OF YOUTH AND YOUTH MISSIONS
It is our duty as Christian fathers to explain to our youth what is right and wrong. If we find on the Lord’s Day when we pass by our church youth and overhear their conversation is focused upon some movie or professional sports game, rather than on spiritual matters pertaining to Christ and His word, we should not be like ostriches that put their head in the sand, pretending such is not occurring. When we see professed Protestant denominations promoting youth mission trips, we should not simply pretend they do not exist, or simply leave it up to the experts to decide what is right and wrong, but we must search the scriptures, and see if these things are right, and communicate our conclusions to our youth. We must be faithful to their souls, and remind them that it is not enough simply to profess to be Christian, and to be at church, but that true spiritual conversion by the Lord produces fruit. “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
My family attends a congregation currently attached to the ARP denomination and soon to be attached to the RPCNA. (I am seeking membership in the FPCS, but that denomination has no local congregation.) The ARP and the RPCNA by and large promote the view that prohibiting movie entertainment is legalistic. (For an article on that topic, see http://www.puritans.net/news/casestudy071307.htm .) They also promote the view that prohibiting professional sports and professional sports entertainment is legalistic. (For an article on that topic, see. http://www.puritans.net/news/olympics081904.htm ) And they also promote youth mission trips. In all of these things they are not unique among American evangelical churches, but are part of the mainstream. Nevertheless, as a father who will have to answer to God, I cannot simply leave it up to this mainstream to guide me and guide what I communicate. My own study of God’s word has convinced me that the mainstream in these matters, as well as a variety of other matters, is off the mark of sound Biblical doctrine, so I must not remain silent, and let my own children and fellow Christians go down this path without any word of warning from me. Our youth must be reminded that our use of time is a zero-sum game: the time we spend on unwholesome activities is time we forego on wholesome activities. Time is a precious commodity, requiring wise stewardship.
Recently a neighbor told us how her niece was expelled from the local public school, because of her habitual thievery. The neighbor went on to add how this same niece would soon be leaving on a youth missions trip sponsored by her local OPC church. Is this right?
The RPCNA advertises their youth missions at http://www.rpmissions.com/ as follows:
“Welcome to Reformed Presbyterian Missions! Here you'll find news and information on short-term missions trips that Christian young people across the world have found enriching and exciting. If you want to serve and proclaim Christ to the nations with other youth, RP Missions is the place for you! Young people have taken part in our trips to diverse sites, including Australia, France, Canada, Scotland, Cyprus, Japan, Suriname, and others.”
On the sidebar are apparently stories from various RPCNA youth mission trips. It runs like this:
“Rate the funniest moment in RP Missions History…Rob Edgar rolling down the mountain and the missing wallet…Matt Filbert and the plight or blight of the hidden octopus…Elizabeth Herrick's encounter with the White Lake bear…”
Is this right?
Objections to these things include:
1. Even though the term ‘missions’ is not in the Bible, the concept is, just like the concept of ‘the Trinity’ is. Scripture provides guidelines regarding how missions should be conducted, and it gives guidelines regarding requisite qualifications of those sent by the church to do missions work. When those guidelines are not followed, it is a violation of the regulative principle. For instance, it is a violation of the regulative principle when a church sends out as church emissaries groups of often unqualified youth. I see no serious discussion about Biblical qualifications of those sent at the RP missions website. And I am not at all confident, based upon what I have observed, that steps are being taken to insure proper qualifications are being maintained.
2. There is a violation of the third commandment, in that a sacred role and function of the church is being profaned. It is profaned when someone that should be disqualified is sent out, such as the example of the local OPC church sending someone on the missions trip when the person should be excommunicated due to scandalous behavior. It is profaned when flippant and silly mission stories are provided on a church website, which undermine the gravity and sacredness of church missions.
3. The functions I read about at http://www.rpmissions.com/ require people knowledgeable and serious about the reformed faith. Here are some of the functions the website lists: “…activities often include helping with vacation Bible schools; doing door-to-door evangelism, street evangelism, and literature distribution; leading investigative Bible studies; helping congregations implement their outreach programs…” But again, what qualifications are required of those who are sent by the RPCNA as they seek to communicate what the Bible teaches as a church?
4. If lay Christian families or individuals want to travel to “Australia, France, Canada, Scotland, Cyprus, Japan, Suriname, and others” to learn about mission works in other places and even help out some, then I think that could be most profitable. But to use limited church funds and resources to provide such experiences is questionable, to say the least.
5. Is the message being presented by these youth missionaries really sound and Biblical, or is it more consistent with Arminianism, easy believism, etc.? In other words, are these youth propagating heresies? I think I have good reason for concern. For instance, http://www.rpmissions.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=68&Itemid=44 says, “To prepare for outreach, team members watched the Share Jesus Without Fear videos, an evangelical gospel approach taught by author Bill Fay.” From what I can tell on the internet, Bill Fay is of Arminian Baptist persuasion. And a friend has told me this about the film: “It is very sad to me that they would participate in the "Share Jesus Without Fear" program, as I have seen it and it is horrendously Arminian."
Such youth missions represent a fundamental shift in the objective of missions from the Biblical paradigm. It changes it from the Biblical model of proclaiming the faith by qualified teachers of the faith, to one of keeping our youth involved in the church by providing them with so called “enriching and exciting” experiences. The church ought not to employ such carnal methods to seek to retain the youth. Rather, she ought to maintain Biblical standards and trust that God will add “to the church daily such as should be saved.” In order to be faithful to God and faithful to the souls of men, it is important that the church not confer a certain status upon an individual until that individual is ready for it. That is true for communicant membership status, as well as elder status, as well as missionary status.