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Focus youth ministry on God’s holy love, says Patterson

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–The church, in large part, has failed today’s teenagers by neglecting to emphasize the holiness of God, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention said Sept. 15 during a youth ministry conference held at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Citing the biblical lesson from Leviticus 10 where God struck down Aaron’s two sons with fire because they profaned God by ignoring his instructions for kindling the fire on the Alter of Incense, Paige Patterson said the doctrine of God’s holiness must not be diminished in youth ministry.
“I want to plead with you to teach the next generation the difference between holy and profane and to get them involved in the only thing that will matter (in) time and eternity, getting men to God and teaching them about him,” exhorted Patterson.
Patterson was one of several keynote speakers who addressed the current state of youth ministry during Culture Shock ’98, held Sept. 14-16, on the seminary campus in Wake Forest, N.C.
“Some people say the main thing about God is that God is love,” Patterson said. “No, the main thing about God is that God is holy, and it is the fact that God is holy love that makes him distinct from every other kind of love there is in all the world.” He said the world’s love “is always tinged with a measure of selfishness.”
Patterson, who is also president of Southeastern Seminary, said too many churches are teaching teens the wrong lessons by attempting to reach them by mirroring pop culture.
“Nor is it true that you have to sound like the world in order to appeal to kids,” Patterson said. “The truth of the matter is they know what is out there in the world. … Don’t think you have to water it down. Make the mountain steep and say ‘climb it,’ and (they’ll) climb it as sure as the world.”
Patterson challenged youth ministers to be creative by using music that has “depth” and “theological insight” to teach young people biblical doctrine. “If you have weak little anemic ballads that don’t tell anything about the Word and the ways of God, how do you expect your young people to grow up strong in the Lord?”
While there is nothing wrong with “taking good tunes of the world and putting godly music to them,” Patterson said: “We have come to a time in the church where we are more likely to have music that makes you shake a leg than bend a knee. … When the music is more experiential than it is focused on the God of Heaven in (his) triune expression as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, then we have gone too far.”
Patterson called for churches to reclaim their youth ministries and stop depending on para-church organizations to evangelize and disciple their youth.
“What I’m concerned about in the calling of this conference is our local Baptist churches become involved in winning teenagers to faith in Jesus Christ,” Patterson said. “God bless every ecumenical evangelistic effort … interdenominational evangelistic effort, (but) let’s don’t wait for them, let’s do it through the local church.”
“Help us to love them enough to call them to that which is holy, so that they don’t in weak moments offer strange fire to God and become the objects of his judgment,” Patterson concluded.

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  • Lee Weeks