This weeks 'thought' has to do with two dangers that we as Christians can often fall prey to as we share our faith with others. They are the dangers of religious over-promising and religious under-promising. (As a preacher I find myself constantly struggling not to do one or the other as I proclaim God's truth from the pulpit.)
The wise counsel in today's thought comes from a man named Don Posterski, who was the director of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship in Ontario, Canada, and associate director of Project Teen Canada.
His book is entitled: "Friendship - A Window On Ministry to Youth." His advice (gleaned from polling Canadian youth) is a good reminder to those of us who know and have accepted the fact that we have a divine imperative to share the gospel. Enjoy.
"Religious over-promising can lead to disillusionment... It can shatter faith and push young people away from God. Over-promising results from enthusiastic but unrealistic teaching. Young people are told God will answer all their prayers. Yet God doesn't answer prayers according to our will but according to His.
As a result of over-promising, if God is perceived as being silent, he is suddenly thought to be unreliable. Disillusionment with God (and the person who over-promised) is a certainty if He is offered as a giant Aspirin tablet to deal instantly with lust, greed, selfishness, inferiority, temptation, and ruined hope in the midst of anxiety about the future...
[We] need to avoid giving simplistic responses to the complexities of life (another problem with religious over-promising). There is no question that , that God has a wonderful plan for each life, and that the is a companion who will never leave or forsake the believer. However, the Bible itself takes a more subtle approach to these same truths. We are told that in this life we see through a glass darkly, and that part of following Jesus is being persecuted for righteousness sake. Constant communication from the bright side is simplistic and lacks biblical integrity. It is blatant salesmanship, not helpful ministry. In the end, the purchaser is likely to return the product for a refund.
Religious under-promising is the reverse of over-promising but the result is the same. Disillusionment gradually gains and faith dissolves into indifference or hostility toward God.
Religious under-promising occurs when the essentials of Christian belief are discounted and drained of their dynamic force. When God is robbed of his miraculous power and Jesus is reduced to simply being a good moral teacher, young people eventually conclude, 'Why bother?' If the Bible is just good literature about God it has no special authority. Where over-promising is blatant salesmanship, religious under-promising is selling out to the competition. The apostle Paul equated the Gospel with power. Although he was brilliant and well educated, he scrupulously avoided preaching "human wisdom," knowing full well it would empty the cross of Christ of its power (I Cor. 1:17)...
Modern young people live with an orientation to the supernatural even if their beliefs are unorthodox or even un-Christian. Many of them are open to experiencing God. Adults who convey their belief and reliance upon God's power both in theory and practice will be influential among teenagers."
I have seen the result of both extremes -- especially in regard to youth. Young people were promised with an enthusiastic and unconditional verbal guarantee: "God will...!" And thus when He does not come through as was promised, they conclude (and some have told me so) -- "I tried Christianity and it doesn't work." They were unable to distinguish between true Christian faith and the version of the faith presented by the overly-zealous salesperson.
Others, as Posterski points out, have indeed reduced the faith to little more than moral guidelines for tempted teens (and God to the superlative high school principal who walks the hallways looking for defiant rule-breakers). The result is kids that walk away from the faith convinced it is devoid of and lacks the possibility of a God who cares enough to intervene in their daily lives. I have spoken with them also.
With prayers for wisdom to be able to live in the tension produced by avoiding both extremes, I offer you these thoughts.
Dr. Jeffrey F. Evans