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Emphasis on “Felt Needs” Hurts Teens

Here’s the problem as I see it: Young people are growing up in churches that have left the essential, biblical reason for why teens need Jesus. We’re now taught to attract teens by making our churches look like cool hangouts. We are encouraged to entertain them with kickin’ music and cool programs that will excite them. We lounge on "worship couches" and try to show them that, as their leaders, we are cool ourselves. Therefore they can feel free to "try Jesus" and see that He is better than beer and sex, and will give them the pleasure and gratification they’re looking for.

In other words, we are desperately trying to attract them to the Savior by offering a comfy, cozy, non-confrontational, buddy-buddy relationship with Jesus that promises personal satisfaction. Many teens respond because of an unsatisfied emptiness, and without true repentance, give Jesus an experimental try to see if He really is the best solution for their happiness and fulfillment. With all of the focus on teens’ "felt needs," the majority of our youth have become extremely self-centered and high maintenance, lacking the fruit of a truly repentant and surrendered heart to God.

Pastors and counselors are worn out trying to get through to these kids, who have their affections rooted in both the church and the world. Our young people feel they can attend a Sunday service or a mid-week youth group event, then go to a party and gossip or sleep with their friends without any qualms of conscience. They have no problem lifting their hands and swaying to the latest praise-and-worship CD, then turning around and singing along with Eminem. And when they want to dress like a prostitute and act like one, or watch ungodly movies and television programs, they think parents and pastors shouldn’t have any problem with that. As long as kids feel justified in their pursuit of "personal fulfillment and ultimate happiness" we will always be two steps behind, chasing after them, eating the dust they have kicked up as they pursue the idol of Personal Pleasure.

Where is the true, life changing conversion that transforms teenagers from the inside out? What about the supernatural power that sets people on fire with a holy passion to honor Jesus Christ in all they think, say and do? Where is the hero who will help our teens divorce sin once and for all and be permanently glued to the Savior? What would Jesus do to reach this generation? What did Jesus do? We don’t have to guess.

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus didn’t argue for truth, but took religious pretenders and sincere seekers alike through the door of the conscience. This principle is not only biblical, but it was the powerful catalyst that made the ministries of Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, George Whitefield and others so effective. It is the key to genuine revival and the way we’ll rescue this young generation.

Jesus didn’t coddle lukewarm pretenders or compete with the culture to win a new convert. Instead, He wheeled out ten great cannons. He used the Ten Commandments to make contact with the hidden ally of the heart. As He fired each cannon, the traitor of sin was exposed and the ally (the conscience, hard-wired with a sense of right and wrong) affirmed the truth of God’s Word within the sinner’s heart. It showed the hypocrite his true condition and drove the spiritually lost closer to the Savior.

Published July 2003

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Actor Kirk Cameron is best known for starring in the films Fireproof and Left Behind, and for his role as young Mike Seaver on the television sitcom Growing Pains (1985-92). His official website is Learn more about Kirk’s vision for helping young people win their world for Jesus Christ—and find practical tools for making that happen—by logging on to