Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Abstinence?

Our youth group went to a citywide rally Sunday night called Save Your Sex. It was the brainchild of a dear friend of mine, Dwayne Eslick, who is an effective abstinence communicator and one of the most passionate people I have ever met when it comes to the issues teenagers face.

There were skits, testimonies, interviews, worship, and a great rapper. Josh McDowell was the speaker for the evening. 1500 people showed up, and my guess is that about 1300 were teenagers, and most were professing Christians. In that sense, the night was awesome.

I have been thinking lately, though, about the typical Evangelical approach to “abstinence education” (including our approach here), and Josh McDowell brought the issue back to the forefront of my thinking. His approach typifies what you will hear and see among Christians when it comes to talking to teenagers about sex.

We talk about the consequences of getting it wrong.

To be fair, that’s not a bad idea. To be fair, we also talk about purity, sensible dating, making wise choices, and honoring God. But mostly, we quote statistics and tell horror stories and give grave warnings… almost like one would expect to find in a secular abstinence presentation.

Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a place for all of that in our teaching Christian kids about sex.

But is that the best approach? Is that the most elevated discussion we can have about sex with Christian kids?

I have been more and more convicted that we need to approach this from a discipleship perspective.

Consider Paul and the Corinthians. Consider most of the first century world, for that matter. It could hardly be considered a model of biblical sexuality. Yet the approach taken in the New Testament seems to me to be more one of an appeal to holiness for Jesus’ sake – because we have been purchased at a great price and we are His holy people and bear His Name. Not for whatever benefits the practitioner of abstinence might receive. At least not primarily.

Even Josh McDowell talks a great deal (in his book and in person) about God’s protection and provision for the one who follows God’s design. A very valid concept. My point is, should we start there when addressing people who claim to be disciples of Jesus? Is not love for Jesus a greater (or perhaps higher or nobler) motivator than self-preservation? Is not the idea of pursuing Jesus and wanting to be like Him and honoring His Name, which is written on us, much more inspiring than avoiding disease, pregnancy and heartbreak?

“Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace…” (2 Tim. 2:22)

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with… [list]” (Col. 3:12)

“It is God’s will that you should be holy…” (1 Thes. 4:1)

Loving Jesus and acting out of that love is not something that is just for the mature and the significantly sanctified. It is the very beginning of discipleship in my opinion. Perhaps our results would improve if we rethought this thing.

What do you think?

6 Comments:

Blogger Christopher B. Brooks said...

Steve,

I was thinking about coming when Josh spoke in Chicago, but truth be told, I think this approach is not a good one. How's that for being forthright. A great communicator, tight worship and sound, a nice facility packed withy 90% Christian kids...I just don't get it.

What I would support is training 1,500 Youth Pastors how to meaningfully train Church Staff, Volunteer Leaders, Parents, and even Students in the content of avoiding sexual immorality - of which abstinence is the primary strategy.

Who is doing THAT?

www.christopherbennett.blogspot.com

November 14, 2007 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Yeah... You're describing multiplication. I think Jesus used a method something like that...

Our culture is saturated with sex. We need to equip our kids way beyond disease prevention and scary consequences. Really, we have to give them whole life equipment, which is what Youth Groups are supposed to be doing. I don't know that we're doing very well overall.

And I would even go so far as to say that our approach to abstinence is probably typical of our approach to most areas of life and discipleship... More reactive than proactive & holistic. More based on avoiding discomfort and personal consequences than pursuing Christlikeness in love.

November 14, 2007 at 3:04 PM  
Blogger JP Paulus said...

i think something like Save Your Sex is a good rallying point. It's mix of non-believers (relatively few), new or newer belivers, and some

For a couple of hours, you might need that "shock value"...but it' the LONG TERM , everyday discipleship that parents & youth workers invest in, where we can make that deeper love of Jesus (as opposed to the Father's punishment) known to growing disicples.

Chris, i think you can/should have BOTH --- students in one auditorium, parents & worers in another (which is i think whta happened, just not as many of the latter), and the parents et al. can then follow-up with the youth on the choices they are making and why.

If you've ever been to a Pure Life ministries event, or really, read Steve Gallagher's books, his theory on sexual sin is that it's a much deeper issue (as i think you're saying Steve) -- Pride, and its many facets (such as ungratefulness), which then sets the stage for sexual immorality (from porn to sex to whatever).

But working on those issues, and growing in your love for God, i think needs small group/personal discipleship. The large group rally can be useful as a kickstart/reference point, but should be considered the total/primary solution.

November 15, 2007 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Definitely a good rallying point. Dwayne did an amazing job, and the gathering of that many churches was nothing short of supernatural.

But I still contend that consequences should be the ancillary part of the conversation, not the starting point - at least not for Christian kids. As you pointed out, sexual sin is the fruit of other issues.

November 15, 2007 at 4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thought I would share what I thought was encouraging. Layne wore her T-shirt from the Save Your Sex rally to school the next day. She had many discussions throughout the day as to why she has made the decision to save herself for her husband. One of the teachers asked her to explain it the whole class and this is a public school.

It is about purity… not just sex. I know that is what you do any way. How can the subject be discussed about the "small things" the things they don't see as sin… the flirting… the hugging… the dressing… the phone call… the texting… the internet. I would say you usually cover all of that anyway. I think you have done a dinner of some kind with the parents in the past haven't you? Where the kids pledge their commitment in front of the parents? Didn't you do it where the kids made the dinner for the parents?

Thanks!

Cindy

November 16, 2007 at 3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My thoughts on this are influenced by where I'm going to college... I'm at Illinois State University and I find it really difficult to explain my reasons for staying abstinent in a place where sex is pretty much celebrated. My RA puts condoms in the bathrooms and I've seen signs for things like "STD Dodgeball" and "Condom Bingo"... it's interesting, I think, that college age seems to be the age when it's ok to have sex... as long as you use a condom. Just the other day, 3 of my good friends came up to my room... they had just gone to the feminist club and brought me all this information about sexual health and, although I learned this in health class, they showed me how to put a condom on... I think they did this just because I'm interested in a guy... I just don't understand why people think that once you start dating you need to get laid. I also don't understand why sex is encouraged among young people... it's like educators and organizations have given up on teaching students about abstinence, because they're going to have sex anyway. Having an approach of explaining the consequences and health risks of sex is important, but I agree that that shouldn't be the only component... There are other spiritual and moral reasons we have too.
But it is a challenge to hold on to those values in a place that disregards them.

Charis...

November 17, 2007 at 3:38 PM  

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