On a constant basis, prominent athletes make the news for all sorts of legal problems. College athletes do many of the same things as other college students, but it makes the news because they are talented athletes. In the professional ranks, we’ve seen front page stories dealing with O.J. Simpson (murder), Ray Lewis (murder), Kobe Bryant (rape), Michael Vick (dog fighting), and O.J. again (burglary and stealing). The first three were acquitted or had the case dropped. Vick has pled guilty. And the second Simpson case is still ongoing. All of this activity has caused ESPN to hire Roger Cossack from Court TV as its senior legal analyst. Needless to say, he is a busy man.
When incidents happen on the college level, media sources and fans are quick to ask, “Why doesn’t that coach do a better job of disciplining his players?” or “Why won’t the school to something to make its players behave?” For pros, we ask, “What is the league (NFL, NBA, etc.) going to do get better conduct out of the players?” or “How long will so-and-so be suspended from his team’s games?”
Although all of these are pertinent questions in time, they fail to recognize an important level of responsibility. The responsibility for people’s (athletes or not) actions belongs to the country’s legal system and cultural framework before it belongs to a sports team, college, or league. The better question is, “What can we do as a nation—or as a culture—to keep people from murdering, forcing animals to fight to the death, etc.?”
As the New Testament church, we must make sure to ask the right question so that we can find the right answers. One of the most prominent (and alarming) questions in church circles is, “Why are we as the church losing our young people?” Several studies have supposedly been conducted to determine that young Christians are falling away at a rate of anywhere from 50% to 90% once they graduate high school. The actual figure is not as important as the scary trend it reflects. Although the church needs to ask the question and do all it can do help young people create a long-term commitment to Christ, asking only that question negates a better one. The better question to ask is, “Why are our homes losing our young people?”
When God created the family, his design was for it to ensure that the following generations learned about Him and lived a life of faithful devotion in His service (Deut. 6:7, 20-25). This was God’s purpose long before Christ died for the church. If parents feel the church has let them down by not raising their children properly, that reflects a misunderstanding of God’s purpose for the home. If churches give in to the idea that they need to raise children in the Lord, then those statistics are unlikely to improve.
We need to qualify a couple of things: First, just because a church has Youth Minister or a Youth Program does not mean they have given in to this pressure. Second, the church does have a responsibility to teach and encourage young people in their service to the Lord (Titus 2:4, 6). However, that responsibility is secondary to that of the home.
The ideal—and most successful—approach is one that uses the church’s resources and efforts to help parents raise young people in the Lord. Parenting is hard, but it does not have to be done alone.
Let’s commit to asking and answering the best questions possible. Only then can work together to improve our efforts carrying out God’s will.