Is Church Relevant?
I slid into the pew next to my family, glanced at the bulletin, and sighed. The sermon was on marriage. I knew it would be just another Sunday where the church service went right over my head.
When the pastor got up to preach, I zoned out. I woke up when the choir started singing the last hymn.
I was relieved to go home, but felt a little disappointed. Lately I'd been feeling like church wasn't really for me. None of it seemed to matter to my life and the things I struggled with day-to-day, like my friendships. I'd gone to church all my life, but I couldn't help but feel like I was missing something.
On the ride home, I flipped through the bulletin again and noticed that the youth group was starting up later that evening. I'd just started seventh grade, and I was finally old enough to join.
When I got to youth group that night, I was totally pumped. I also was surprised at how many people I already knew from church and school. I fit right in. It wasn't long before Ron, our youth pastor, introduced himself. I could tell he was on fire for Christ and wanted people like me to feel that same excitement.
After a while, the praise band started singing. Singing had always been my favorite part of church. But there were a lot of times when I didn't even think about the words. Ron encouraged us to focus on what the songs meant and see singing as a way to worship God. As we sang one song after another, I really started to feel connected to Christ.
The night got even better when Ron got up to talk. He started telling us about David and Jonathan's friendship in 1 Samuel 18. It was a story I'd heard a million times before. But Ron actually made it relevant to my life.
"We can learn a lot from these guys," Ron told the group. "They were true friends. You need to choose your friends wisely, too. Your closest friends should be people who help build up your faith."
After youth group ended, I thought long and hard about Ron's words. I had a good friend, Tim*, who wasn't the best influence. He swore all the time and talked a lot about drinking. It wasn't an easy thing to do, but over the next few months I stopped spending so much time with him. Instead, I hung out with friends from youth group and invited Tim to join us.
Although Tim never took me up on my offer, I kept going back to youth group. Ron seemed to make every story from the Bible mean something to my life. Like the story about Abraham and Sarah. Before, I always thought it was just a story about two old people who had a kid. But Ron asked us to imagine what it would be like to have the kind of faith that God wanted Abraham and Sarah to have.
I wanted that kind of faith. Although I'd been reading my Bible for as long as I could remember, I'd never really taken time to understand it. I read it because it was the right thing to do. It wasn't easy, but I started reading a few verses at a time and really tried to understand what it meant. If I had questions, I asked Ron or my parents. Over time, my understanding of the Bible grew. So did my faith.