Youth Culture Window
A couple of devastating hurricanes. Escalating racial tensions. The death of an international pornographer. And a mass shooting. Endless questions have been raised on these events.
Do your teenagers have the right answers? In short, do they know how to think theologically?
Lenses of Faith
In less than one month’s time, our nation has endured ferocious storms, both literally and figuratively. The blur of major events has left many Americans, young and old, scratching their heads. Interpreting what it all means and how we should proceed can be a daunting task. The chore is even more difficult for teenagers who profess the Christian faith but lack a biblical worldview.
A biblical worldview is simply the interpretation of and interaction with culture from a Christian perspective. Put another way, it’s seeing the world the way God sees it. Only a fraction of American adults possess a biblical worldview, 9% to be precise, according to a decade-old study from The Barna Group. Interestingly, when Barna’s team conducted a similar study earlier this year, they found that only 17% of Christians have a biblical worldview. If true, it’s not surprising that other research claims that a mere 4% of Millennials possess a biblical worldview.
But helping young people cultivate a Christian worldview can be as simple as engaging them in spiritual discussions based on events taking place in the headlines. Below, I’ll (very) briefly describe four separate events that have taken place in the last 30 days in order of their occurrence. I’ll then share a scriptural observation that’s relevant to the topic, along with a few questions you can ask your teens. Feel free to add more details to the events’ descriptions, as well as more questions to your discussions.
On September 10th, at 2:35pm EST, Hurricane Irma crashed into the United States at Marco Island in Southwest Florida. With winds raging at more than 142 miles per hour, buildings were leveled and 88 people lost their lives as a direct result of Irma’s wrath. (Sadly, destruction and death was far greater in the Caribbean Islands in the days before the hurricane made landfall in America.) Of course, this hurricane was on top of another massive storm, Hurricane Harvey, that ravaged Southeastern Texas just two weeks earlier.
Observation: In Scripture, there were times when God calmed storms (Mark 4:39)…and there were times when God caused storms (Jonah 1:4).
Question 1: Why does God allow hurricanes to happen?
Question 2: Is God trying to teach us something through the storms (whether they are literal or figurative)? If so, what might that be?
Question 3: Is God able to use the storms in our lives to bring about good? Why or why not?
NATIONAL ANTHEM PROTEST
On September 24th, the NFL made headlines on every news outlet…and it had nothing to do with a highlight real. Instead of players making incredible catches, insane tackles, or stellar plays, footage showed dozens and dozens of players on multiple teams kneeling down during the national anthem.
More than a year earlier, backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers took a knee instead of saluting the flag in the pregame ritual. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said #7 in an interview with NFL Media. Since then, many players around the league have followed his example.
Observation: Scripture includes plenty of faithful men and women who “took a stand” based on their beliefs. A young shepherd named David took a stand against a mighty giant named Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:45. Queen Esther took a stand against an evil man’s murderous plot in Esther 4:16. The apostle Peter took a stand in Acts 4:19-20 that defied the religious leaders who hated Jesus.
Question 1: How can we know which stand God wants us to take?
Question 2: If we must take a stand, how should we go about it? (Can we just do whatever we want, or not?)
Question 3: What should be the end result of any stand we take? In other words, what should be the outcome we’re seeking?
Question 4: How should we react and respond to those who take a stand that differs from ours?
DEATH OF HUGH HEFNER
On September 27th, Hugh Hefner, the world-renowned editor-in-chief of Playboy magazine died in his mansion at the age of 91. Across his life, he was a strong advocate of sexual freedom and made pornography mainstream. Billions of dollars were made…and millions of lives were destroyed. Fellow celebrities and fans of his work praised him upon his death; those who objected to his overt sexual deviances felt quite free to speak ill of him.
Just to be clear, the “work” of Hugh Hefner – as vile as it was – is not the point. The “death” of Hugh Hefner is what took place, and in its aftermath, many people (including some Christians) celebrated his death and his likely condemnation into Hell.
Observation: The Bible teaches that while everyone is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), we’re also guilty of death-inducing sin (James 1:15). The Bible is equally clear on God’s grace being available to anyone and everyone willing to repent of their sins and trust Jesus for salvation (Romans 6:23).
Question 1: How should knowing that Hefner was created in the image of God guide our feelings toward him and his eternity?
Question 2: As Christians, should we celebrate a person being condemned to Hell? Why or why not?
Question 3: Why is Jesus the only one who can save us from sin?
LAS VEGAS SHOOTING
On October 1st, a gunman named Stephen Paddock opened fire on concert-goers in Las Vegas killing 59 people, including himself, and wounding almost 500 more. The shooting spree forever tore children from their parents and ripped friends from one another. This senseless tragedy will go on record as the deadliest mass shooting in our nation’s modern history. Without a doubt, the shooting is nothing more than unmasked evil.
In the aftermath of the vicious bloodshed, lots of talk has centered around discussions of gun control, mental health, the 2nd Amendment and more. But very little has been said about human nature which, according to the Bible, is sinful, even evil.
Observation: The Bible teaches that our sinful natures constantly push us toward dark and evil actions (Matthew 15:19). The only rescue from this war within our souls is Jesus (Romans 7:21-25).
Question 1: Why are we so quick to omit any discussion of the evil desires that plague our minds and hearts?
Question 2: What is your reaction to the Bible calling us sinful or prone to evil? Does it help explain our condition…or is it just overwhelming?
Question 3: In what ways can your sin affect you? In what ways can it affect others?
Helping teens develop a biblical worldview is not an overnight task. It will take years of intentional discipleship and personal growth to be able to see the world the way Jesus sees it…and react to it the way He did. Knowing that, now is the time to start! We need to help our teenagers develop a biblical worldview before tragedy strikes, not after.
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.