I got to spend the day at Rochester High School yesterday doing one of my favorite things in the world. For some reason, public schools in this area have invited me in several times a year to speak on a variety of issues -- all of which you would think would be verboten. Three times I have been asked to speak (all of these are to juniors and seniors) on "Why I Chose Christianity." Each time I was the last speaker after they had already heard from the top Iman, the top Buddhist, the head of the local atheist group, etc. Twice I have been invited to come and speak in one high school that advertised on flyers in the hallways for skeptics, believers, and nonbelievers to come and bring their toughest questions and try to stump me! Yesterday was the fourth time I have been asked to come speak to a world's religions class. The students compiled dozens of questions that I was handed as I came in the door. I love doing this kind of stuff and it never ceases to amaze me what questions they come up with and the grace of God in allowing me to walk into their lives like this.
Here are just some of the questions I was asked yesterday. I want to stress that you can read some of these questions in an agressive, ironic, or sarcastic way but NONE of them was presented that way to me. I was overwhelmed by the hunger in their hearts and the sincerity in their eyes as they looked for something solid, something real, and for someone who would answer their questions without flinching.
Why do Catholics pray to Mary?
What is the rosary?
Are there such things as mystical artifacts?
What Bible verse condemns gay marriage?
If I give oral sex, but don't receive it, am I doing anything wrong?
Is there anything a Christian can do that would make them not a Christian?
Is the Da Vinci Code true?
Why is there hell and how could a loving God send people there?
Why aren't you a Moslem?
What was there before God? If God is eternal, how can Jesus be His Son?
Explain the Trinity. Moslems say it is worshipping three gods. Is it?
How many denominations are there? What does nondenominational mean?
Why do Christians oppose abortion?
And it went on and on. I spoke for three hours (two classes) and gave out my email to the students so that they could respond to me or ask any further questions down the road. In every class there were a couple of Goths, a few Muslims, some believers, some skeptics, a few Catholics, and a mix of Protestant church members. I had to keep reminding myself to tell the true but "be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove," mimicking Christ who wouldn't break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick.
It is a blessing to speak with teens and hear their questions, their hearts, their blunt challenges, and see the map of their soul's journey revealed in their words and eyes. Don't buy into the world's assertions that kids are disconnected, uninterested, and unwilling to listen. But also don't buy into the myth that our kids have learned our faith well and can defend it. They haven't and they can't. Use this little math problem as an illustration: if a child goes to every Sunday and Wednesday Bible class, never missing, it will take him fourteen years to have spent as much time as he will spend getting through first grade. So, working from that, the seniors I spoke to yesterday have spent 17,280 hours in school (assuming no missed days) and 18,615 hours watching TV (assuming national norm of 3 hours daily) which means that if they also attended every single Sunday and Wednesday Bible class for seventeen years (1,768 hours tops), school has had ten hours for every one they had in Bible class and TV has had even more than ten for every one hour of Scripture teaching. Note that this leaves out hours spent with earbuds and iPods, video games, etc. No wonder they have so many questions and so few answers!
It is up to the parents to teach the children, and when they fail to do so it is up to the church to make teaching the children their first priority. One of Rochester Church's five commitments is that we will leave no child behind. All of them will be taught lovingly and thoroughly, given ample opportunity to fellowship, study, pray, and grow together with the rest of us. It has to be a higher priority than buildings, equipment, salaries, etc.
Teens. They are so wonderful, so precious, it breaks my heart with joy when I get to be with them. Even if they seem withdrawn, disconnected, sullen or quiet, they have questions. We have answers, for we know Jesus.
[NOTE: on a totally different matter -- some have asked me to tell the readers of this blog about a cruise my wife and I are leading January 7th 2006 for five nights on Royal Carribbean out of Fort Lauderdale to Grand Cayman and Jamaica. Money from the cruise is going to two mission points we support and we would love to have you join us. There are still some cabins remaining. Go to escape2sea.com and click on Christian Cruises for more information or get the phone number from there and call Sue Yanaros, a sister in Christ who is organizing this for us]