I recently had a conversation with a good friend who had decided that he would no longer be a Christian. He said that he just was so dissatisfied with the faith. It left him feeling empty and it ended up not being what he thought he was promised. I walked away from the conversation with a pit in my stomach. Unsure how to respond to him, I just tried to be a good listener. But I have to tell you I have felt the very same things, most of us have.
North American Categories
For the most part, I have ministered in "Bible" churches. These are the churches that basically focus on exegesis and on the teaching of God's word. But as a young child I attended a very different type of church - "Holy Spirit" churches. These are the churches that focus on the power and presence of The Holy Spirit. What's interesting is that in America there are these two camps - the Bible churches and the Holy Spirit churches - and there is a real contention between the two.
Bible Churches Motto: Father, Son, and Holy BIBLE
Holy Spirit Churches Motto: father, son, and Holy SPIRIT
(I realize this is a gross generalization of both camps and one that they'd argue against, but bear with me, it's just me having a little fun.)
But have you ever had the thought that it really isn't supposed to be this way? Have you ever felt completely dissatisfied with one camp or the other? One camp speaks like experiences are negative and the other camp just seems to only seek experiences. This has left, at least in my humble opinion, both camps wanting. And I believe this is leaving many young believers looking elsewhere - or at the very least, living with a growing feeling that something is missing.
Billy Graham would fall into the Bible Church category, yet this is what he said towards the end of his ministry. "Everywhere I go, I find that God's people lack something. They are hungry for something. Their Christian experience is not all that they expected and they often have recurring defeat in their lives. Christians today are hungry for spiritual fulfillment. The desperate need of the nation today is that men and women who profess Jesus, be filled with the Holy Spirit."
What strikes me is that Billy Graham is no charismatic. He's not saying that Bible churches need to become holy spirit churches. I just think he realized that the kingdom is a BOTH/AND kind of kingdom.
Deeply intellectual. Deeply spiritual.
Deep teaching. Deep experiences.
Deeply listening to the teaching pastor. Deeply listening to God's still small voice.
Deeply faithful to God's word. Deeply aware of God's Spirit who is at work within us.
As I sat there with my friend, who is leaving the faith, I realized that, in his case, no one had ever helped him be in tune with God's Spirit. He had experienced great teaching in his church for many years, but had never experienced God's work. On the flip side, I have other friends who are restless because what their faith is missing is the other side of the same coin - solid Bible teaching.
I love traveling over the big pond to London whenever I can (which these days has been not at all =). But something amazing is happening over there. Thousands and thousands of young people are coming to faith and the churches over there don't seem to have the categories that we have over here. Many seem to be, BOTH/AND churches.
Someone will get up, who studied at Cambridge or Oxford, and teach something deep and intellectually stimulating and then the church will rise and listen to God's Spirit. People will turn and pray for each other and God actually moves. Many are healed or given peace or whatever it is that God knows that they are needing. They receive what's called a holistic gospel - the whole coin! = Thoughtful teaching and the power and presence of God. This is what a generation is longing for.
I could write and write and we could talk and talk about this all week long, but my prayer is that this little thought would energize you, would challenge you. Help you see the other side of the coin.
May we as youth workers, first and foremost, open our own lives to the other side and then, may it spill over into our ministries and into the lives of those we are ministering to. And may our students thrive! May they live holistic lives, learning how to feed themselves with God's word and His presence.