When I was a senior in high school I was kicked out of church. I wasn’t excommunicated for any egregious sin or for teaching false theology. No, I was told that I asked too many questions.
My questions were not silly or meant to cause conflict, I was genuinely curious. I was old enough to drive myself to church which, in my family, meant that I was also old enough to decide if I wanted to go to Sunday school or not. My parents encouraged me to find my own faith in God instead of relying solely on theirs.
Even with the very tempting option of sleeping another hour, I still went to Sunday School because I had lots of questions. I wanted to know why God allowed evil, why good people often died too young, how science and religion worked together; it seemed that there was no end to the questions I had swirling around my young mind.
However, every Sunday, I would arrive early for Sunday School, and the teacher would spend 15-20 minutes conversing about NASCAR or his job with the other adult volunteers before saying a quick prayer and then dismissing us to our smaller group sessions. I made attempts to interrupt, wanting to ask just one of my questions about life and faith, yet each time the teacher would gesture for me to put my hand down and continue conversing with the other adults.
In a moment of frustration I blurted out loudly, “I don’t think God cares about your dumb NASCAR, and neither do we!”
Later that evening the teacher called and recommended that I not return until I could learn to behave. I might not have been the ideal student, but I did really want to learn and grow in my faith. I was tired of the same stories being retaught every year. I was tired of my school being more intentional at answering questions than my church. There was a war in the culture for the hearts of the youth, and the church seemed to be late to the battlefield.
Disillusioned, I church-shopped until I found a youth pastor who took me under his wing. While I was on a mission trip, I got word that my new mentor had taken his own life. He had gone to the garage with a gun in one hand and a Bible in the other. It was soon revealed that he had made some poor decisions that would have cost him his job and possibly his family, so he took his life instead of dealing with the pain.
I can still remember how I felt when I got that news, because, for me, that was the day I decided God was not real.
It would take years before I came back around. God did a lot of work in repairing the wounds I felt as a young man. Thankfully, the Spirit of God is stronger than any mistake or pain we might receive or cause. I eventually entered into the ministry with the desire to answer as many questions as possible and to be the kind of teacher I had so desperately needed.
All of us who make up the Body of Christ have two biblically mandated responsibilities. We are to teach those who are younger than us, and we are to strive to live holy and honest lives, so that our words will not be disqualified by our actions.
We always complain about the faults and shortcomings of the current generation, but perhaps our time is better spent pouring God’s truth into their lives. Kids don’t need more fun youth activities; they need the full scope of God’s love and truth.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).