Originally published November 1991

“Fear not for I am with you” is used over 350 times in the Bible.It is the most often used phrase.Often times the repetition of it serves as a comfort to us as we walk out our walk with Christ.Yet somehow this repetition still does not sink into our whole being.Too many youth ministries are controlled by fear.Walk through this with me as I explain this.

Have your youth ever asked you why there are so many Protestant denominations?If all denominations worship the same God, what makes “them” different?

How did denominations begin? Some people did not like what their church was doing so they began their own church to do the things they wanted to do their own way.Was this done out of a haughty spirit? No, it was done out of fear that somehow their church had strayed from the “true doctrine.”Fear is what established these denominations and churches.

This fear I am describing is when something or someone new comes along.It is a fear of change.It is a fear that maybe you are not doing your best job.It is a fear that maybe you are incompetent in your position.It is a fear of losing control.These fears are easily disguised with “God talk” and rationalizations.Sometimes these fears have been so ingrained in us from our own church upbringing that we don’t even know we have them.

Several “ministry” abuses we have seen lately do cause us to be skeptical of new things.We need to be cautious and wise.However, many great opportunities are missed because of our fear. “We can’t send our youth to a Methodist youth event, they don’t do things the way we do.”“Those Assembly of Gods might have an altar call and we don’t want our youth to be pressured like that.”Call me Pollyanna if you wish, but I sincerely believe that most of the churches and ministries of the Washington DC area truly wish to see teenagers draw closer to Christ and have the best intentions in mind.

You may have heard or even used this one:“We are going to follow through on this no matter who participates.I am committed it and God will bless it.”Again, this is a reaction based out of fear.Instead of searching out what the reasons are for a lack of support for a program or whatever, fear is thrown up candy-coated with a “and God will bless it.” This fear often results in programs that are not very successful and division.What is perceived by others as a haughty and untouchable attitude is actually fear.I believe this causes the most division in churches today and yet the churches truly do not meant to be divisive.

For decades American Christians have been praying for the Communist curtain in Eastern Europe to come down.In the past year or so we have seen this happen.History is changing dramatically right before our eyes.It is hard to fathom it all.Yet some of these same Christians who spent years praying for this great move of God are now preaching that any day this door will be slammed shut again.Why are they doing this?Fear.The world has changed.

Many youth workers pray earnestly for a revival among their youth.Hours are spent in prayer for God to change the direction of this generation, to stop the destruction of sin on teenager’s lives, and to see the unsaved come through the doors of the church and find the Real Hope.Again, I believe these are earnest prayers.

Then the day comes when unchurched youth do come to the youth meeting.They may have wild hair, earrings in their noses, or no family background.Many of them have probably committed sins you would have never considered doing.Now they are in your youth meeting.Your prayers have been answered.

However, fear arises.Your mind wanders:“These teens do not fit into the program.How are you to reach them?Who are you to reach them?They are so different.”

So youth programs thrive on the status quo.After all, it has worked in the past, it will work now.Soon the door that has been opened by your prayers is shut, not because God did not touch their hearts but because fear held you back from loving them.

Fear of change, fear of incompetency, and fear of losing control all keep us in the status quo where we are safe.However, there is a bigger picture.How would we handle Jesus today?

Our immediate thoughts would be accepting His ideas of loving the lost and walking in unity.After all, he is “the man.”We would even go over to that other church to hear Him teach.Or would we?His ideas would have to transform our already “spiritual” lives and that fear of change, incompetency and loss of control may keep the heart of the matter at a careful and safe distance.

The big picture is this:“There is no fear in love.But perfect love drives out fear.…The man who fears is not made in perfect love.”1 John 4:18.This is the heart of the matter.Jesus dined with Pharisees, Samaritans, and tax collectors.His perfect love had to no fear of these people or of the changes that would happen.His perfect love changed the world.

We can change our world right here in the Washington DC area.Perfect love drives out fear and will bring a might move of God into our teenagers—which is what we all want.