I stumbled upon a website of an evangelical youth "ministry" to youth audiences to "share the gospel of Jesus Christ through music, drama, and testimony." They give musical concerts "to meet the 'felt needs' of their peers." Apparently, through Bible studies and fellowship, they grow towards spiritual maturity. Their commitment is summed up in their prayer, “Lord, I am willing to do whatever you want and to go wherever you send me, so that those who have never heard will have at least one chance to become Christ followers! Amen” This prayer is based on Isaiah 6:8, “Whom should I send…who will go…And I said, ‘Lord, I’ll go! Send me.'”
All well and good motives. Who would go wrong with trying to reach out to the youth? After all, recent surveys point to the youth dropping out of churches because they feel that the church is irrelevant to their existence as a result of "evangelical ignorance." Rev. John J. Bombaro, parish minister at Grace Lutheran Church in San Diego, California and a lecturer in theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego, in his article "Face to Face Discipleship in a Facebook World," writes,
Three decades of data have revealed near systemic evangelical ignorance of the Scriptures, ignorance of theology, church history, Christian art, architecture, and iconography and, correspondingly, ignorance of Christian deportment, both social and practical.
So why insist on using concerts, drama and testimony in the face of such ignorance? It's because the motive for "reaching out" is to meet their "felt needs."
What are the youth's felt needs? They need the latest fun and games, the latest fad, the latest in rap and hiphop—all the latest mindless stuff.
Do unbelieving teens feel the need for the gospel of Christ? No, that is the last thing on their list (if it's even on their list) of what they "feel" they need.
So instead of meeting their "felt needs," the church should give them a huge dose of their "unfelt need"! What is this "unfelt need"? Like the rest of rebellious, perishing mankind, it is the foolishness of the gospel of Christ crucified (1 Cor 1:18) and "the things of the Spirit of God" (1 Cor 2:14).
How must this message sent to the youth? Is it by the latest "Christian" rap and hiphop or drama? No, it is by hearing the gospel preached, because "faith comes from hearing."
Hearing what? Touching testimonies during concerts, drama, basketball games, and feeding programs? No, it is "hearing through the word of Christ" preached by those whom Christ has sent (Rom 10:14-17).
What is this "word of Christ"? It is "Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" that is preached (1 Cor 1:23).
But aren't preaching and teaching so boring to the youth, and no one would come if their "felt needs" are not met? If they're bored with the preaching of the gospel, then that's evidence that they're Gentiles to whom Christ crucified is foolishness. No music, drama, testimony, or any other gimmick would change their hearts. Only the Spirit of Christ is able to change their hearts of stone into soft, willing hearts (Eze 36:26-27). For them, the extent of their interest is only in the entertainment, not in the gospel.
If the world's entertainment forms are adapted by the church to seduce the youth, the Bible has a word for this: "whoring after the Baals" (Judges 2:17; 8:33). God's warning against this idolatrous lusting is surely fitting today, "Do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same'" (Deut. 12:30-31). This is because the world and its wicked ways are God's enemies, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?" (James 4:4).
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:15-17).
Do the youth grow towards spiritual maturity through Bible studies among themselves? No, we've seen how the church has produced Biblical idiots through self-taught what-do-you-think "Bible studies," led by the blind (youth "pastors") leading the blind.
The only real spiritual growth is through preaching and teaching in true churches by faithful ministers of the Word and Sacrament. Dr. Bombaro says that this is the best solution to correct evangelical illiteracy and ignorance of Scriptures and doctrines:
This ignorance, however, has little to do with intelligence or ability, and everything to do with literacy—the kind of literacy that results from catechesis, interpersonal catechesis. Our evangelical churches are illiterate because catechesis rarely takes place, and when it does it is usually unremarkable and undemanding, thanks to our seeker-sensitivity complex. And it is only interpersonal, challenging catechesis—face-to-face discipleship between the catechist and catechumen—that can dispel such illiteracy, so that the baptized may not only recognize the story in its various manifestations (the contents of the Bible, confessional articles, liturgical appointments and rites, and so forth), but also own it as their integrated worldview and lifestyle.
So as pastors and churches, do you really want to meet your youth's "felt needs"? Or do you want to nourish them with the preaching of man's only true need, the gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected for his salvation from his sinful needs.