There is a crisis. Christian youth are rapidly leaving evangelical churches for the world.
This well-recognized disaster has been the topic of significant discussion in recent years for both church leaders and modern new media.
DIVIDED follows young Christian filmmaker Philip Leclerc on a revealing journey as he seeks answers to what has led his generation away from the church. Traveling across the country conducting research and interviewing church kids, youth ministry experts, evangelists, statisticians, social commentators, and pastors, Philip discovers the shockingly sinister roots of modern, age-segregated church programs, and the equally shocking evidence that the pattern in the Bible for training future generations is at odds with modern church practices.
He also discovers a growing number of churches that are abandoning age-segregated Sunday school and youth ministry to embrace the discipleship model that God prescribes in His Word.
Conformity to the Scriptures and the blessing of God are the keys to rescuing youth. The Scripture does identify the way to reach the next generation with the gospel — biblical discipleship. Through his journey, Leclerc asks questions, tackles problems, and discovers that the Bible is sufficient for the area of youth ministry: both in the content as well as in the methodology.
How to get this resource:
- Buy the DVD online at: http://dividedthemovie.com
- Watch online for free at: https://vimeo.com/26098320
- Learn more about the National Center for Family Integrated Churches (NCFIC) at: https://ncfic.org/
At Calvary Chapel Fergus Falls we are a “Family-integrated Church” (FIC) and believe the best place for a child to learn about God is in the gathered church assembly and through the regular ministry within the home. We like having children in our service and have grown accustomed to their presence. Additionally, the children grow accustomed to being a part of the church service experience. However, some small children are not accustomed to sitting in for our Bible Study, therefore we have Children’s Ministry which is optional, and we are very flexible to work with each family for what works best for them.
Answers to Common Questions…
What does the message of Divided have to do with the gospel?
Divided was made because of the importance of the preaching of the gospel. The film defends the way the Bible has commanded that the gospel be preached to the younger generation. The gospel is the central matter for everything in life. It is the highest priority of all, for it is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Without the priority of preaching the gospel, there is no true conversion, no true church, and no true sanctification in any area of life. The preaching of the true gospel and genuine conversion is the beginning of all transformation.
With such a precious treasure to communicate, does it matter how you communicate the gospel to youth? Divided and A Weed in the Church contend that the Bible clearly spells out specific ways to communicate the treasure of the gospel to youth. There is a biblical methodology for the evangelization and discipleship of youth. The Bible not only talks about the content of the message but how the message is delivered. We should care deeply about what that methodology looks like. If we don’t care or we think we have a better idea, we are acting like unbelievers.
What gets you a false gospel is the same thing that gets you age segregation
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 age segregation. While the message of the gospel is of primary importance, the methods you use to communicate the gospel are also important. 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 get 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, you have a false gospel because sinners are redeemed by grace alone through faith alone by Christ alone. Similarly, if you leave out critical elements that the Bible has explicitly prescribed for the discipleship of youth, you end up with a false methodology. There are many details given in Scripture for how we ought to preach the gospel to the rising generation. If we leave any of them out, we have compromised the communication of the gospel. We may have the message of the gospel right, but we are not communicating it in the way that God prescribes.
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 and 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 things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). In the book A Weed in the Church, it documents the various ways God has prescribed to communicate the gospel to the next generation. It is the longest section of the book. Honoring the details of the Word of God is what preserves the true gospel, and it also shows us how to preserve a right delivery of what is the most important message that can ever be delivered.
For more about the true gospel, click here.
How important is the issue of age segregation?
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 purely 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 in 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).
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 an option on the 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. – from A Weed in the Church, 47-48.
There is no command against age-segregated youth ministry in the Bible?
If we accept the premise that we are only obligated to obey the Word of God when there is an express command, then we are forced to grapple with a number of other issues. For example, there is no command against polygamy, but Christians believe polygamy is wrong because of the patterns and commands of Scripture that define marriage, not because of a direct command against it. Gambling and the smoking of marijuana are not condemned in the Bible, yet there are principles of scripture that make is clear that these are sinful. There is also no direct command against cannibalism (though there are principles and examples against it), yet it is sinful to engage in this practice.
This idea comes from the assumption that if the Bible does not expressly forbid something, it is therefore allowed. There are serious problems with making this the standard for determining the will of God. It denies the authority of principles, positive commands, and normative patterns established in Scripture. It also denies the principle that the Bible speaks to all areas of life and that it is sufficient to equip the man of God “for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Explicit negative commands are therefore not necessary to show that something is contrary to the Word of God. Even though there is no express command against systematic age segregation, we argue against it because it does not properly fulfill the principles and commands of Scripture which apply to youth discipleship, and it goes against the primary examples of gatherings involving the whole people of God. – from A Weed in the Church, 205-206.
Jesus was sent to the temple to be taught; why can’t we send our children to be taught by godly teachers in their own age groups?
In Luke 2:41-52, we read of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple. He was found “in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.” Is this an age-segregated environment? The clear answer is no. There was one boy with several adults. In this sense, it is the exact opposite of all age-segregated youth ministries in the church today. There was no age-specific curriculum, it was not a formal program of the local synagogue, and it was a temporary three-day event, following which Jesus was “subject” to His parents not to a local youth pastor.
In this situation, Jesus was clearly on a mission. He was not, as some might suggest, in the temple to be catechized by the teachers there. Jesus did not go to meet other young people and fellowship with His peers. It is clear that He went to the temple in order to be about His Father’s business, not to attend age-segregated youth discipleship classes, and, therefore, this story does not promote age-segregated discipleship. – from A Weed in the Church, 206-207.
Did Jesus run a youth ministry?
The pattern of discipleship that Jesus used is absolutely what we should follow. However, many people believe that Jesus was like a modern day youth pastor who took twelve kids out of their homes and displaced their fathers. Let’s explain some facts about the ministry of Jesus. First, Jesus’ ministry on the earth lasted for a period of about three years. Second, Jesus had twelve men that consistently followed him during that time. Third, these men came from many different walks of life. Fourth, we do not know if they were teenagers, but we do know that Peter owned a house (Matt. 8:14), was married, and had a mother in law. Matthew also owned a home (Mark 2:15), which he used as a staging place for the ministry of Jesus as he gathered other tax gatherers and sinners, and Matthew had a career as a tax collector. Some of them were fishermen. Fifth, there is no indication whatsoever that Christ’s pattern for choosing his twelve disciples was based upon their age or life-stage.
Looking through the biblical examples of training, the pervasive means God teaches in His Word is discipleship, and Jesus with His disciples was no exception. Life-on-life, Jesus walked with His disciples for three years – training them, molding them, teaching them of the things of the kingdom of God. The disciples saw Him overthrow the changers of money in the temple (John 2:17). They heard words of life come from His gracious lips (Matt. 5:1-2). They saw His mighty works (Mark 4:41).
Jesus with His disciples is one of the most vivid and detailed examples of active, biblical discipleship in the Word of God. It was not age-segregated or age-specific discipleship. It was the discipleship of fishers of men. Paul followed in Christ’s steps and discipled Timothy.
It is biblical for elders to have young people whom they disciple, but it is discipleship that must occur. If you as an elder would pattern yourself after Jesus, follow Jesus’ example of discipleship. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul writes, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Jesus walked with the twelve and committed His Word unto them, such that He commanded them to teach that Word to the nations and to “make disciples.” The Great Commission says, “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matt. 28:19-20).
Jesus, the Son of God, did not have a youth ministry. He was a disciple maker engaging a broad range of people of different ages, life stages, genders and social strata.
What about those who are abandoned by their parents? single mothers? or fathers who are not around?
Scripture teaches that the church, the family, and the individual have a responsibility to care for the fatherless and widow. However, each does not share the same responsibilities in this care.
The church is carefully constructed to take care of those who have no biological family. The family of God provides what family members might be missing in this world. God brings the fatherless into His household of spiritual brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19-22).
The church has dedicated a specific office, deacon, to allocate time to care for widows: “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word’” (Acts 6:1-4).
The direct point of this passage is the requirement to care for widows; it is not a new requirement to establish programs or committees. While care for widows was not the only duty of deacons, it is striking to note the clear instructions and accountabilities for this important ministry.
The family is also supposed to care for the fatherless and widow, but in a more intimate manner than the church. First, Moses communicates a principle that the family ought to provide some type of subsistence for the fatherless and widow (Deut. 24:19-21). In addition, families ought to be given to hospitality (Rom. 12:13) and, therefore, include the fatherless and widow in their homes. This expresses the heart of God who Himself “sets the solitary in families” (Ps. 68:6). Instead of putting single people with single people, God puts singles in families. Ultimately, God provides Himself to comfort and guide youth without parents: “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me” (Ps. 27:10). Thus, there is a sense that families bear a part of the responsibility of the evangelization and discipleship of fatherless children (Job 29:11-13, 31:16-17, 31:22). – adapted from A Weed in the Church, 172-174.
If we eliminate age-segregated youth ministry, how do we reach a lost generation of youth?
As we consider how to reach a lost generation of youth, it is important to examine our assumptions. The false assumption that often underlies this question is that systematic, age-segregated youth ministry, as defined in this book, is actually effective in reaching lost youth. People who maintain this assumption often believe that there are two ways to engage a lost generation: an effective way, through age-segregated youth ministry, and an ineffective way, through the obedience of individuals and the ministry of biblically ordered families and churches. This false assumption asserts that if the church gathers all the generations together, it is going to be ineffective in reaching the rising generation.
It is important to begin with biblical assumptions and practices. The primary principle we should embrace is that the best results in reaching youth will always come from obeying biblical commands and honoring explicitly biblical principles. If we are faithful to obey biblical commands in the church and the home, live out the great commission, and devote our life to that of “the watchman” (Ezek. 33:6-7), we will be living a lifestyle of biblical faithfulness that will be effective in reaching a lost generation. In this sense, faithfulness to God’s Word is success. If we can agree on this principle, then we can take the next step of debating which methods are biblical and which ones are not.
Where Is This Lost Generation?
We must be careful to identify accurately where these lost youth are. This unevangelized generation can be found in two places: inside the church and outside the church.
We should not forget that many of today’s lost generation are in families that are already in the church. They are lost in their sins and remain unconverted until God regenerates them and they repent and believe the gospel.
On the other hand, the lost youth outside the church may have no Christian parents. They may not have a father who is “bring[ing] them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), and they are not involved in any church. They are scattered in neighborhoods, apartment complexes, workplaces, coffee shops, and other places. Scripture shows us at least four major ways that a lost generation like this can be engaged.
First, we need to follow the ministry pattern of Christ and the apostles, which is the best pattern to follow for reaching any subgroup. The Lord Jesus ministered to people as they passed by. To reach the lost, we need to live like Christ did and take the opportunities that God gives us. We see the same pattern with the apostles. They ministered to the people on the streets, in the synagogues, and from house to house. Wherever they were, they did not shrink back from delivering the message of the gospel.
Second, we must be involved in fulfilling the Great Commission. This is the responsibility of every Christian. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus Christ charged believers to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Believers are also commanded to preach the gospel to all men, both “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). This personal ministry is critical for youth discipleship.
Third, fathers should take responsibility for the fatherless. God gave fathers the responsibility to care for the fatherless. We need more men like Job who took responsibility for a lost generation. The fatherless were in his house and at his table (Job 31:16-22). James says that this is “pure and undefiled religion” (Jas. 1:27). No new program needs to be created for the care of the fatherless. God has already told us how to reach them.
Fourth, we need to have biblically functioning households. Psalm 68:5-6 states that God is “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families.” Open homes are able to fulfill this divine purpose regarding a lost generation of fatherless children. When a home is used for hospitality, ministry opportunities to a lost generation are increased. God, who designed the resources of a household for ministry, has called His people to use those resources for His glory, not only for the saints, but also for a lost generation.
These means of reaching the lost are all a natural outworking of obedience, and they expose a lost generation to the love of Jesus. When we put children in a youth group, we give them a skewed vision of life. Scripture suggests that putting youth with youth multiplies foolishness among them. When we segregate youth from other ages, we are giving them peers, instead of placing them with the rest of Christ’s body, which is what they need. Churches with biblically ordered meetings and relationships are far better at reaching a lost generation than an alternative that does not reflect the structure that God has ordained.
Can you imagine a more unstable subgroup in which to put youth than with a group of peers? In contrast, can you imagine a more stable or life-giving subgroup than a well-functioning church?
Think of the impact of a God-centered home in which a husband and wife are functioning biblically. The relationships there depict the gospel: husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the Church; wives submitting to their husbands as the church submits to Christ; and children, who have a genuine love for Christ, displaying honor and obedience to their parents. A God-centered home is a powerful force for evangelism.
God has delivered to us a pattern for reaching youth who have no parents. It is to preach the gospel to them when we go about the community, fold them into individual families, connect them with diverse relationships in the body of Christ, and gather them into the corporate meetings of the church. In order to effectively reach the lost, we must obey the scriptural commands for personal evangelism, church life, and family life.
When we consider how to reach a lost generation, should we invent something alien to Scripture? On the contrary, we should approach lost and broken people in the same ways that Jesus and His apostles did. Scripture does not suggest that we use a systematic, age-segregated method to reach lost youth, but rather an integrated method of bringing them into the body of Christ. – from A Weed in the Church, 215-219.
Air conditioners and microphones aren’t in the Bible either?
Critics say that the NCFIC argues that youth ministry does not exist in the Bible, and, therefore, that it should not exist in modern church life. They then contend that this argument is fallacious because many things are not “in the Bible” – air conditioning, computers, cars, even film (which is the media used for Divided the movie).
Consider three things:
First, the primary argument of the NCFIC and the film Divided is not that youth ministry does not exist in the Bible. While we do observe in the film that the modern form of systematic, age-segregated youth ministry has neither precept nor example to support it in either the Old Testament or the New Testament, we do not rest our argument on this fact alone. What is more important – and this is the main point we want to make – is that all the positive commands and examples in Scripture call for the practice of age-integrated worship and discipleship in the church and the responsibility of parents to disciple their own children.
Deuteronomy 4:2 commands us not to add to or take away from the teaching and commands of Scripture in this regard. To engage the church in systematic age-segregated youth ministry adds to God’s instructions on how youth are to be taught and trained, and it takes away from God’s commands to parents to teach their own children (Deut. 4:9; 6:7).
Second, our subject is that which is plainly and irrefutably taught in Scripture regarding how youth are to be educated. The Bible is clear about this matter, and it gives the full range of that teaching including who, where, why, what, and when. It is the Bible that tells us what is central. When you split youth up according to age, you are doing something that is contrary to the explicit, revealed commands and patterns of Scripture.
The film Divided is focused on the responsibility of the church and the family to understand and follow the biblically-mandated methods of discipleship. To claim that we can set aside these scriptural methods and employ our own methods because we do things and use means not mandated in Scripture in other areas of church life is a generic fallacy.
Third, methods and means of discipleship are in a different class than microphones and computers. Discipleship methods are defined and commanded in Scripture and are matters of explicit biblical order (i.e., God’s revealed will that we are to obey). In contrast, things like microphones, computers, and film are matters of technology (i.e., practical tools we can use as means to carry out the Law of God). In regard to technology and other practical aspects of church life (where we meet, the length of our meetings, type of seats we use, etc.), these matters are not clearly spelled out in scripture and therefore are matters of liberty that are under the biblical guidelines for the practice of liberty. This means that Scripture must be consulted to see if they contradict anything that Scripture maintains.
To summarize: First, our argument is not from silence. Second, our argument is focused on what is clearly stated in Scripture. Third, air conditioners and microphones are not in the same classification as methods of discipleship.
Are you saying that youth ministry has caused this mass exodus of youth?
No. We believe that the mass exodus of youth is the result of disobedience. Apostasy always follows disobedience. There is a long list of things that we believe has caused the youth crisis including the preaching of a false gospel, of homes out of order, of churches out of order, of hypocritical parents, of a famine of the preaching of the Word of God in churches and of unbelief. All of these have contributed to the mass exodus of youth.
The whole point of Divided is that the Bible can be trusted for the way we disciple youth. Our message is that God has spoken clearly about the discipleship of youth, but the modern church has set aside Scripture, has ceased to do what Scripture prescribes, and instead has done something that is foreign to Scripture and actually contradicts it. The age segregated world that now dominates modern church life is only one of the may effects of rejecting the Lord and the authority of His Word. It is one problem that stands among many others. However, we believe this is a critical issue because the gospel is not being preached to youth in the way that God has prescribed. We have sidestepped His methods and preferred our own. While the only explicit kind of worship, discipleship, celebration, and instruction in the Bible is either in the family or is age integrated in the church, we have chosen the opposite.
The rabbis had youth groups – shouldn’t we?
People often say that the age-segregated discipleship system is biblical because it was practiced in the rabbinical schools in Israel during the time of Christ. They conclude that it is legitimate to adopt the pattern of the rabbis.
There are several observations that must be made when encountering this argument. First, this is an argument from history rather than from Scripture. While arguments from history can be interesting and helpful, they are not the guide of the Church. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura argues that the practices of the rabbis are not our patterns. Scripture is our sole pattern and guide.
Second, we must recognize that the spiritual state of the people of God during the time of Jesus was deplorable. Here are a few examples. Jesus was continually correcting the wrong thinking of the people of Israel. Our Lord called that generation “an adulterous generation” (Matt. 12:39). They had multiplied man-made laws and had invented practices that were contrary to Scripture (Mark 7:9-12). This was not a righteous society, because it had been corrupted by the traditions of man. Our Lord, during His ministry on earth, spends significant time correcting their views. For example in Matthew 19 alone, He corrects their views of salvation, humility, marriage, divorce, singleness, and children. This was not a society that was doing the will of God. This is why Israel during the time of Christ is not the place we ought to look for our patterns. When we say, “The rabbinical schools are valid because they were used in Israel,” we have forgotten that Jesus was correcting many of their traditions not validating them. Therefore, Jewish traditions should always be evaluated through the lens of Scripture alone.
Third, many practices of the Greeks were working their way into mainstream Jewish life. Helleniztion was being progressively favored by the Jews in Palestine during the time of Jesus. There were many expressions of this. For example, the educational practices of the gymnasium were being embraced. The gymnasium provided educational and athletic opportunities to Jewish children. Some parents in Jerusalem were sending their children to these gymnasiums in addition to the rabbinical schools. Our word gymnasium, which comes from gymnos, means naked. In ancient Greece, athletes competed nude in appreciation and glorification of the human body. The fact that Jewish parents were sending their children to the rabbinical schools and the gymnasium for education is no evidence that it is legitimate for the Church to do the same.
Cultures are always in flux, but it is for the people of God to establish Christian culture wherever they dwell. Even though the Jews, during the time of Jesus, were sending their children to the rabbinical schools and to the gymnasium, this does not argue that we should follow their patterns and set aside biblical practices and patterns of education that are clearly established in Scripture.
Learn more at: http://dividedthemovie.com/