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A while back I took my 1982 Datsun in to get an irritating noise checked out. I knew I was in trouble when the mechanic called and asked if I was sitting down. His estimate: $802. In this case, the cost of fixing the vehicle exceeded its value. More to the point, the squeak I assumed would require just a quick adjustment was symptomatic of a need for major restoration.

Our kids will emit occasional "squeaks" that indicate a need for spiritual adjustments. If we're sensitive to them, these issues can be handled rather quickly at minimal cost. A word of encouragement. A hug. A prayer. That may be all it takes to shift a young person back into high gear. But sometimes these indicators are as foreboding as the dreaded oil light. One of those spiritual gauges involves entertainment.

Prior to my delivering a chapel message to Christian school students in Minnesota, the administration surveyed all of the 6th to 12th graders. One of the questions asked for examples of inappropriate entertainment. A high percentage of them said things that indicated trouble under the hood. Here are a few of the "squeaks" I heard:

Nothing is totally inappropriate.

Undecided.

NOTHING.

Nothing made for entertainment is too inappropriate. It's all fun.

Absolutely nothing.

When asked how to tell if it's okay for a Christian to listen to a song, watch a TV show or movie, or play a video game, they shared the following comments: There is no way. Anyone can listen to whatever they want. [An Eminem lyric was penned next to this response.]

I love all music, from Bach to Slipknot. It doesn't affect you if you don't let it.

I watch and listen to whatever appeals to me.… My mom doesn't really mind.

It's only entertainment. They should be able to decide. Anything's okay.
I've become so accustomed to [entertainment that] not much phases me anymore. But I know it does affect me a lot.

At the risk of sounding harsh, those Christian teens and countless others like them need a tune-up. Their value systems are misfiring. You just heard the knocks and pings of this world's hollow and deceptive philosophies (Colossians 2:8). But who's going to get their hands dirty? Perhaps their parents are hoping the Christian school will do it. Or the church. That's assuming that Mom and Dad even know there's a problem.

With my old clunker, I decided the best option was a trade-in. But we can't trade in our children. We work to fix 'em no matter what it takes and no matter what the expense. So as we shop for back-to-school supplies that will prepare our kids for another school year, let's also equip them in another vital area by scheduling the following maintenance:

A spiritual inspection.   Paul commands us, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves." (2 Corinthians 13:5) There's no higher calling than making sure that our children are living radical, vibrant lives of faith. How do we find out? You can begin with the media questions I posed to the students. Then be more direct about their spiritual life and relationship with Jesus.

A spiritual tune-up.   There are many ways to grow in Christ. Beyond prayer, fellowship and Bible study, there are summer camps, mission trips, seminars, Christian concerts and any number of other activities that can help strengthen a young person's faith and moral resolve.

If you hear an entertainment squeak or two, such as "I'm tired of Christian music" or "Rap helps me relate to urban suffering," probe deeper to find out if you're in for a minor tune-up or a major overhaul. Beyond spiral-bound notebooks and a pack of No. 2 pencils, a little preventative spiritual maintenance may be just what your teen needs to head back to school with confidence.

Published August 2010