It has been a VERY long time since my last post, some of you probably thought that I had forgotten about this blog, and I am sorry about that. I have been very very busy during spring here, with a big college preview trip with my youth group, starting a soccer program at our church, as well as the normal day to day goings on of youth ministry. However, I am back!
In the last few weeks I have heard over and over again a phrase that has really started to bother me. In all honesty and transparency, I must admit that I myself have been one of the ones to say it, so please don’t think that I am waving my finger just in your direction, I am an equal opportunity finger pointer! It is a phrase that we say with the best of intentions and utmost sincerity, but it is a phrase that demonstrates a lack of conviction in our culture. What is the phrase, you ask? The phrase is…..brace yourself this might get a little bit rough….are you ready? Are you sitting down? The phrase is…. “They are such good kids.“
Whoa! Hold on now Caleb! Just what are you saying? You are a youth pastor, you spend your days and weeks around teenagers, and you are telling me that you don’t want to have good kids in your youth group?!
That is exactly what I am saying. I don’t want good kids in my youth group. I don’t want my son (and any future children) to be good kids. I don’t want to be a youth pastor who sends good kids out from his youth group. I’m just not interested in that! Now I may have lost some of you at this point. Perhaps some youth pastors who are thinking that I am embarking on a mission to start a new “Bad Kid Youth Group” cult. Maybe some of you parents are thinking, “I don’t want my kid going to his youth group! He doesn’t want my son to be a good boy! Who knows what he could be teaching there!” Please though, bear with me, and let me explain myself. Let me explain why I have no interest in “good kids.”
The first reason that I have no interest in teaching and influencing “good kids,” is because in our culture now, we have drastically lowered the standard for defining what a “good kid” is. Many times (not always) when I hear a parent, or a youth pastor or even just a member of the church say “That is a good kid” they are merely looking at the outward signs. If you were to read between the lines and expand on their thought it would read something like this. “Jane is such a good girl. She doesn’t do drugs, she doesn’t go to wild parties, she isn’t pregnant, and she gets straight A’s in school. She is such a good girl.” I probably lost even more of you (if you are still reading) as you say, “What kind of whack job are you Caleb?? You telling me that as a youth pastor you are ok with teens in your youth group doing drugs, partying, and having sex outside of marriage? Are you telling me that you don’t want those teens to do their best in school?” That is absolutely not what I am saying. I don’t want my teens doing drugs, but I also don’t want them to have gossiping tongues. I don’t want my teens to be going to drunken parties, but I also don’t want them to have a disrespectful attitude toward their parents. I don’t want my teens to be involved in premarital sex, but I also don’t want them to be filling their minds with lustful images on the internet. We live in a world that has made their own standards and definitions about what good is, and sadly, we as Christians have bought into it. As long as we can’t see any outward signs of sin, as long as our teens lives aren’t falling apart, we are satisfied. We have set mediocre expectations for our teens and children (and as a result for ourselves as parents, teachers and youth pastors) and then when they succeed in these mediocre expectations, we congratulate ourselves and them. God does not want mediocrity though! He is not just interested on the outward symptoms of sin. In Matthew 5:28, he says that in his perspective, looking at someone in a lustful way is just as bad as committing the act of sex with them. I John 3:15 tells us that hating somebody is just as bad as physically murdering them. Isaiah 64:6 makes it pretty clear that even the very best that we as humans have to offer is, in God’s sight, as worthless as filthy rags. You and I (remember, my finger is waving in a 360 degree circle) need to raise the standard that we expect from those kids God has entrusted to us. God makes his standard pretty clear in I Peter 1:16, when He says, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” How does God define a good person? Holiness. No longer should we be satisfied that they are not doing drugs, not partying, and not having sex. Let us expect more from them (and ourselves) and then teach them to have these same standards of holiness in their lives.
The second reason I have for growing to hate the phrase, “They’re such good kids.” Is even more significant. I can just see some of you shaking your heads in disbelief…you thought my rant was almost over didn’t you. The second, and more important, reason I have for not wanting to have “good kids” is because as a parent and youth pastor, my interest is not in training “good kids” it is in training godly kids. Sometimes I hear people say that “so and so is such a good kid” and I have to agree with them. Sure they aren’t perfect, nobody is, but not only are they not doing drugs, partying and having sex, but they are also respectful to those in authority, they are kind to those around them (even their brothers and sisters), and they have a good work ethic. They are, relatively speaking, good kids. But what we have to understand as Christians, THAT IS NOT ENOUGH!!!! The Christian life is not just about following a set of rules, of not doing bad things. The Christian life is all about total submission to Jesus Christ, to literally be His slave, to actively do things for Him, just because He wants you to. A “good” kid will study their textbooks to get good grades in school, but a godly kid will study God’s Word to learn more about Him. A “good” kid will have a great work ethic, and will probably be able to get a good paying job. A godly kid will “do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31) regardless of the recognition they get or the pay they receive. They will serve God completely, no matter where it takes them. A “good” kid will obey the rules you give to them because they don’t want to disappoint you or be punished by you. A godly kid will obey God’s Word because he love the heavenly Father and wants to please Him. Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The key word in this verse, I think, is not “train,” although that is incredibly important. I think the key word is “go.” Go is a positive action, not a negative one. This verse doesn’t say “Train up a child in the things he shouldn’t do.” Essentially, it says the opposite. Can I give you the Frink paraphrase? (Trust me, you will not be able to find this particular Bible version in your local Christian book store) “Train up a child in the things he should do for the Lord, in wholeheartedly following Him. Then when he is an adult and on his own, he will continue to follow the Lord.”
You and I need to stop settling for “good” and start targeting godly. Because the truth is, that not every person we think is “good” is actually godly. (If you don’t believe me, check out what Jesus had to say about the Pharisees in Matthew 23) Every person though who is truly godly, will be good. So lets stop being satisfied with good, and set our sights on godly.