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Teenagers: “Christianity Didn’t Work For Me!”

6 December 2014 4 Comments

Recently, a friend wrote to me about his evangelism experience with some teenagers.

This is what he said.


“I have had several teenagers in the last 2-3 weeks look me in the eyes and tell me that they tried God and one of them says she Teenage Problems, Social Issues and Bullyingaccepted Christ at a church camp and that after months of praying and trying to be a Christian it just didn’t work.  

These are kids that have come from some pretty bad situations and my heart breaks for them.

I have been at a loss for words at times knowing that as Christians our external lives are not always going to be great and that in fact suffering is very real in the Christian life but these kids are just frustrated and nothing in their lives works.

I don’t know if that question made sense but I am just wondering how you respond to this sort  of hopeless plea.”


How would you answer this?

Below is how I answered, but no doubt you will have had a better answer.

“I have been thinking a lot about this question.  I think the issue has to do with the way Christianity and Jesus is being sold today.

Generally speaking, we tend to market Jesus as someone who is going to improve our lives…like a life coach…and we make all kinds of promises about how great it’s going to be…and how He is going to make us feel, and what He is going to do for us, which sets people up for failure and disappointment.

So what should we say at the altar call? At the point of entry into Christianity? How should be ‘market’ Jesus?

LifeCoach JesusWe come to Christ, ultimately, for no other reason other than that he is God, and He deserves our worship and service.

If we get nothing but persecution and trouble as a result of signing up, so be it.

That’s the first issue.  I know this is not popular, but it’s entirely biblical.

When one reads the gospels, Jesus seemed to actually make it hard for people to follow Him.

He seemed to go out of His way to weed out the tyre kickers.

The rich young ruler is a classic example.

We on the other hand seem to go out of our way to gather in anyone and everyone, quickly labelling them a Christian.

You might reply, “Oh my goodness, if we got back to the way Jesus conscripted followers, hardly anyone would follow Him!”

That’s my point.

He says “the way is narrow, and few…..”

Jesus made the way narrow, but we today have made it as wide as possible, and we are paying a heavy price.

We are breeding cynicism and skepticism inside and outside the Church.

Research shows the number of Christians attending church in the West is going south fast.

Jesus was never the guy giving altar calls with lilting music in the background and asking for every head bowed and every eye closed :), and promising not to embarrass anyone! Lol :)

He didn’t plead with people to join him or pander to them or play on their emotions.

He simply announced who He was (i.e. God, creator,  the light of the world, the bread of life, ruler of the universe etc) and called people to follow Him.

About the only things He promised were eternal life and rewards if someone died to self.

He seemed to give much more ink to the cost of being a disciple, and the trouble a disciple should expect (e.g. Read matthew 10) rather than a list of the benefits.

We, today, sadly, list all the benefits, and omit the cost, and the list of troubles and persecutions we can expect.

pinocchioHe never said “come and try me. I am a great life coach. I’ll improve your lifestyle.”  It was simply ” Die to self and follow me.”

It is literally impossible for John 10:10 to become a reality in someone’s life unless there has been a death experience.

Those who say otherwise are…well…. telling porkies.

When one reads the gospels, disciples are commanded to forget about self, enter into a life of suffering and sacrifice,  so that they can focus on Him and His mission.

The teenagers in this blog were told it’s going to be all about them and their dreams and visions, and are now disappointed, empty, and disillusioned.

And why wouldn’t they feel like this? They’ve been told a porkie as well.

In my experience, if we have not died to self, Christianity and Christ don’t work.  Jesus clearly taught this (John 12:24-25).

I should know.  In my 30 years as a Christian, I have had times in my life when I have died to self, and not died to self.

Not dying to self and trying to be a Christian leads to spiritually depression and emptiness.   This is what these young people are experiencing.

So, this is what I would gently and lovingly tell the young people.

If they replied “we did that, and it still didn’t work” I would say “what do you mean by work?”

We were not saved for Christianity “to work for us”.  We were saved to work for Christ and Christianity.

Jesus said so – “The greatest among you shall be the servant of all” (Matthew 23:11).

We were saved to do good works (Ephesians 2:1), chief of which is to evangelise the world.

So with these teenagers, I would have them read through Matthew 10 and get back to the point that we become Christians for no other reasons than that He is God and He deserves our whole lives and service.

If we experience no benefits, that’s ok.  We didn’t sign up for the benefits. We signed up to be followers of Jesus, no matter what comes our way, because He is God and can do what He likes with us.

We are the clay, He the potter.

Most churches now miss this vital key at the entry point to Christianity, and so we have a whole lot of psuedo Christians inside spiritual-depression-260x195churches, and out of them.   Spiritual depression is running at an all time high.

Jesus is being given a bad name when the entry point into Christianity is faulty.

This is one of the many issues I am trying to address in my book.

What I have written above is what I would gently and lovingly tell the young people.

The second issue is that these and other young people may never have had stable loving parents or home environments.

I would love to see kids like this adopted into Christian homes where they could be given love, stability, and direction.

So I am also advocating social action :)

It would be great to offer them a place in a Christian home to help them come to the point where they would surrender completely and accept whatever Jesus leads them into, good or bad.

Of course,  the parents in the foster home need to model the surrendered life (which is what I think you are getting at in your question when you talk about our external lives often not being up to scratch).  This is a great challenge for all of us who are older in the faith.

The third issue is the issue of Jesus and tough times.   Shouldn’t we tell prospective Christians to expect tough times ahead?

Jesus did this for His disciples.   In fact, tough times are necessary and valuable to Jesus!

Ironically, I believe Jesus works best in us when we are going through the toughest times.

So to promise an “all the time good times Christianity” is to promise that which is completely unbiblical.

Finally, there is the issue of unanswered prayer.  This is also a key issue in causing disappointment with God.

I have had many many prayers not answered in the way I would have liked, or even the way I have prayed.

Often it seems like God is not home when I pray! I am being brutally honest here.

Yet, when I look back over my life, I can see God has been with me every step of the way.

This has taught me that my prayers must have been a bit stupid or shallow, or both, and God had much better ideas in mind for me.

What other explanation is there?

So where to from here for these teenagers? Keep praying, and keep going forwards in God, whether things are good or bad, trusting that He is fully in control and is working all things for good (Romans 8:28).

Explain to them with great love and tenderness everything I have written in this blog.

If they turn away from Christ, so be it.

If they turn and surrender to Him, rejoice.

Keep Christ’s mission as your focus, and keep going forwards strongly, not looking to the left or the right.

This is what I would tell your teenage visitors.


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  • Bruce says:

    I have to agree with you Julian, could I mention two events since yesterday at the A & P Show in Tokoroa.
    The first was a group came down from Hamilton and helped greatly in proclaiming the Gospel, and believe me I really appreciate these guys from OAC Ministries. During the process of the day one young fella who was living in sin, lets call it what it is, fornication is a sin, and he was told he has to get down on his knees and repent of this sin.
    Now I know the young fella as he came to a home group that I go to and a saw him only once but I know he will return,
    I know for sure that it is good for man to get on his knees before a Holy God and it was good for him to do that, but I do wonder is it good for man to tell us we have to do that there and then or is it better to do that under the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
    Is that worth thinking about?
    The other was, after the show I was down town getting some kai and I spoke with this chapie who had a really nice Harley.
    Turns out he was at the Carol singing on the Friday night, I know because he asked me if sang there, and Leslie Edgeler and I had.
    He brings his children to hear the Christmas Carols every year, this year he walked out before they had finished, in fact they had barely started, because a group had come down from Auckland at the invitation of a local Pastor , and gave a fantastic performance of Island dancing and singing but no Christmas Carols.
    Most Churches today seem to pander towards peoples wants and needs, and though some of them are genuine, I truly believe, if we were working for Jesus and seeking to do His will and the will of the Father all or most of those perceived needs would fade into irrelevance.

  • Kerry Grant says:

    Awesome Julian!

    I was reading Amos 8 this morning before I read this and what you have written here has confirmed what the Lord was speaking into my heart about it. It speaks of the young women and men being turned or failing because their thirst for the truth had not been supplied (verses 11-13). That the foretold famine would be one in “hearing God’s word”, that they would search for it but that it would not be found.

    Interesting in the context of what is happening with the teenagers mentioned in your blog and how the watered down, man centered gospel which is being held up as truth, is failing them. When I read this prophecy in Amos this morning, I could not help but think that it was equally as relevant for the church and her ministries today, where many young people are drifting away from their christian upbringing and in many cases appearing not to return to it. Maybe the shepherds serving their own financial interests at the expense of the impoverished flocks, has something to do with this, as it did in the prophet Amos’s time? (verses 4-6)

    As it brought about a famine of the truth of God’s word back then, so this is happening today through a man centered gospel being preached instead of a Christ centered one which convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment to come. As the Lord himself said would happen after the Holy Spirit of truth came into the world (John 16: 7-8). We have taken Jesus off or never quite had him upon the throne of our hearts and have allowed the cares and riches of this life to choke the seed of God’s word within.

    Do we still have the ears to hear the truth of God’s word for us or is our belligerent indifference and conformity to the world about us, stopping them to the truth and causing a famine of our own making? What idols are we continuing to place before the Lord that are allowing the poor to be extorted by those who should be nurturing them? Are we buying the truth and selling it not? (Proverbs 23: 23)

    If we continue to sell out to the world’s way of doing things, then we may well be in for a time of judgment as the Israel of God’s people back then were (verses 7-10), for judgment must begin first in the house of the Lord (1 Peter 4: 17). If we cannot be sober during the day, what will happen when the night is upon us? (1 Thessalonians 5: 7-9)

    So forgetting what is behind and the sin that does so easily beset us, let us all run towards the prize of our high calling in God, through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Hebrews 12: 1-3 & Philippians 3: 13-15).

  • Julian Batchelor says:

    Awesome testimony and comments Bruce.

  • Julian Batchelor says:

    Great to have your comments Kerry. Thanks for writing in. Bless you my friend.

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