Previously, we looked at three dangers our young men and women face. They included cultural pressure, isolation, and low self-respect. These directly influence the many questions that young people ask. Most young Christians have questions which revolve around assembly and culture, separation versus isolation, and the personal conviction of assembly truth.
The Assembly and Culture
“So where do you go to church?” For young men and women in local assemblies, this never seems to be an easy question, and quite often opens the floodgates to further questions. The general Christian community (I use that term loosely) can hardly fathom that we still have head coverings, no female preachers, no pastors, limited use of technology, programs, etc. If an acquaintance decides to attend on a Sunday morning, the young Christian might have to dive into the doctrine of the seat of the unlearned and be ready to explain why the visitor should observe the meeting. Here is a sincere question from young believers in an assembly: “Why do we have to do so much explaining when we describe where we go to ‘church’?” (Col 4:6).
One reason we have so much to explain is that many Christian churches have taken liberties where the Scriptures are silent, specifically with worship bands, excessive productions, and entertainment. Another reason is that they are just outright disobeying Scripture if women are preaching and pastoral systems are being used. I would have to say that most of the questions being asked do not revolve around these important truths, but around many of the principles and preferences that were addressed in the article, “Friendly Fire,” in the August issue of Truth & Tidings.
Other questions often posed by young Christians center around issues such as our dress code, prayer/hymn articulation, and the use of the King James Version. These are sensitive topics, and one-size-fits-all answers will not work in every situation. However, I would suggest that, at the heart of each question, there is a sincere desire to live out Christian principles with reality. Problems arise in a young Christian’s life when the only time they don a suit and tie, speak in Shakespearian English, and read a translation from 1611 is at assembly meetings. On the other hand, our young people need to dress with respect and reverence, while maintaining language above reproach, and read/study the Word of God systematically. There is a delicate balance, and that balance must include overseers who see the world through Scriptural and spiritual lenses, and yet understand where young believers are and the issues they are facing. It also includes young believers who need to submit to whatever their overseers conclude. May God help us to cling neither to tradition nor to cutting-edge culture. Let us develop a sense of reverent Godliness in this present world (John 17:15).
Elders and senior believers should be ready to address the following questions from young believers regarding the assembly:
“Would you be willing to clearly state for me what is expected to be worn at assembly functions, and tactfully let me know when I’m pushing the limits?”
“Why do most of our hymns date from between 1700-1880? Weren’t those hymns new and modern to that time like many of the ones we enjoy now?”
“Since the King James Version was translated in 1611 would you help me find an acceptable translation that can be used to effectively teach/preach to my colleagues or classmates?”
The Assembly and Separation
It might be helpful to divide separation into two categories, spiritual and social, in order to gain a better understanding of the issues facing young men and women at school and in the workplace. The heartfelt desire of many is to identify ways to live separated lives for Christ, while not becoming isolated from the world in which they live, and for that, they will need the help of spiritual and kind older believers.
Young men and women need to be encouraged to uphold their spiritual separation by being reminded that they will encounter challenges from unbelievers and believers alike. Words like narrow-minded, judgmental, and cult-like will be hurled at them when describing assembly truths and practices. If ill prepared, a young Christian in this sort of debate might be embarrassed or humiliated. Practically speaking, it would be ideal if every young man and woman took the time to study and prepare for such debates. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
It would benefit young Christians, and indeed the entire assembly, to have regular teaching on the spiritual/doctrinal truths that form the foundation of gathering to the Name of the Lord Jesus. It has often been said that bank tellers aren’t educated on all of the false bills and coins. Instead they are continually presented with genuine, authentic bills, so that the false and unfamiliar can be quickly identified. So it is with assembly teaching. When truth is emphasized with practical application, spiritual separation is preserved.
Socially, there are some areas that are black and white. When it comes to romantic relationships with an unsaved friend or acquaintance, the Scriptures are abundantly clear (2Cor 6:14). But there are gray areas as well. How does one attend school or go to work without forming meaningful relationships? Young men and women wonder where and how to create boundaries that maintain separation, and when the inexperienced Christian struggles with this, guidance and wise counsel from senior Christians is most helpful. However, one of the best preservatives is a vibrant community of young assembly friends who sharpen each other and give the needed sense of belonging.
Elders and senior believers should be ready to address the following questions from young believers regarding separation: “Can you give me some guidance for describing assembly truths to both my non-believing and Christian acquaintances?” “How do I maintain a healthy social balance of separation without living in a bubble?”
The Assembly and the Personal Conviction of Assembly Truth
I recently had a conversation with a young man who is in an assembly but is on the fence as to his commitment and conviction. Many of his friends are in the same boat. When discussing why he and so many of his acquaintances were on the edge he said “I know the assembly is the right place, but I don’t know if the assembly is the right place for me.” To some, this sounds like an oxymoron. It is logical to say that, if it’s the right place, it’s the right place for me. However, that doesn’t always apply to other areas of our lives. Knowing something is right doesn’t necessarily lead to conviction or action. For example, we all know that McDonalds isn’t something that should be part of our diet, but that doesn’t hold weight (no pun intended) when I’m hungry and need a fast and cheap place to eat. We all know that the speed limit is posted, accurate, and enforced, but that doesn’t always seem to apply when I’m in a hurry. On a more serious note, even before we were saved, most of us knew that the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross. It only made a difference to us when it became personal. We need fact and truth linked to personal conviction in order to have young believers invested in God’s assembly.
Our younger generation needs to be reminded that the remembrance and gospel meetings are increasingly unique in our culture (1Cor 11:24). We must reemphasize the Lord Jesus as the central focus of each and every meeting (Matt 18:20), and reiterate that the study of the Word of God and participation are both encouraged and vital to the proper functioning of a local assembly (2Tim 2:15).
Elders and senior believers should be ready to address the following questions from young believers: “Why is the assembly the right place for me?” “How has the assembly impacted you?” “If you could do it all over again would you still have become a part of the assembly?”
May our young men and women be convinced and convicted by Scripture that the assembly is the right place for them. The truth is there, opportunity to serve is there, and relationships that promote spiritual growth are there. My prayer is that this article will provide insight into some of the questions that our young men and women ask in light of their fellowship in a local assembly.