Every pastor I know personally takes great pride in the accomplishment of their church members. We are not just people in “positions” but also part of a family. Our role in our local family is much like yours: to both mourn and rejoice with our brothers and sisters in the bad and the good. And so it is with great joy we approach this time of the year to witness and celebrate the great accomplishment that every teenager longs for, namely graduating from High School. While it is true that I graduated over 25 years ago, I can still remember the excitement and relief knowing those days were finally over with, a new chapter is about to start and where it leads, we just do not know for sure.
But with this time of great excitement, pastors have great sadness (probably not the kind of sadness you are thinking). This sadness is due to a fact we simply cannot deny. I do not have any hard research data in front of me, although I know it has been done. What I’m speaking from is years of experience. Every year, almost without fail, with High School graduation, comes another almost simultaneous graduation: the graduation from faith.
Every year, almost without fail, with High School graduation, comes another almost simultaneous graduation: the graduation from faith.
Don’t take my word for it, you think about it. Simply think about the last 5 years in your local church and the faces of all the young men and women who have graduated. Now, think about the last six months of your local gathering and ask the question: how many of those faces do I still see? I see less than 5% at best.
Now, I can already guess the response/excuses to go something like this:
- Well, they are on their own, they are just feeling things out and it is a normal period in their life. They will return, don’t worry about it
- College is just too busy and hard. These kids don’t have time to think about spiritual stuff, in addition to academic matters. With all the reading they do, they simply don’t have the time to devote. After all, God wants them to succeed in their academic endeavors.
I want to buck the trend. No, High School graduate, I want to challenge YOU to buck the trend. I want you to read the above mentioned reasons, and throw them in the trash. Here is the truth:
A. God created you, saved you and grew you into the disciple you are today, as an always continual and growing relationship. There is no off season in the Kingdom. God did not save you for you to take a break from Him. Do people drift from time to time? They absolutely do, and the honest truth is that many drift away because they were never saved. They are like boats that never really had an anchor but were keptin a safe and calm harbor where the wind rarely blew and storms had no effect. Yet when that time came, they left the harbor and were under the influence of storms, they were driven out of sight with no ability (or desire) to return. That indeed is scary, for it reveals an unconverted heart that has convinced itself it is indeed safe, so it becomes hard to the truth. Don’t become hard to the truth and drift off, make you calling and election sure by remaining anchored.
B. In Matthew 8, a man said to Jesus that he would gladly follow the Lord, but he had to wait until his father died and was buried. Jesus shockingly responded that that was not acceptable, there is no approved time when following Jesus and serving Jesus would be proper. In other words God did not carry you, protect you, gift you and prosper you so that you could take a season on your life in order to focus on something else. Is college going to be tough? Unless you are majoring in basket weaving, you bet it will be. Way tougher than public school, with professors who will not accept excuses and work assignments that will keep you up at night. If you are going to do well in college, you’ll work your backside off. However, does that mean you can ignore your faith and faithfulness? Absolutely not, in fact, you’ll need to increase it.
Many of you are now going to head to a university, and some if not all of you will have a class (or 3) that will intentionally challenge you in your backwards, simplistic Christian worldview. Don’t believe me? Ask any number of recent college graduates about their own experience. When I was youth minister at a previous church, I had several students at UNC who sat under Bart Ehrman, renowned agnostic and opponent of Christianity. These kids were beat down and challenged. In the last two years, I had to keep an ongoing social relationship with someone in college about some blatant attacks by her professor on her beliefs. It is going be tought, but weirdly I’m exactly the kind of person who thrives in that environment. I relish having someone honestly challenge what I believe, so that I have to think about it deeply. Some of you are not going to relish it, and will still face it. And here is what happens: droves of college students who were in Bible preaching/teaching churches went to college and then renounced their faith, needlessly. Why? Because they thought it was more prudent to give attention to other things during that time than their own faith.
DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP! Many of you will be close enough to your home church to be there weekly. I personally don’t buy the “it is too much to come home” when you are an hour or less to home every week. By the way, I went to college full time, worked and still stayed anchored in my local church. If you can come home to get your laundry home, you can come home to foster your faith and exercise it. That is not an excuse, in fact colleges don’t have Sunday morning classes. If you are father away, find a local church to be a part of in the meantime. Every college has college geared fellowships for just this purpose. Don’t be someone who says they will, and doesn’t. You’ll become weak, and fall.
Graduate, I am proud of you, and I care for you. Don’t waste this precious and irreplaceable time in your life, grow closer to the Lord and serve Him more reverently.
Editors Note 2016: Since this post was originally written in 2015, there still seems to be a sharp decrease in faithfulness among high school graduates. A few have stepped up to the challenge, most of have not. What will YOU do?