Every generation is perplexed by its youth problems. America has over 20 million young people to worry about today: 10 million of them are in high schools and 4 million in colleges. The remainder are in the armed services, and in gainful employment, and God knows where. The home, the church, the school, and the state continue to wrestle with the problem with varying success.
From age 15 to the early 20s the genus homo finds itself in unfolding stages of maturity—a period of independent and determinative thinking. Man instinctively breaks away from home ties, social and religious traditions, and other protecting influences, at least until he has thought through their implications and satisfied himself as to their value. He will accept guidance, but he is no longer satisfied to have others think for him. His social instincts are strong, romance and sentiment are at their height. Religious sensitivity is strong. He prays intuitively, readily expresses his convictions in word and action, and desires to do something big and shockingly different in the world for God, for himself, and for humanity. Unfortunately in his immaturity he is easily misled by false philosophies and experiences which he is as yet incapable of evaluating.
In past generations youth were subject to far more restrictions than they are today, whether this is good or bad. Parental discipline of those past 15 is now almost unknown. Schools spurn indoctrination and therefore begin the educational process by seeking to discover the interests of youth, suggesting constructive activities, and helping them integrate their experiences into a philosophy of life which will meet his peculiar needs. An immense amount of knowledge is made available in every sphere except morality and religion. Critics charge that modern education is largely to blame for a new generation ready to repudiate Judeo-Christian moral standards and the American way of life. It is true that thousands of American youth come out of halls of learning ignorant of essential knowledge and culture and prone to be amoral, if not immoral, in their individual and social practices. Juvenile delinquency, neurotic instability, implication in questionable business and social undertakings, impulsive marital ventures have become all too characteristic of this modern youthful generation. According to government figures, delinquency has increased for the eleventh consecutive year. The number of police arrests of juveniles annually far outstrips the growth in youth population.
Secular approaches to the youth problem have been none too rewarding. One out of two cities of 10,000 or more have no special juvenile police officers. Five out of ten counties have no juvenile probation services. Lack of detention services causes 100,000 children and youth to be held in jail each year. Juvenile courts themselves are under fire because their methods are ineffective. Much has been done by judges and social workers to redeem errant youth and protect them from association with evil influences, but public opinion now calls for a more realistic and dynamic approach to the problem. Christian moral and spiritual factors, along with love and understanding, must be foundational to any substantial achievement.
In the midst of this situation most evangelical churches are standing by helplessly, bemoaning “the terrible state of our youth.” They are sorrowfully aware that they are losing the boys and girls they have serenely taught for a decade or more, but they are not sure why. Many continue with “horse-and-buggy” educational methods in antiquated “young people’s classes,” salving their consciences with the assurance that “the remaining remnant” will be the salt to save the churches and the society of the future. Some liberal churches, accepting all the “assured findings” of science and minimizing the shortcomings of a “beat generation,” have made a show of meeting blasé and sophisticated modern youth on their own ground. They have matched worldly appeal with a round of dancing, card playing, and cocktail parties, and with “guidance programs” that compromise or ignore the clear teachings of Holy Scripture. A growing number of churches are dealing successfully with the youth problem, but most of them are failing miserably to minister effectively to their needs, and to stem the outgoing tide of teenagers from the church.
One of the most successful attempts to turn American youth to Christ is Youth for Christ. Finding most of the churches wedded to traditional youth techniques, a group of consecrated young men undertook a daring independent adventure which has reached and is reaching millions around the world. They assumed that modern youth were living in a vacuum and that they would respond to the red-blooded Christian challenge and forget their frustrations, confusions, and insecurities. The Saturday night mass meetings they staged were reminiscent of the rallies and youth demonstrations that Hitler had organized in Germany. This movement, with its outpouring of enthusiasm for Christ and the Church, is still growing. As recently as the turn of the year 10,000 Youth for Christ enthusiasts gathered in the nation’s capital for three days of spiritual renewal and planning for aggressive action. Hundreds of young people accepted Christ as Saviour. One weakness of this movement is that it is not sufficiently church related, although this has been due in part to an inability to elicit the cooperation of many church and church school leaders. And the movement still fails to undergird its mass appeal with an intelligent and effective program of Christian education. Christian Endeavor, Young Life, and Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship are rendering an equally amazing service to youth, but there is lack of cooperation in denominational circles where inclusivism and ecumenism have become primary concerns.
The time has come for a reappraisal of the youth problem in relation to the educational life of the churches, to intimate some areas of thought and action for an adequate program. The space age confronts youth with radically different situations which must be met in strangely new ways, but if they are committed to Christ and have an intelligent understanding of his will for their lives, they will have the moral and spiritual resources to meet the issues of life victoriously.
Youth leaders should be carefully chosen from the leadership of community life. The tragic plight of modern youth has gripped the hearts of thousands of men and women in high places of responsibility. They can be challenged to undertake positions in the youth departments of their churches. Occasionally a simple-minded average soul will make a good youth worker, but bankers, lawyers, schoolmen, successful business men, sports heroes, and politicians who are in the community eye are the stuff out of which respected leadership needs to come. They must, of course, be Christian, genuine, well-versed in the teachings of the Holy Scriptures, aware of current thought in the scientific as well as the religious world, and be possessed of optimism, poise, enthusiasm, and a sense of humor.
Awareness of the basic needs of youth should be reflected in planning and practice. There must be careful and intelligent grounding in the revealed truth of God—the laying of foundations upon which the superstructure of life can be safely built. The church school should give its youth an intelligent grasp of the origins of life, the work of God in human history, the significance of Christ as Saviour and Lord and as a living factor in human history and in our individual well-being. Thus young people can be inspired with a sense of personal responsibility to know and share our Lord’s purpose for mankind, and they can be guided both in making personal life decisions and in their social activities, religious and secular.
Curriculum in the church school will be especially concerned with studies in the life of Christ—God in the form of a young man—with lessons that make him a living reality in the experiential frame of reference of modern youth. During the years of Bible study in the youth division there will be time to consider God’s dealing with Israel in a rather complete outline study of Old Testament history. This may be followed by a study-appreciation of the literature of the Old Testament. Following that would come the New Testament, with a series on the New Testament church, its establishment, its years of growth and expansion, and the relevance of its pattern for the church in our day. The epistles are filled with guidance for Christian living and ideals for the individual, the family, society, and state. The great leaders of both Old and New Testament times offer engaging study in life qualities essential to success in any field of activity. Indeed, there is no end to the study treasure contained in the Word of God. The Bible should become a daily companion holding within its sacred pages the principles by which all life’s problems may be solved. Class sessions should be planned to allow for much free discussion, often utilizing the better techniques of “group dynamics.” Pupils should go out of the church school every Lord’s Day so challenged by high moral and spiritual idealism that they will be eager to face a pagan world and to live dangerously for Christ.
Beyond the Bible studies there should be instruction and discussion in Church history, love and marriage, Christian citizenship, Christian leadership, Christian culture, social relations, personal evangelism, missions, stewardship, international relations, and all other life concerns which will fit men and women for abundant Christian living in a modern world. Teachers and leaders should be able to break down formal barriers and open their hearts and their homes to youth. Their helpfulness as confessors, advisors, benefactors, and friends will be as valuable as their work in the class and social rooms of the church.
An active recreational program will figure largely in making the church a center for youth. Baseball, basketball, volleyball, tennis, and all of the clean, lively sports may have a place in the calendar. Expressional activities may include missionary projects, religious pageantry and drama, and cooperative undertakings of many kinds. Sunday evening meetings and club organizations will offer opportunity for free discussion, for developing leadership and planning abilities, and for vital Christian fellowship.
While teacher-pupil relationships and expressional activities are the vital factors in a successful youth program, divisional, departmental, and class organization and administration have their essential place. It is necessary for purposes of supervision, correlation, and unity to have a capable youth director. Where possible this should be a full-time member of the church staff—a person with the educational background and native qualities of youth leadership that make for success. With him should serve a youth council that includes a few adults, officers of the departments, classes and expressional groups, and well-favored students with spiritually, educationally, and socially mature minds. Teachers and sponsors will form another leadership group properly integrated into the organizational and administrative life of the program.
Building and equipment especially suited to the youth have great significance at this stage of educational development. Modern youth receive almost every material provision conceivable for their welfare. Their schools are often the finest buildings in the community, equipped with libraries, club rooms, swimming pools, gymnasiums, dining halls, and every sort of instructional and expressional gadget. Billy Graham said recently that our youth live more like “guests at a dude ranch” than members of a responsible society. One wonders what they think of the shoddy educational buildings and the out-of-the-way makeshift quarters that are provided for them by many churches. Do they get the impression that the church cares far less for their educational welfare than the state?
Coupled with the local program there is need for inter-church and community relationships which reach into far places. Cooperation in thrilling mass meetings at state, national, and world levels give Christian youth a sense of mission and crusade in a great fellowship to win the world for Christ in this generation.
If the Church will do her part, youth will respond to the Christian challenge.
TOWARD A LITERATE AND WELL-INFORMED CHURCH
An intelligently informed membership is a crying need in most churches today. To achieve this end nothing is more essential than an adequate church library.
The evangelical renaissance is being marked by the establishment of thousands of new libraries, usually under the aegis of the church school. This is a logical and sensible arrangement. Who ever heard of a school without a library? Who ever heard of a church school without a deep concern for the development of literate and well-informed churchmen?
We have far to go, however, in encouraging our churches to become reading churches, disciplined in grappling with the theological and social problems of our time. Too many of our people are afflicted with a dire incapacity for continuous or profound thought or the mastery of the many complementary facts essential to reaching intelligent conclusions.
Primarily, our people should be careful and intensive students of the Bible, but unless they are capable of understanding and applying its truths intelligently and effectively in these crisis times secularism will continue its rapid and menacing growth. Familiarity with a wide range of literature is essential to such competence.
Every minister should encourage the establishment of church libraries and the maintenance of book tables. He should frequently refer in sermons, lectures, and conferences to books which his parishioners should read. Such thoughtfulness will pay dividends in an intelligent Christian discipleship and in society.
U. N. SEEKS AN ANSWER TO RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION
Basic rules “for the eradication of religious discrimination” have been proposed by a subcommission of the United Nations’ Commission on Human Rights. The optimistic note upon which the subcommission completed two years of work was soured by recent outbreaks of anti-Semitism in Europe and America. As if that were not enough, the subcommission quickly drew fire from the Roman Catholic Church because some “rules” cut across Roman practices, and because all of them imply the equality of the different world religions.
The attempt to eliminate religious discrimination by U.N. proclamation may have a deterrent effect on some nation or religious group contemplating a program of persecution, but it is most unlikely. Once persecution is ventured, nations and even religions find ways of “justifying” it. Religions which claim to be transcendent, and therefore not bound by “the purely temporal and political,” will inquire about the transcendent sanctions of the Commission on Human Rights.
We would like to propose seriously a solution that seems to work whether there are rules or not, and whether the atmosphere is “religious” or not. Our solution is a love for both God and neighbor. It will work wherever God’s sovereignty is acknowledged. We recommend Matthew 22:37 and 1 Corinthians 13 for the agenda of the subcommission’s next meeting, and we are convinced it would be a profitable session.
CATHOLICS TO MAKE NEW DEMANDS FOR FEDERAL AID
Roman Catholic determination to exploit new national legislation for Federal Aid to education is apparent from recent actions of the Superintendents’ Department of the National Catholic Education Association reported in its August, 1959, Bulletin.
The parochial school heads reassert their conviction that “Catholic schools have a clear right in distributive justice to an equitable share” of federal funds for education. They call upon the National Catholic Welfare Conference to “endeavor by means which they know best” to get legislators to incorporate into the federal aid bill in the next Congress as much money for Roman Catholic schools as they can get for (a) loans, (b) contractural services and (c) auxiliary services. These “askings”—in the name of “distributive justice”—will involve long-term low-interest loans for the construction of new Roman Catholic elementary and high schools, following the precedent already set by the College Housing Law.
The superintendents were so determined to get money for current expenses for their schools that they asked NCWC to bring pressures (in states assisted by federal funds) on the senators and representatives “even to the point of defeating the whole [federal aid] bill if that should be necessary.”
The National Defense Education Act was also seen as vulnerable to Romanist demands for financial aid. Funds already have been received for the purchase of scientific, mathematical and modern language equipment, but Romanist educators want much more from the next session.
Evidently the NCWC has discovered very effective strategies and pressures. For the superintendents compliment Monsignor Frederick G. Hochwalt, director of its Department of Education, and his aides for their “brilliant success during the last Congress” and credit their “quiet efforts” with achieving “great gains … with a minimum of public controversy.”
This frank disclosure of Catholic aims should give every thinking American cause for study and action. The principle of Separation of Church and State is boldly threatened. Only an aroused citizenry can successfully resist this mounting Romanist determination to make the public treasury the target of its inordinate demands.
BISHOP DIBELIUS’ LEGACY TO THE GERMAN CHURCH
Following is the text of the “Last Will and Testament to the German Churches” of Bishop Otto Dibelius of the Church of Berlin-Brandenburg. Bishop Dibelius has often lifted a courageous voice opposing Communist pressures against the Protestant community in Germany’s East Zone. Bishop Dibelius read the testament to a meeting of the Synod of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg following announcement of his plans to retire in late 1961 as Bishop of that church and as chairman of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKID).
I have lived for my Church. I believe and confess that this visible Church, into which I was baptised and to which I was ordained, is that form of the holy, universal Christian Church in which God intended me to live, work and profess my faith. My love for this Church will continue, even when I pass into eternity.
I know this Church of mine so well, with its wealth of gifts in which I have shared; and its inadequacies, which have often made me suffer. I am sure, however, that the Lord Jesus Christ has not rejected or disinherited this Church of His. It is my belief that He has chosen this Church to bear clear witness to His grace and truth just at the point where the opposition is sharpest between two different attitudes of life. He has thus entrusted the German Church with a tremendous task and He will not abandon it as it strives to fulfil it.
I beg those who come after me to remember this task, and never to try to be anything but the Church of Him who was crucified for us and raised again from the dead. We must stand by the message of Barmen [The Barmen Declaration was adopted in 1934 by the “confessing church” and expresses its opposition to the national socialization of the churches under the Hitler regime], in which we all joyfully concurred in 1934: “Jesus Christ, as witnessed in the Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God to whom we must listen, in whom we must place our confidence in life and in death, and whom we must always obey.” This is what the Church stands for, and nothing else.
I beg my Church never again to allow itself to be forced into a ghetto, but to remain constantly aware of its responsibilities for the whole life of the German people. I beg it never to surrender to the powers of this world. I pray that God may keep the Church free from the temptation to succumb to the spirit of agitation and propaganda, which rages all round it. God has given His children the spirit of power, of love and of discipline, not the spirit which quarrels about other people in the press, and seizes upon differences of opinion as opportunities for personal attack.
I pray that, the harder the life of the Church becomes, the more God may strengthen its spirit of unity, so that it can preceive which things are insignificant and which are important.… I pray that the number of loyal, committed Christians may increase, so that, if the state Church breaks up, a new Confessing Church may stand ready to embrace loyal Protestants in an even closer bond of unity.… I pray for all who hold office in the Church that their courage may not fail in the face of the increasing difficulty of their task amidst the great spiritual crises of our time. The harder the task, the greater the blessing. Crises pass; Jesus Christ remains.
I pray especially for those whose whole lives have become a burden owing to the circumstances of the time, and who are in danger of growing weary. There is One who gives strength to the weary. Human life is not decided by circumstances, but by the faith which is ready to face suffering. And this faith is crowned by the promise of a merciful Lord.
It is in this faith that I have tried to live. At one time I drew up the Declaration of Stuttgart [The Stuttgart Declaration was adopted at the end of World War II in 1945 by the German churches as an expression of common guilt] confessing the guilt of our Church. One sentence (a very decisive one) was written by Martin Niemöller. The rest was written by myself. I will not leave this world without admitting my own personal culpability for the guilt which we confessed together then. I too confess that I should have been “more courageous in my Christian witness, more faithful in prayer, more joyous in faith and more ardent in love.” But I believe that the mercy of God is greater than our guilt. And as I have lived every day by the forgiveness of God, so I beg everyone against whom I have sinned to forgive me, as I forgive all who have sinned against me.
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