Letter to Jim

Dear Jim:

Remember? The last time I wrote we were discussing youth and their attitudes toward the Church.

I suggested that one of the reasons youth “aren’t sure they want the church” is because they misunderstand the purpose of the institutional church. Shortly after sending the letter to you I received something in the mail which confirmed my suggestion. The something was a “spoof sheet” published by a group of young people, who were ridiculing the General Synod meetings of the denomination to which they belonged. Because, to their minds, their church isn’t “with it” in terms of social-political involvement, they felt justified in subjecting the synodical delegates to scorn. For example, they pictured their General Synod discussing “two can of worms – Can A and Can B. The motion was referred to committee for action. Question: If tow worms are together, would it be a union worm or a united worm?” Personally, Jim, I don’t think such an attitude is ever legitimate or proper when directed toward representatives of the church, whatever their faults or failures may be.

On the other hand, I suggested the attitude of youth may be because the institutional church is not fulfilling its purpose, namely, that of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom—that Gospel which calls men to faith in Christ, our Savior and Lord, and makes clear our duty to live obediently before His Word in all of life. I am becoming increasingly convinced that this also is the case. For example, last evening I read this statement by a representative of the institutional church:

Even the motivation for good works is unlikely to require Christian support in a world that is increasingly maturing in its sense of responsibility for its secular well-being. Bonhoeffer’s insight here is certainly valid. The Christian has no monopoly on good works. Caesar’s realm takes in a lot of territory—most of the territory, indeed, should not feel resentful if his moral judgment is no longer needed to press good works that secular man, motivated by self-preservation and a “live-and-let-live” philosophy, can successfully undertake himself. Indeed, secular man can plausibly argue that he has more right to clean up the world than the Christian. This is all the world he has.

I can understand it when young people are “turned off” by such statements. I share their feelings, don’t you?

But to get back to the question I posed at the end of the last letter: do youth today want the Christ of the Bible? I wonder. I find a lot of young people looking for a kind of “religion” which gives them “kicks” and “thrills”, for spiritual experiences which come from “doing their own thing.” For some this means joining a “underground church.” For others it means the use of drugs. And for still others it means joining a “far out” sect, speaking in tongues, etc. Anything for something different, for something which brings thrills and excitement.

I’m not saying that being a Christian is not thrilling and exciting, Jim. But the thrills don’t come unless and until we realize that being Christian means to believe and obey: to believe in and obey Christ as He has revealed Himself in His Word. To believe demands humility. To obey Christ demands submission. Both faith and obedience are contrary to the let’s-do-our-own-thing spirit. To be a Christian means to say “I don’t belong to myself. I belong to Him.” If—by the power of the Word and the Spirit—a person makes this confession, the thrills to come.

I saw that thrill and excitement, a few weeks ago, in the eyes of some young people who attended the Christian Action Foundation Congress. (The name has been changed to the National Association for Christian Political Action.) These young people sat and listened to men unfold the will of God for the area of politics. They heard Mr. John Olthius say:

We must reject revolution and reform societal structures. We must publish a Christian political manifesto, calling for a rejection of the synthesis of humanism and Christianity, denounce both revolution and the current “American way of death,” call for a Christian third force in politics and issue a challenge to all North American Christians to unite in Christian political action.”

This and other statements excited these young people and all of those present. (People over 30 can become excited about their faith and calling.) They weren’t “knocking” anything. In faith and obedience they were asking, What is God’s will for this very important part of our lives?” And they were getting the answers. I see that I’m coming to the end of the page. Think about these things, Jim. Discuss them with your friends. I want to hear your reactions.


Rev. Hulst