When King Solomon died, it was assumed by the Hebrews that Rehoboam, his son, would ascend to the throne to reign over the twelve tribes of Israel. But God had another plan (see 1 Kings 11:26ff). Due to the wickedness of his people, most of the kingdom (ten tribes of the twelve) would place their loyalty in a different direction—with Jeroboam the son of Nebat, of whom it is said some 21 times, he “made Israel to sin” (cf. 14:16). Tragically, Rehoboam was the instrument of his own undoing.
After Solomon’s death, Rehoboam sought counsel as to how he should rule. The elderly men advised the young king to serve the people in their best interests, respond to their needs, and speak good words to them.
The general assumption of the scriptures is that age and experience bring wisdom, and such is to be honored and sought by the younger generation. Older folks possess “understanding” (Job 12:20). There is wisdom in “a multitude of years” (Job 32:7). In his parting address before his death on Mt. Nebo, Moses instructed his people: “Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you” (Deuteronomy 32:7).
Curiously, however, Rehoboam turned to the youth among whom he had grown up, seeking their direction. In their immaturity, they encouraged the foolish ruler to place heavy burdens upon the people — more so even than Solomon had done — and to coerce them into subjection.
Across the centuries, Rehoboam has become a monument to the folly of listening to the inexperience of youth, versus the wisdom of the mature.
Learning from History
It is a sad reality that we are observing a similar circumstance in the church today. The young people of the kingdom of Christ have become, in not a few instances, the “tail that wags the dog.”
The teens of American society, in far too numerous cases, have evolved into a conglomerate of druggies, sex addicts, blabbering hip-hoppers, and “MySpace” junkies. It is a sad but realistic fact that some of our own Christian youth have inhaled the humanistic fumes of a crass culture. Most attend public schools, watch considerable amounts of TV, hang out on the Internet indiscriminately, and run with numerous ungodly companions. There is a heavy price attached to such. “Walk with wise men, and you will be wise; but the companion of fools shall be broken” (Proverbs 13:20).
When significant doses of these influences have been ingested, even kids from good homes unwittingly can blur the distinction between the secular and the sacred.
One church phenomena of the day is the “youth minister,” and the “youth rally” craze. While certainly there is no intrinsic evil in a “youth minister,” or in get-togethers for Christian youths, many of these have become the spawning ground for error that is being rationalized under the guise that “teens live in a different cultural context,” and we cannot expect them to conform to the norms of previous generations.
Not a few of the “youth rallies” in various parts of the country are characterized by superficial “spirituality,” characterized by drama presentations, gospel rap, “holy” hip-hop, clapping and swaying to jazzed-up religious songs, with even instrumental accompaniment to hymns — all with the explanatory justification: “We are not in church.”
Unfortunately some of these misguided enterprises are receiving encouragement from college instructors, elders, ministers, and a host of spiritually shallow parents.
Aside from the crude error of some of these practices, and the extreme inexpediency of others, what many seem to be unable to appreciate, or even comprehend, is that these teenybopper rallies are the training ground for tomorrow’s church.
When the church’s youngsters have been engaging in these youth culturally oriented activities for the better part of a decade, is it likely that suddenly, when they turn 21, they are going to shift cultural gears? Will they lay aside their guitars, install silencers on their rhythmic hands, shift their hips into neutral, and return to “Amazing Grace” and “The Old Rugged Cross”—instead of a, “Hokey pokey” gospel?
Forget it! Many of the church’s current youth crop will be a new denomination a few years from now. A number already are gravitating to sectarian groups where they can find a more zestful service to their liking. And, of course, a number of innovative churches now host both a “traditional” service, as well as a “contemporary” adventure.
Some of our church leaders are exercising extremely poor judgment. They are not directing our youngsters in the way they should go with strong teaching and noble example. Rather, they are too preoccupied with their own distracting pursuits. Some “leaders” are consulting the children: “What do you want to do?” They then permit them to exert their own leadership. This is a preview of darker days ahead.