The Church is one body (see Eph. 4: 4)—there can be no divisions within it, or segregation of particular groups. Old and young, men and women, all work and worship together as one and through one Spirit. It is therefore not healthy to create an exaggerated youth consciousness among young believers. Of course it is natural that young people should seek the companionship of persons of a similar age, but is not right that they should have little or no contact with those who are older. The Lord did not forget the needs of youth when He began to build His Church, and if all is in accord with the Word and by the Spirit, then they will feel perfectly at home among all God’s people.
It may seem necessary at times to make concessions to what we might call ‘the spirit of modern youth’. Young people will desire, and perhaps, demand them. For a time such concessions will bring an appearance of success because they will have the support of the worldly and those whose faith is weak, but in the long run, their fruit is invariably bad. All depends upon what we are to trying to achieve: whether it is fidelity to Christ, or keeping young people ‘in the meetings’. If it is the former, we must remember that an uncompromised spiritual life can never be obtained by compromise. The saints must be prepared for the fact that what they offer will not be popular, for it will not be attractive to the flesh. The truth will be resisted, and to maintain it will require constant watchfulness and conflict. If we meet young people halfway to hold them, we lower the spiritual standard of the meeting as a whole to the same extent. Henceforth that will be our standard. Our purpose may have been to hold the young folk until they could be raised later to a higher level, but what we actually do is to permanently lower our own.
It is this spirit of compromise that has brought the downfall of many a gathering of God’s people. At the start the highest standard is set in practice and testimony and all is according to Scriptural order. As the years pass, the children of the saints grow up. Among them are all types: some are spiritual, others are attracted to the world. In an endeavour to hold the latter, concessions are made. It seems better to do so than to lose them. One concession leads to another. In time, the meeting as a whole comes to have a lower character. Now and then a voice of protest will be raised but it is soon crowded out. Others, who sorrow over the changes that have taken place, keep quiet for the sake of peace. Now if there had been a refusal to lower the standard, then some young people would probably have left—but it very often transpires that compromise only delays their departure. They are not changed, but the character of the meeting is—and often irrevocably so. Thus nothing is gained but much is lost.
If compromise is fatal, so is the joyless rigidity that is sometimes mistaken for true spirituality. Young people may be frozen out by older Christians whose spiritual life has become no more than a code of prohibitions. Those who have the leadership in a gathering of God’s people must not be forgetful of the needs of the young. There should be a true appreciation of the characteristics of adolescence. Up to that age, children have been content to accept passively what they are taught. The adolescent now thinks for himself and seeks to express himself independently in action. If there is nothing real for him to do in the meeting, he will seek something real to do outside it. He may find that the older brethren think he is too young to contribute anything, but he sees a world outside that is only too ready too offer him experiences.
Young people have an energy and vitality which older saints need to harness as something positive and beneficial. In turn, the young need to respect the experience and wisdom that only comes with age. Churches that are either youth–orientated or rest–homes for the elderly are both falling short of the purpose of God, which is to have both old and young together.