Here's where we're at: Ron Luce of Teen Mania [if you've never heard of him, imagine Tony Little but hyped on Jesus instead of exercise] is sounding the alarm that we're in a post-Christian culture and that Christian teens are choosing the ills of society over Jesus. His claim: "we're losing" and need to get in gear or the future is lost. Ron, Ron, Ron. Where to begin? First, thanks Captain Obvious; we've only been in a post-Christian society since the 1980's. Second, of course teens are choosing the ills of society over Jesus; they always have and always will. That's what you do during your formative years: you do everything you're not supposed to do so you can tell the next generation what they're not supposed to do. And third, we're not going to lose. Read the Bible [and keep your dispensational bent* at home with your Jolt Cola] and you'll discover that Jesus will win regardless of how Chicken Little you want to get.
I know I'm supposed to be on the same team as this guy but I have a tough time accepting this warning from him. His whole ministry is based on drawing tens of thousands of teens to weekend experiences where he takes advantage of a spiritual high to get kids to commit to decisions that they aren't able to persist with. Of course he's going to be crying wolf here because it directly effects his success rate.
Perhaps the actual problem is that the type of crusades Teen Mania supports is dated and is no longer attractional to the average Christian teen. Luce's response to the crisis "is to replace MTVÃ‚Â’s wares with those of an alternative Christian culture, so teenagers will link their identity to Christ and not to the latest flesh-baring pop star." But creating such a sub-culture doesn't solve the problem. It just links their identity to the latest flesh-baring CHRISTIAN pop star and still doesn't create the necessary link to Christ. I hate to echo what I just wrote about the local gambling initiative, but there is also gold in the hills of the Christian sub-culture and many stake their living on it.
Listen, it's not that I'm not concerned about our kids, but we have to stop these ridiculous means by which to reach them. The vast majority of Christian kids aren't going to abandon pop culture for CCM. And do they have to? Why can't we stop lecturing to them and teach them how to live as a Christian in this culture? Why can't we challenge teens to go deeper in their faith so they can own their faith?
Stop blaming the world and take responsibility for the ways we [the church] have failed our youth. Instead of giving them substantive spiritual formation we gave them cotton candy, a promise ring, and a pat on the butt as they enter the real world. For two-thousand years of history, Jesus has been enough. Why do we think we have to reinvent the wheel?
Newsflash to the alarmed: things are going to be OK. Jesus assured us, "from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it" [Matthew 11:12]. So don't lose sleep over this. There are better days ahead.
*I'm pretty sure that Luce's ministry holds to dispensationalism which is interesting because this theology is centered on the idea that the world will get progressively worse, culminating in Jesus' return. So if this is your eschatology, shouldn't these stats be a cause for celebration rather than alarm?