Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 26, 1960
NUMBER 4, PAGE 5a,14b

"Browsing Through Old Papers"

Dudley Ross Spears, Owensboro, Kentucky

While "browsing", I came upon this very timely and enlightening article by the thought-provoking pen of W. E. Brightwell. Those who have fears about the future of our young people and those who are over-ambitious to work up "youth activities" to keep them interested should read this carefully.

"Catering To Youth" — W. E. Brightwell

Every now and then somebody discovers that if the church is to survive it must cater to the young people. The church does need young people. That is just as true now as it was nineteen hundred years ago when the church began on Pentecost as it is today. During the meantime the church has survived for nineteen centuries.

Do you suppose that Adam realized early in life that "the young people of today will be the old people of tomorrow"? That has been true close to six thousand years. And it never has failed: the young people have become the old people of each succeeding generation. Why the sudden inspiration? Is it not a bit late in the world's history to "discover" so patent and fundamental a fact?

Speaking of Adam, those who view with alarm the trends of modern youth might find something in his experience to give them pause. Assuming for the moment that Cain and Abel were the only two children in the first household at the time, would not the picture be a bit dismal shortly after the two boys had offered their sacrifices unto God? Half the young men in the world were murderers — and the other half were dead! Yet people say that they do not know what our young people are coming to. Well, they are not coming to that. They have gotten a long ways from that condition. The percentage is not nearly so bad as it was right in the shadow of the garden of Eden. Manners and customs change, but no man knows whether modern youth is fundamentally better or worse than old-fashioned youth. Solomon says that we do not reason wisely concerning such things. (Eccles. 7:10.)

The church does not need to cater to anybody. It cannot change its message to appeal to any class. It is different to every other organization at this point. When men make plans and lay out campaigns and build institutions to accomplish their ends, they must provide an appeal to men. It must be as nearly a universal appeal as possible. It must be a quick appeal, too, for men do not live forever, and they do not lay their plans to mature over a brace of centuries. They must get results, and get them quickly, or they might as well not plan; for what interest would a man have in formulating a plan if he knew he would never have the opportunity of seeing it work? In short, if our religion is human, it is not worth improving; if it is divine, it is impossible to fin-prove it.

No responsibility rests upon our shoulders concerning the general success of the church. We do not have to plan nor labor toward the world-wide or ultimate triumph of Christianity. There is One who plans and who executes his plans. With us it is an individual matter, and at most a congregational matter. To the individual it is highly important that he allow the gospel message to "appeal" to him; but he has no responsibility concerning its appeal to others, except to present it to them. If from the right motive, he presents the gospel in a straightforward manner, his responsibility ceases. Our privilege is to enter every open door with the message, and that task is sufficient to our strength. It is perfectly gratuitous for us to worry about the general results.

Why is it necessary to encourage the young people? What are they discouraged about? We do not need to change our method of presenting the old message, unless there has been a previous change in the wrong direction. The gospel has an appeal designed for every "honest and good heart," including young people. Unless we have altered the message or vitiated the manner, so that the "appeal" is hidden from our hearers, there is nothing to worry about.

There is an impression that we have been neglecting the young people, both in and out of the church. It will readily be admitted that in the home children have been spoiled in late years. They have not been taught obedience to parents. But some parents overlook that point and dwell upon the way young people have been neglected in church thinking and planning. They also think that somebody else's children have been neglected generally. They shed a lot of tears over under-privileged children. Criminal tendencies spring from poverty, according to their theory, and the undeveloped and underprivileged children make the criminals.

If that theory were ever true, the last two decades have completely discredited it. The real menace to society in recent years has been the overprivileged children. And not infrequently when well-to-do parents were in committee meetings discussing ways and means of dealing with the problem of underprivileged children, their own overindulged offspring were busy plotting robberies and other criminal enterprises.

To say that the young people have been neglected in religious matters sounds to condescending and patronizing. The implication is that religion belongs to us older ones, but that we should graciously share is with youth. If there has been a crime committed against youth in religious matters, it is robbery, and not neglect! Some of us have made religion such a sad and dismal that the impression has gotten out that it is only for women, preachers, and old men — in short, for those who have had all the fun they can expect and need religion as the consolation of their declining days.

Religion belongs to youth. The conclusion of all of Solomon's wisdom harmonizes perfectly with gospel purposes: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them." Youth is preeminently the time to remember God: (1) If there is comfort and joy in religion, why not get a whole life-time of it? (2) The debt of gratitude is due as soon as one is old enough to appreciate God's grace. It should be paid promptly. (3) Early obedience gives time for work and service. We should serve while we have something to offer. (4) The memory is strong and fresh in youth; hence, it is the time to remember. (5) It is better to start any good work early in life. It makes success surer and fuller. (6) We have no assurance that we shall have opportunity later. A goal deferred may never be realized. (7) Men are more apt to obey in youth.

None but the young should accept the gospel, for all should accept it when they are young. The old do not share religion with the young. It would sound better the other way around. It is for youth, but if one failed in youth to embrace it, he still has the opportunity — youth shares it with him in his old age. We ought to "restore" religion to those to whom it belongs — the young people — and confess our sin in having stolen it away, if we are guilty. Under no circumstances let us offer to share religion with them. It is theirs by natural right.

But the saner view is that no age distinctions are involved at all. The Great Commission sets no age limits. The idea of age is not remotely hinted, except in the implication that the gospel is addressed to those who have the ability to hear, understand, and obey. Let our preaching be in plain and simple words — the kind that the Holy Spirit teacheth. Our sermons need not be designed for older, nor yet for younger, ears. Let us get the cobwebs of age distinctions out of our hearts. They are nothing but the synthetic products of a misguided imagination. The appeal of the gospel is to those who are lost. That is the only class we need be concerned about. And there is just one thing to do for them — preach the gospel!