5 Reasons Teenagers Need Theology
In the late 1940's, a major shift in American thinking about how to teach young people took place. World War 2 had just finished, and the Cold War had just begun. While World War 1 elicited the response that war must never happen again, World War 2 engrained the reality of war. These two responses to war combined with the opposing communist regime caused leaders and teachers to scramble, looking for ways to keep the youth from embracing communist ideas. Thomas Bergler points out in his book The Juvenilization of American Christianity that since the youth were tomorrow’s leaders, they must be stopped at all costs from embracing anything other than the Christian foundations of the American idea. The plan was to save the world by saving the youth
But something changed.
As the Christian leaders turned their attention to the youth, they realized that the youth were not like the adults. Left to themselves, they had limitless energy and short attention spans. This meant that whatever they focused on, they went after with incredible fervor. If they could only focus on Christianity, they could be a greater force for Christ in the world than the adults. However, to only have one focus meant that one must suppress the youthful energy. The leaders chose to use the energy even if it meant going off course.
Based on this philosophy, groups such as YFC began their crusade to save the youth. But as Bergler makes clear, YFC did not start out on the right foot. "Since the fate of the world depended upon winning as many youthful converts as quickly as possible, preachers at YFC rallies didn’t worry about the ways they might be subtly altering the gospel message."
In that simple sentence, we see an inevitable demise. The youth that embraces an altered gospel will teach an altered gospel to the next generation.
Another inevitable course taken by these youth leaders was a course away from teaching and towards entertainment. Now it was certain that this generation would not be instructed in the whole gospel, nor would they receive a foundation of biblical theology.
This course of events is not solely responsible for the demise of biblical Christianity in our day, but it certainly plays a part. Kind of like the telephone game, one generation received a partial gospel and passed along an even lesser gospel to the next generation. This, in turn, has progressed to our day where we have little concern for what we believe and more concern with what we do. However, this is not where the story must end. We must reclaim the gospel in our teaching to youth, supplying them with a firm theological foundation to withstand the storms of our modern culture. Here are five reasons why you should invest in your teenagers by teaching them theology.
Paul’s instructions to Timothy are instructions to us today.
If you put these things before the brothers you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. . . . Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Tim. 4:6, 16)
Proper teaching leads to salvation, not only initial salvation but perseverance to the end. It is true that many have been saved by a partial message of the gospel, but no one is ever saved to a partial message of the gospel. We are not saved to remain stagnant, but to grow in our understanding and knowledge of God. Teaching proper theology to teenagers not only has the ability to save them but will keep them saved to the end.
2. A Foundation for a Christian Worldview
To have strong biblical theology sets the groundwork for a strong Christian worldview. Equipping teenagers with theology is like installing the ballast on a ship, or like weighing down a feather with a rock. They are not tossed to and fro by all the doctrines presented by the world (Eph. 4:14). Theology sets the young Christian up with a Christian worldview. With a Christian Worldview, they are able to step into the secular world and present a radically different way of thinking. Not only will they remain faithful to Christ, but they will provide the world with a perspective it is not used to seeing. Their confidence in the face of uncertainty will shake many out of their slumber.
3. A Foundation for Worship
"Theology leads to doxology." Those who have stood as bright and shining lights throughout the history of this world have held to this simple statement. Our study and thinking of God influence our worship of God. How we think about God will inform our worship of Him. If we see Him simply as a giver, our worship will look like a child constantly putting quarters into a gumball machine. If we see Him simply as an almighty creator, our worship will consist primarily of an effort to perform good works to appease Him. If we have the whole biblical picture of a holy God who is merciful to sinners and a father to His own, we will cling to Him; we will trust in His provisions for us, pursuing obedience out of love - not fear - and never fearing the loss of our status as children. How we teach the next generation to think about God will influence how they worship Him.
4. Time for Worship
Being saturated in biblical theology gives us time for worship. I mean two things by this. The first is that by thinking rightly, we will not be prone to waste our time worshipping wrongly. We will not be caught up in trying to catch a feeling, nor will we exhaust ourselves by trying to perform good works. The second is that by right thinking, we will not waste our time with meaningless thought experiments, unnecessary trivial matters, or things of no eternal value. We will be focused on God, inevitably making us ready for worship.
5. Hope in a Dark World
As a result of obtaining a Christian Worldview and worshipping God in a proper manner, teenagers will be bright lights in a dark world. Their confidence in God and their obedience to Him will stand out as a beacon of hope. Though the world rails against them, they will not sway. Those who have a foundation of biblical theology are those whom Peter describes as, "Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). Their hope will be apparent to the watching world, so much so they will have to explain the reason for it.
Saving the World
It may be true that the Christian leaders of the early 20th century overestimated the influence of the youth, but their focus towards the adolescents is not something to be overlooked. Teenagers are not taking the world by storm in their teens but instead will become the future leaders in their adulthood. Our focus in teaching teenagers theology is not to make teen prodigies, but to set the groundwork for future Christian leaders. They are the ones who carry our legacy to the next generation, so it would be wise for us teach them proper theology.
 Bergler, Thomas E. The Juvenilization of American Christianity. Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Co., 2012. Pg. 51