By Robert L. Rodenbush
Youth is a precious fleeting commodity. Being young is a glorious time of ignorance, impulse and impressionability. People of age understand that there is great power in the shaping of the young, and thus the battle begins — the battle for the heart, the souls and the minds of this present generation. The opportunity to be shapers of opinion, architects of ideas, and molders of the future is an intoxicating proposition understood by many including teachers, politicians, preachers and entertainers. People grapple for the chance to wield their influence on the young because in this wielding is power.
Consider the remarks of entertainer Lady Gaga, “I aspire to try to be a teacher to my young fans who feel just like I felt when I was younger. I just felt like a freak. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m trying to liberate them, I want to free them of their fears and make them feel that they can make their own space in the world.” She comprehends it. She understands that her power comes not merely from her musical talent, or her ability to put on a great show, but from her position of “teacher,” of “influencer.”
Jonah Goldberg in his book “The Tyranny of Clichés” dedicates a chapter entitled “Youth” to this discussion, describing America’s “fetishization” and exploitation of the young. He states, “It’s about power. If you can convince young people to see the world a certain way—or convince them to use a certain kind of toothpaste—you can hold on to them for the rest of their lives. So marketers, political and generic, condescend to young people telling them how smart and discerning they are when what they really mean is closer to the opposite: they are impressionable.”
So the battle rages. Competing forces are in conflict for the young to perpetuate their specific cause or beliefs. This battle is not inherently evil. In fact, the church must war in this fight as well, because the victors will determine whose ideas and beliefs will survive and whose will become unsustainable. Goldberg put it this way, “…any movement or ideology that fails to attract new generations of adherents will, by definition, die out.”
God will always have His Church, but whether North America’s Apostolics will capture the hearts and minds of enough young people to maintain endtime revival on this continent remains to be seen. There is no better tool to help sustain and grow our movement than our Apostolic Bible colleges. Bible colleges that maintain their dedication to training young men and women for service to the Kingdom are crucial to the perpetuation of the movement—our Bible colleges are an established framework for training the trainers.
Our movement has benefited greatly from the work of our Bible colleges and we cannot dismiss the role they have played in the training of Apostolic leaders. Many of the great leaders in our organization – missionaries, pastors, music ministers and Christian educators are Bible college alumni. Yet, it will take concerted effort to continue this great work. Our UPCI endorsed Bible colleges in North America have better facilities than ever before. They have faculties with Ph.D. scholars, great teachers and anointed preachers. Despite these advances, the reality is that every year many of our North American students who choose Bible college face fierce opposition. Gone are the days in which pursuing the ministry is viewed as a noble calling, the secular, anti-Christian culture has so denigrated the clergy that it attracts fewer and fewer young people into its ranks. Mainstream Apostolics are not immune and we have been scrambling as a movement to reverse the downward trend in young ministers pursuing licensure. Perhaps it is the fear of not being able to make “good money,” or not getting a “real education.” But, the majority of Apostolic young people are discouraged from going to Bible college.
We watch from afar as Bible school students in foreign fields are willing to sleep on dirt floors, suffer financial, physical and political adversity in order to receive training to reach their world. The task for our foreign missionaries is daunting, there are more students than the modest facilities can support. Yet, for some in North America, Bible college has become passé—an iconic reminder of our blue-collar heritage from which we have “bettered” ourselves.
So, we surrender our young to secular academia, a minefield of liberal ideology designed to challenge all Judeo-Christian morality, and hope for the best. In an article entitled, “What you’re paying for your child to learn at college,” Dennis Prager says, “Most American parents and/or their child or children are going into debt in order to support an institution that for four years, during the most impressionable years of a person’s life, instills values that are the opposite of those of the parents. And that is intentional.”
Young people who are shockingly biblically illiterate are sent off to secular colleges and universities barely able to articulate core doctrines and are expected to survive the assault of professors and administrators on Christian values. We must ask ourselves, is this always the best way to keep our youth grounded in the faith? We are in the last days. If we plan to be a part of the great endtime revival and if we really want the next generation to maintain their Apostolic identity, we cannot be guilty of discouraging young people from answering their call to ministry or from fulfilling their desire to become more grounded in Apostolic doctrine.
We are forced to make our decisions based upon the fact that this is the generation “upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11) not our hope of financial security. Jesus’ admonished his disciples, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink” (Matthew 6:25). An education in a secular field is no longer a guarantee of prosperity or success. The secular educational paradigm is in great shift. The New York Times reported in an article entitled, “Many With New College Degree Find the Job Market Humbling” that after nearly a year only 56% of the college grads of the class of 2010 had found jobs. Of the college grads in the last two years who have landed jobs only half of the positions even require a degree at all. America’s student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt and is close to reaching the $1 trillion mark.
Our government is encouraging students saddle themselves with increasing educational debt and cannot guarantee they will have economic opportunity to pay down the debt once the education is completed. Why not allow God to direct the lives of our young people? An education in a secular field, even from the most prestigious of educational institutions, is no longer a guarantee of financial security.
In his book “The Crisis of Zionism” Peter Beinart attempts to explain why he believes young American Jews will not take up the cause of Israel in the same way their forefathers did. While I disagree with his politics on the issue, he makes a great point. He states “…it is difficult to teach Jewish students to defend the Jewish state when they have not been taught to care much about Judaism itself.” Apostolics are in a similar crisis. We cannot expect our young people to defend the faith, to remain steadfast in the Apostles’ doctrine if we have not taught them to love God and be willing to commit their lives to His service—whatever the service or sacrifice or whatever the perceived lost opportunity may be. Are we not promised an hundredfold return in this life on any sacrifice of supposed secular success given up to enter His service? (Mark 10:28-30)
Why are young people important? Why should our movement invest in Bible colleges designed to train Apostolic ministers? Why? Because training Apostolic laborers ready to do the work of endtime revival is the only hope to sustain this great message in the generations to come. Yes, this influence is powerful. We cannot be fearful to ask this generation to take up their cross. Their youth will not last forever. What is young today is old tomorrow. It is a short window. A passing opportunity. And whatever grips their heart will determine their destiny. At Indiana Bible College we want to grip their heart with a passion for Christ, a love of the Oneness Apostolic message, baptism in Jesus’ Name, and a fervor to reach a lost and dying world.