they came to the conclusion and what passage would apply. For some, it will drive them nuts because they make their choices based on their own feelings and not on any knowledge of what the Bible says. "A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart" (Proverbs 18:2). If there is a problem in the local church, the question should be how to build up the church so it becomes what God wants and not a discussion about tearing it apart. "The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands" (Proverbs 14:1).