It’s not always easy for teenagers to be a follower of Christ in their homes. It’s difficult in the current anti-Judeo-Christian culture for teenagers to express their faith. It’s even more difficult when their faith isn’t valued in their home.
Recent statistics show that over half of Christian teenagers live in homes where their faith isn’t valued or is poorly represented by their parents or guardians. A very difficult road for young believers. Especially when you consider the overwhelming evidence that parents represent the most trusted person in their young lives.
Youth pastors and ministry leaders often feel frustrated by the ebb and flow of these teenagers spiritual life. Two steps forward and three steps back spiritually because the biblical principles they learn are not valued by the people they love and trust the most.
Ultimately teenagers must own their faith. Parents have the greatest influence in their spiritual development, but they can only show their children the way. Parents can only lead them to the door of faith through their lives and values. Their children must make the choice to walk through the door and into a relationship with Christ. There is no “Super Dooper Family Savings Plan” in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will all have to answer the eternal question, “What did you do with Jesus?”
So what’s the encouragement to teenagers who live in a family where their faith isn’t valued?
Jesus made the mind-blowing decision to come into this messy, anti-God world. He willingly chose to wrap himself in the messiness that is my sinfulness which led to the rightful judgment from His Father. Not only did he remove my sinfulness like a filthy jacket , He put it on Himself. Jesus sustained the full wrath from His father for my sinfulness. Because of His sacrifice I can now have an eternal relationship with Father God. And through this relationship with Christ, I also gain three freedoms that no one can ever take away from me.
This is epic news. Epic seems too small. This is awesome news. Nah. Not enough. What’s the adjective? As I search Thesaurus.com for the word that adequately expresses the massiveness of this news, I am left disappointed. It’s not there. It’s that big.
Every teenager needs to understand that even if they live in a family that doesn’t support or encourage their faith, there are three divine freedoms they gain through a relationship with Christ that no one can ever take away. Not even their parents.
1. You have the freedom to worship God.
Tonya was a 17-year-old girl in our ministry. She started coming to our Wednesday night group with friends who attended our student ministry. After several weeks of attending and enduring my craziness, she made the earth-shattering decision to follow Christ. There was only one problem. Her father is an atheist and her mother is agnostic. How on earth could this girl spiritually thrive in this type of home environment?
She had this deep desire to share her new faith with her parents but was afraid of their response. Her fears confirmed when she asked them to attend her baptism. Tonya’s parents forbid her from attending our church and from having any contact with the friends who brought her to our ministry. Tragic? Maybe. This only served to fuel her passion for Christ. She simply would not renounce her faith in Christ and purposed to learn as much as she could about Her Savior.
After she graduated from high school and settled into college life, she contacted me. She now had the freedom to express and live out her faith in Jesus. In her email she wrote, “I love my parents so much. I would give anything if they would become Christians. They did everything they could to erase Jesus from my mind but when He entered my life it was forever. I could never stop loving Him. They could not take that away from me.”
Your parents may not value your faith, or as in Tonya’s situation, forbid you from living out your faith. But in Christ you have the absolute freedom to worship Him in spite of your home environment. No one can ever take that away.
2. The Absolute Freedom to Grow in Your Faith
In many parts of the world, teenagers are limited in what they can learn. They are only allowed to learn about the things their government allows. Most of these governments are ant-Christian. So the idea of learning more about Christ is almost impossible. They simply do not have the resources.
We can never use this as an excuse in America. Information about anything under the sun is only a few clicks away. Google is your friend. We are incredibly blessed as Christians living in America to have this access and the freedom to pursue biblical knowledge.
The one thing that stunts our pursuit of biblical knowledge is desire. No one can take away your personal choice to grow in the knowledge of your Savior. Only you can do that.
3. The Freedom to Share Christ (Mark 16:15)
Yes. We can still do this in America. I kid. Maybe. If you study our culture you will find more and more groups of people doing their best to limit religious freedom. Especially the public expression of our faith. The good news is they can never succeed.
Teenagers spend most of their lives in school. Most teenagers attend state and federally funded public schools. This means our public schools enjoy the capacity to heavily influence our culture. Limiting religious expression is a direct result of this influence. So what do our public schools do? They put rules into place that seek to limit public prayer, bible reading, religious pictures on the walls, and any hint of teaching creation as an alternative to evolution. Terrible? Not as terrible as some suppose. There is absolutely no power in a picture of the 10 Commandments on a wall, and there are some teachers that should never teach theology. It’s the precedent that’s frightening. A country that is using its power to limit religious expression. Thankfully, God’s idea of growing His kingdom is people, not systems of government or religious effects.
This mentality is also present in the homes of thousands of teenagers in America. They are forbidden to practice their faith in their homes. Sometimes the world of religion in schools and home life collide. A teenager in our ministry in Kentucky was the son of the man who was leading the charge to ban all youth pastors from stepping foot on a public school campus during school hours. Boy did this backfire at home. His son started a bible study group that met before school. They met just across the street from the school at a church members house. He invited a different youth pastor from the community to speak every week. Problem solved.
Our culture and, perhaps, your family can create systems that seemingly hurt the cause of the gospel of Christ. But understand this. Until they stop allowing Christian teenagers to attend public schools, and until your family kicks you out of your home (and I pray this never happens), they can NEVER hurt the cause of Christ. Why? Because as a follower of Christ, you are God’s address. He lives in you. You take Him with you wherever you go. As long as you attend public schools and live in a home that does not value Christianity, you have the freedom to be who God calls you to be as His follower. The same divine power that raised Christ from the dead, is alive and well in you. You have the capacity to be a living example of Christ every day and to share with others why you are so stinking weird. No One can ever take that away. Only you can give up your ability to share Christ through you life.