Defining the Importance of This Issue
How does the issue of age segregation in the church rank in importance in matters of doctrine, ecclesiology, and practice (evangelism and discipleship)? Is the method we use to reach the next generation prescribed in Scripture, or is this issue simply a matter of preference? Is it merely one legitimate option among many discipleship models from which to choose? When we are doing “theological triage,” where does it fall on the list?
All crises are not created equal. Some problems in the modern church are worse than others. The most devastating problem the Church faces in any era is the perversion of the gospel and, therefore, the Church must always endeavor to preserve and to present the gospel clearly. Perversions of the gospel of Christ should always be met with the most aggressive stance and authoritative arguments after the pattern of the apostle Paul, who said: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). Paul met this problem among the believers in the Galatian churches, addressing it with passion, clarity, and fatherly concern: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you,” and “I am afraid for you” (Gal. 3:1, 4:11).
It is a well-known fact that the modern church is plagued with false gospels. The most visible type is easy believism, where there is no repentance or life change. We must understand that the same thing that gets you a false gospel is what gets you unbiblical methodologies for communicating the gospel. While the message of the gospel is of primary importance, the methods you use to communicate the gospel are also important. One important distinction is that there is only one true gospel, but there are many different methods commanded in Scripture for the discipleship of youth.
You get a false gospel by not taking seriously everything God has said about the gospel. If you leave out one detail, you lose the gospel. If you leave out repentance, you have a false gospel. If you leave out faith and replace it with works, you have a false gospel. If you leave out anything, you have a false gospel. The same goes with adding. If you add anything, you have a false gospel. If you add certain spiritual gifts, a sinner’s prayer, or spiritual disciplines as requisite for the gospel, you result in a false gospel because sinners are redeemed by grace alone through faith alone by Christ alone (Eph. 1:7; 2:5, 8-9 2. 1 Cor. 15:1-4).
The true gospel is the first message we must communicate (1 Cor. 15:1-4) and the most important message, for it is “the power of God to salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Without the gospel, there is no true conversion, no ability to turn from sin, no true church, no true sanctification, and no entry into heavenly glory. The preaching of the true gospel and the rescue of sinners is the beginning of all transformation. It is the purpose for which the world was created.
With such a precious treasure to communicate, does it matter how you communicate the gospel to youth? In this book, we contend that the Bible clearly spells out specific ways to communicate the treasure of the gospel to youth. While there is only one true gospel, the Bible clearly spells out defined methods for communicating the gospel to the rising generation. Contrary to what most people have been trained to think, there is a biblical methodology for the evangelization and discipleship of youth. The Bible talks not only about the content of the message but also how the message is delivered. It is this simple. Because the Bible states it, we should care deeply about what that methodology looks like. When we look at our practices and discover that we are not doing those things but rather a different program, we must realize what that means for us. It is a very serious matter.
While the crisis of systematic age segregation does not rise to the same level as that of a false gospel, this book nevertheless asserts that it is a serious error. We do not believe that age segregation as a primary practice is simply another option on the buffet table along with other viable models of discipling the next generation. Furthermore, we submit that it is a symptom of the same problem that leads to a false gospel: laying aside the commandment of God for the traditions of men (Mark 7:8). When men leave the mooring of the all-sufficient Word of God, false gospels abound, and worldly, pragmatic practices arise within the church. When someone preaches a false gospel, it is because he has ignored the truth of Scripture. And when the church advocates unbiblical methods, it too has ignored the truth of Scripture. Whenever we ignore the Scriptures, we exalt man’s traditions.
This means that how the church preaches the gospel is critical. Scripture not only gives us the content of the gospel but also sheds light on how to deliver the message. It is therefore crucial to avoid compromising the message of Scripture, both in what we say and in how we say it.
Does it matter if you add to or subtract from the methods the Bible presents for the communication of the gospel? We maintain that man sins by adding to or subtracting from the ways that the Bible says that youth are to be gathered, evangelized, and instructed.
Our message is that the Word of God is sufficient for the communication of the gospel to the rising generation, for it contains “all that is necessary for life and godliness” (2 Pet. 2:3).