“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV)
According to some statistics, 70% of students give up on their faith after high school. So how do we encourage students to have a life-long faith? I want to address this issue in two parts. First to the student and then to the youth leader.
I encourage young people (or any believer) to pursue spiritual growth, cultivate a vital faith, and practice faith in community.
Pursue Spiritual Growth
Do you see the pursuit in this verse? Paul views the Christian life as a race. He’s not pursuing salvation – He’s already a believer. Paul is pursuing is a deeper relationship with Christ!
As a believer in Jesus Christ I want to know and understand all I can about the God who saved me. This requires a life-long pursuit! Let me encourage you to be a life-long learner. Pursue a deep relationship with Jesus.
Cultivate a Vital Faith
The word cultivate means to “prepare and work on.” The word vital refers to “having remarkable energy; necessary for life.”
According to some statistics, 70% of students give up on their faith after high school. It wasn’t vital. When your faith becomes irrelevant – you’ll easily drop it as soon as things get hectic or filled with distractions.
But Paul teaches that faith is vital.
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”
Philippians 3:8-9 (ESV)
How do you cultivate a vital faith? Practice spiritual disciplines such as Bible reading, prayer, scripture memory, and worship. And don’t try to live out your faith in isolation.
Practice your Faith in Community
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
Acts 2:42 (ESV)
You need a church family! You need a place to call home. We all need spiritual connection to other believers. Are you a member of a local church? Do you regularly attend a small group bible study? Developing your faith in community is crucial for spiritual growth.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:24-26 (ESV)
Dr. David Odom serves as the new Director of the Youth Ministry Institute. He is Associate Professor of Student Ministry at NOBTS. He holds a B.A. from Liberty University along with an MARE and Ph.D. from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before joining faculty, Dr. Odom taught youth ministry at Grace University in Omaha, NE and served as Youth Minister in churches in Texas and Alabama.