How Can We Keep The Youth In Our Churches?

by Dr. Ken Matto

(Excerpts from a sermon I delivered to the National Elders Conference of the Hungarian Reformed Church, Labor Day Weekend, 1987)
I want to thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you this afternoon. About one year ago, a young fellow walked up to me, about 15 years old, and he had in his hand a copy of the Satanic Bible. This is a legitimate book written by a fellow named Anton Sandor Levay. He is the pastor of the Church of Satan in San Francisco. Why did this young man have this type of book? He was searching for answers.
I want to speak directly from the Scriptures, because we do have the problem but the Scriptures have the solution, and I want to give you the action on how to minister to the youth. If we are not sure what they are facing, then how can we minister to them? We can’t! So what I want to do at this time is clear up four misconceptions about youth in our churches.
The first one I want to address is that the common denominator in many thought patterns is thus: The youth do not care about God’s word. That is false. The reason that fellow had the Satanic Bible was because he was searching for answers.
(Mark 10:13-14 KJV) And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. {14} But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
Why did these children come to the Lord Jesus Christ? Because they saw something different. He spoke with authority and not as one who spoke from a book, but one who had a significant answer they were looking for. Children in today’s world are hungry for God’s word.
(Prov 8:17 KJV) I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.
This is one of the great eight chapters on Wisdom found in Proverbs. Today’s youth are searching for purpose. Do you know why they try drugs? Do you know why they are running to motels at the age of 17 or 18? Or why they are in taverns and nightclubs? They are searching for purpose, and the church needs to supply that purpose. We have the foundation. The Hungarian Reformed Church can aid in the spiritual affairs of their people. We have the facilities. God has raised up Bible schools and Bible studies for us plus He has raised up the people, so let’s use them. The youth are searching for a purpose. They do not want to hang out on street corners. There is a void in these children and that void needs to be filled by God the Father and God the Son.
These children are not lazy. When the prophet Samuel was a lad, he was in the house of Eli, because number three, they are willing to be taught.
(1 Sam 2:26 KJV) And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the LORD, and also with men.
Young children from the ages of 5 to 8 are hungry and want to learn. They need the Word of God. If they do not hear the Word of God, they will hear another word, as there are many voices out there. There are only two spiritual camps in this world, God’s camp and Satan’s camp. There is no in-between and if we are going to be on the Lord’s side, we must teach the children the Word of God.
The fourth misconception is that we sometimes feel that children do not want to be a part. Pastor Stern said "sometimes we view them as a hindrance." But in the feeding of the five thousand, there is a very simple yet beautiful principle.
(John 6:9 KJV) There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
What is the principle? Let’s not look at our children as they now are in comparison to the adults. They are future adults. They are the ones who are going to grow up and teach their children. Let us give them the right foundation.
(Psa 11:3 KJV) If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
The right foundation is the word of God. It is a serious situation, my friends. Jesus didn’t look at the child’s small gift as being insignificant. Neither should we!
Now I wish to finalize this message with a three pronged approach. I want to speak about the problem, the solution, and the action.
First, I want to speak about the problem which we are facing today. In Deuteronomy 28, God is pronouncing both blessing and cursing. Blessings if you remember His statutes, and cursing if you go in another direction.
(Deu 28:32 KJV) Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day long: and there shall be no might in thine hand.
What we are seeing today, in everything the world has to offer, is that children are being taught to worship the gods of wood and stone. The world is oppressing them. The world is bringing them into captivity to its ideas and thought patterns. Why do we have so many suicides? Why are so many children leaving home at 13 or 14 years of age? Why is the suicide rate among 5 year olds increasing? The answer is that they have no foundational teaching, and the only guide they have is Satan.
I want to address the first part of this verse. (Deu 28:32 KJV) Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people...." These children will be grafted into the world system. On August 16, 1987, approximately one half million people assembled, networked in various parts of the world, and prayed for world peace. Sounds good doesn’t it? It was called the "Harmonic Convergence." The Harmonic Convergence is a part of the New Age Movement which touts Hinduism as its major religion. In essence, they were not praying for world peace, they were praying with meditations, incantations, candles, and witchcraft. They were praying to demons without realizing it.
This is exactly what the world is teaching and the Bible plainly states that these things are going to happen.
(2 Th 2:11 KJV) And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
God is, in essence saying, that if you want to believe a lie, go ahead.
(2 Th 2:12 KJV) That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Horoscopes, astrologers, mediums, and other satanic entities are drawing our children to them. Every newspaper has a horoscope. The Bible teaches that mediums cannot even save themselves, so how can they save others?
(Isa 47:12-14 KJV) Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail. {13} Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. {14} Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.
Let us look at another problem and that is rampant drug usage. The Bible foretold there will be heavy drug usage in the end times and according to everything I read in Scripture, we are living in those times now.
(Rev 18:23 KJV) And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.
The word "sorceries" in the Greek is the word "pharmakiea."  Of course, we get the word pharmacy and pharmaceuticals out of that.
The next part of that verse states: (Deu 28:32 KJV) Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day long: and there shall be no might in thine hand.
(Eccl 4:1 KJV) So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.
Both those who are being oppressed and those who are doing the oppression have absolutely no comfort themselves because we are facing the powers of darkness. God warns in the Bible that we are facing a spiritual war which is rapidly escalating as we race toward the last day. It is not a war in the flesh. The last part of the Deuteronomy verse states, "and there shall be no might in thine hand." We are here today to speak about this very problem and it seems we have no power. What are we doing? God had already prophesied this.
(2 Tim 3:13 KJV) But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
The Bible teaches that deceptions will come. With the increase of spiritual activity between horoscopes, astrology, and all kinds of satanic deception, we find the old 1960’s attitude of free love. God is now speaking to us with the AIDS epidemic. Enough! He has placed a shroud around sexual relations and marriage, but mankind has been taking it and abusing it. Desirable deceptions will increase. Now we have spoken about the problems, let us look at the solutions.
When we see a young person, how do we view them? Do we see them as a tax deduction, as I hear so many people say.
(Gen 33:5 KJV) And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are those with thee? And he said, The children which God hath graciously given thy servant.
If we begin to view children from God’s point of view and not from our tainted point of view which includes seeing them as someone to take the garbage out, to clean windows, shovel snow, or to push off to church. God has given children as a gift. He has also given them to our care and as Elders, we have a responsibility to them as well as the parents. It is a very serious responsibility too. One of the qualifications for Eldership is the ability to teach. If you are not rooted in the Bible, what can you teach them outside what the world is already teaching them?
The second part of the solution is this: Treat their mind as a human sponge. We read in a discourse between the Apostle Paul and Timothy, who Paul called his son in the faith.
(2 Tim 3:14-15 KJV) But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; {15} And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
They will either absorb God’s truths or they will absorb Satan’s lies. This will happen and we see it happening right before our eyes every day. Consistently, we read in the newspapers about upside down crosses and secret rituals. On the Oprah Winfrey show on August 30, she had on a few people who were victims of the Satanic cults. They killed people, they burned babies in an oven and afterward, they each take home a bone, which to them is a good luck omen. This is what the world is teaching.
The third part of the solution is this. Part of our conference theme verses of Scripture are Deuteronomy 6:6-7.
(Deu 6:6-7 KJV) And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: {7} And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
The children must be taught at home, at church, and before they are ready to go to sleep to say their prayers. Don’t just send your children to bed so you can run and watch Dallas on TV, you must start showing these children reality. Show them that God is real.

I want to read something for you right now which is entitled "The Twenty Third Channel."
The TV set is my shepherd. My spiritual growth shall want.

It maketh me to sit down and do nothing for His name's sake because it requireth all my spare time.
It keepeth me from doing my duty as a Christian because it presenteth me with so many good shows that I must see.

It restoreth my knowledge of the things of the world and keepeth me from the study of God's Word.

It leadeth me in the paths of failing to attend the evening services and doing nothing in the kingdom of God.

Yes, though I live to be one hundred, I shall keep on viewing my TV as long as it shall work, for it is my closest companion. Its sounds and pictures comfort me.

It presenteth entertainment before me and keepeth me from doing important things with my family.

It filleth my head with ideas that differ from those set forth in the Word of God.

Surely no good things will come of my life, because my TV offereth me no good time to do the will of God; thus I will dwell in spiritual poverty all the days of my life.

My friends, there is a satanic attack upon the family which is not letting up but becoming more and more intense. One of the most subtle attacks of Satan was the opening of stores on Sunday from 12 to 5, then it became 11 to 6, now it is 9 to 6, soon it will be 6 in the morning to 12 midnight. Open stores on Sunday splits up the family. There is no quality time spent within the family because parents are off on one end and the children are at the other end. Families are not getting together as they used to. There has to be a core family unit. This is where Satan is focusing his attack, yet it is spiritual warfare. We can have all the Volleyball games we want and come up with the best programs under the sun but it is vanity unless it is programmed around the Word of God and its truth.
Okay we have come this far and now I have five principles for action. Number one is to accept the children as they are. If you have one or two children that come into your church, and they have long hair, so what, greet them. Before God got a hold on my heart, I drank liquor. Nobody told me the truth. I drank liquor at my church and is that a good testimony for a church? Of course not. Accept the youth as they are. Once they see there is acceptance, you will win them. There are many cults out there which include the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, The Unification church, etc. You know what they will do? They’ll walk right up to a child and put their arm around them and say "I love you," which means you have lost them.
Let us look at the second principle. Love them unconditionally. Sure they are going to make a mistake. You might have them paint and they might accidentally kick over a can of paint. Don’t lambaste them. Love them. Help them clean up the paint. In fact, teach them what takes the paint out of the rug which means they will have learned from experience. Every one of us has gone through the school of hard knocks.
Let us look at the third principle. Teach them God’s principles for stability in an evil world. Teach them unapologetically. Don’t say "well, I am sorry God says this and the world says that." Instead, say, "the world says this but God says that." This will get you through. This is stability and strength. Here’s the foundation. Here is Jesus Christ, the one who went to Calvary for His people. That is strength, to know the power of His resurrection and to impart that strength.
Let us look at the fourth principle. Make them a part of your church life. You know a child who is in a shell or is just shy may require 15 times to get them to respond. Keep it up. You persevere. Leave the results to God. Don’t be afraid. Take a ten year old and let him collect the money or let him walk with a Deacon or an Elder. Invite them to an Elders meeting. Let them see what church government is all about. It’s not that they may have something to contribute at that point, but again, it is the training. Getting their minds trained on the things of God at an early age is the key to adult stability.
Let us look at the fifth and final principle. Get involved yourself. Don’t wait for the other guy because he is waiting for you. You know, it is like we have this idea and say well I won’t get cancer because it happens to the other guy. So don’t feel bad, the guy in the other corner is saying the same thing about you.
(Ezek 22:30 KJV) And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.
God said "a man." The prayers of a righteous man availeth much. So what am I saying here this afternoon? It is a spiritual battle. Love them, give them strength, don’t be afraid to give them your phone number. When I have Sunday School class, the first thing I do is put my telephone number on the blackboard. One of our Sunday School teachers called me and told me her daughter was attending a Bible study but the materials cost $40. Right away, I had a feeling I knew which cult this was. It was called "The Way" headed by Victor Weirwille, who denies much of the Bible. So I asked for the telephone number and called inquiring about the Bible study, meanwhile Rock and Roll music was blasting in the background. Key number 1, note the music they were listening to because the music a person listens to is what is going on in their head. So I started talking with her. She went on and on and on about how you have to have knowledge, you have to have this, and you have to have that, but she mentioned nothing about salvation. So I finally asked her "what group are you affiliated with?" She finally told me "The Way." So I called the teacher back and counseled her to keep her daughter out of there. For everyone that escapes, how many become caught up in their lies?
The Bible, not television. Want to keep the youth in the church? Center your programs around God. Let Him do the drawing. We are only humans, we can’t do that. God will do the drawing. The Lord taught me the principle to commit everything in your church to the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep in mind many churches have departed from the Lord Jesus Christ, ours included; let’s not say the other guy because he is saying it about us. What we have to do is be strong. Remember, Christ formed the church, and has committed the task to us to keep it pure and strong. Thank you very much.