Which best describes your teaching… Milk, Meat, or Soda?

As youth pastors. We are often tasked with feeding our “sheep” milk. We often minister to nonChristian teens, to students who are new believers, and to those who are doubting their faith (whether they admit it to us or not). These are not people who need spiritual meat, they need milk.

This morning I read Kevin DeYoung’s blog post, “A Watchman on the Walls.” Here’s a short blurb:

It is not the work of the pastor to say whatever seems relevant or whatever seems noncontroversial or whatever is especially interesting to itching ears. Our responsibility, before God and for the sake of God’s people, is to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 10:27).

The teachers of the church must disclose all of the glorious parts in Scripture and all the hard parts, all the promises and all the warnings, all the blessings and all the curses, all the parts that make us smile and all the parts that make us wince.

While I totally agree with everything he wrote, I think it is helpful to remember that we do not feed spiritual infants steak (Heb. 5:12). I don’t know DeYoung personally, though I do think our time in seminary overlapped, but I’m confident he would agree with me here. This post is not a disagreement as much as it is a sympathetic clarification.

Students need biblical truth taught to them in a way that is clear and practical. If we aren’t showing students the Gospel threaded throughout Scripture, then we are not teaching them the big story of the Bible. But if we are “biblically faithful” without helping them understand what a Christian teenager actually looks like, then we’re not shepherding them in a way that teaches them follow God’s call.

While we need to be careful about this, I think the greater temptation is for youth pastors to be guilty of feeding students spiritual junk-food. In our desire to help students see the beauty of Christ and to think biblically about life-issues, we can fall into the trap of only talking about felt-needs. But if we only talk about what teenagers want to hear about then many important actual-needs will go unaddressed. This can happen easily and very innocently, so be careful.

In the worst cases, we will find ourselves unwilling to teach what God’s Word says because we know it will turn students away. Do you refuse to teach about hot-button issues because you think it will turn some students off from the Gospel (or because it will get you in hot water with certain parents)? Be strong and courageous…

Be wise, and remember that we are called to be ambassadors of Christ (Gal 5:20). If he was rejected and crucified but we are applauded and sought-after, then we should pause and ask ourselves if we are proclaiming Christ or if we are telling people what their itching ears want to hear (2 Tim 4:2-3).

There is a time to give milk, and there is time to encourage those growing “children” to start eating meat. But by all means, absolutely refuse to give your lambs spiritual soda.