The following post was written by John Paul Basham, Student Ministry Specialist
Is it an impossible task to raise a generation of sexually pure young men in this day and age? Are we fighting a losing battle?
Research shows that 9 out of every 10 boys have viewed pornography by the age of 18, their first exposure happening as early as age 8!
The scary part for me is that in my experience as a student pastor, the 90% exposure statistic is drastically low. Without any extensive research, but simply drawing from my 10+ years of experience in large southern baptist churches, I would estimate that the true percentage of boys that have been exposed to pornography is closer to 98%.
It is increasingly rare to find young men who have not been influenced by what is today one of Satan’s greatest weapons against the bride of Christ.
The great ease with which pornography has been made available to our young people has drawn out a multitude of consequences that has left student ministries across the country reeling. In a recent poll by the CDC, 46.8% of high school students polled admitted to having had sexual intercourse, and 34% within the 3 months prior to the poll.¹ With research suggesting numbers of nearly 50% of our young people engaging in intercourse, without consideration of the wide range of other sexual behaviors common to teenage relationships, the church has an obligation to step up to the plate like never before!
In order to combat the ever growing epidemic of sexual impurity, our churches must:
- Remove their blinders
- Renew their commitment to gospel centered ministry
- Wield the weapon of discipleship as a stroke of death to the enemies of God
A study conducted by the Barna Research Group reveals several reasons why young people are leaving the church.² Lets look at some of their findings to illustrate steps churches can take toward actively discipling young men to pursue lives of purity.
- Remove The Blinders
According to Barna’s research, young people believe churches are overprotective. Too often our churches run from the issues of the day instead of using scripture to help their students create a Christian worldview to guide their interactions. In John 17:14-15 Jesus’ prayer to The Father is that He not take his disciples from the world but that he keep them from the evil one. Jesus needs them to be an active influence in the world they live in to create disciples and establish His church. The concept of being set apart is an important lesson in the lives of students but it can’t be to the exclusion of training in missional living. In other words, we have to equip our students to interact with the world they live in and teach them how to engage the issues that they will face. In the area of sexual purity, we must not simply instruct our students to abstain from sexuality, but instead we have to deal with the influences that are confronting our students and teach them how to make war against them.
Christians are not called to hide in the corners of their life, but to engage and affect the world around them through the Gospel.
- Renewing a commitment to gospel centered ministry
Additionally, Barna’s research found that young people thought church was too shallow. I believe that this is in large part due to a trend of ministry based on behavior modification and cultural relevance. Although both relevance and renewal of self are important, neither of these are effective outside of the gospel. Real transformation is the result of an intimate knowledge of the gospel and how it intersects our life daily. When we simply skim the surface of the scriptures and use it to supplement what we believe will draw a crowd, we short-change the power and impact of the Word of God. Instead, we should lean on the Word of God to lead us and empower our ministries in reaching into the depravity of the world around us. When teaching about sexual purity, we must build on a foundation of the gospel that withstands the pull of temptation, and gives protection from the “fiery darts” of Satan. It is also in this understanding of the gospel that students learn their identity in Christ and are given a reason to stand against temptation and lust.
- Wield the weapon of discipleship as a stroke of death to the enemies of God.
Lastly, Barna reveals that young people are leaving the church because its teaching on sexuality is too simplistic. All too often students are left with quick prescriptions for life with little application and instruction that can sustain longevity. I believe the answer for this is intentional discipleship. As indicated in the title of this blog entry, many students are simply underwhelmed and unsatisfied with what the church seems to bring to the table. The bottom line is that living a life in pursuit of Jesus is the farthest thing from boring. The job of the student pastor; however, is to challenge their students and push them out into a real relationship with God. Although this is most likely not their intent, many student ministries through their low expectations of students, are teaching that being a Christian is about coming to church once or twice a week and praying before their meals.
Student pastors, hear me when I challenge you to set high expectations of your students! Teach them the scriptures, build a foundation, and then challenge them to lead out in the knowledge that they have. Place students in positions of authority, create environments of accountability, and challenge students to lead one another! When students become bored, they turn to what they believe to be exciting, and all too often, Satan makes sex easily available to fulfill that desire.
Let’s challenge our kids, raise them in leadership, and use the weapon of discipleship to prevent our kids from being “bored to sex.”