Thursday, October 8, 2009

From Apathy to Paralysis

A youth ministry buddy of mine, Tyler Parsons, polled high school students in his youth ministry. These questions really got me a thinkin'. Here's what Tyler found out...

Things we’ve heard/read/been taught but not sure we believe them or questions we have:
-All the stories (i.e. Jonah, Daniel, Noah, Moses) – did all that stuff actually happen or are they just illustrations?
-“Baldy” and the bears – 2 Kings 2 when bears maul the youth…God wouldn’t do that.
-If Jesus turned water to wine and gave sight to the blind why doesn’t that stuff happen anymore?
-Another student commented: maybe it does happen just works differently now…(i.e. doctors/medicine/etc.)
-Can God be surprised?
-Why do we pray? Does it make any difference?
-If God is love, is love God?
-KJV…? Why all the different versions/translations of the Bible?
-Weren’t some things lost or misunderstood in translation?
-Limbo…? Do people really believe that? Is it real? In the Bible?
-Genesis 1:26 – plural reference to God?
-How do we know which religion or denomination is right? How can we know that we are?
-Does the Bible change over time?
-Tattoos & Piercings
-Women with long hair/short hair?
-Jesus drank wine, why do Christians say alcohol is bad?
-God and the problem of human suffering/evil
-Can a person have an addiction and still be a Christian?
-Why do some people get “cured” from their addictions and others don’t? are they “better” Christians?

These questions point out for me a new awareness.
I've always known that students have a lot of questions. That's healthy. But what I'm becoming more aware of is the number, intensity, and scope of their questions/doubts about God and the Bible. The questions from Tyler's group carry all kinds of assumptions about life, authority, and truth from all kinds of mental frameworks. These questions reveal sophistication. And not only that, its truly overwhelming to think of these questions as the tip of an iceberg of questions/doubts that students wonder about every week. Plus, these students' questions seem to convey elements of genuine doubt. Overwhelming!
I don't know about everyone else, but when I'm overwhelmed I become paralyzed. Maybe our students aren't apathetic. Maybe they are Spiritually PARALYZED! Paralysis looks a lot like Apathy. You don't see much movement in either case. But I think the treatment for Spiritual Paralysis might be more challenging.
With apathy, the student doesn't want to move. In the case of paralysis, the student might WANT to move forward spiritually, but she CAN'T.
So, I'll leave you with this question, if our students are paralyzed, how can we help them?