The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Segregation By Gender In Youth Groups?

Tonight I discussed with some friends why a particular youth group that some of them attend segregate their youth by gender. We had a bit of a disagreement and it got rather tense, but I would like to articulate my position for others (and hopefully them if they read this).

I do not understand why we should segregate youth where boys sit on one side of the room and girls on the other. The answer given by a guy who attends this youth group did make some sense- he said they do this for the unsaved that may be visiting. For instance, say an unbeliever walks in, sits next to someone of the opposite sex, and is distracted by them because of his insatiable lust; by obligating guys to sit next to guys and girls to sit next to girls, this distraction and problem is alleviated, or so the reasoning goes.

While I think that line of reasoning carries some weight, I do not think it actually works all that well. I was also told that in this particular youth group, as well as another, that guys and girls were having a hard time keeping their hands off of each other during the message being given by the youth pastor! They seemed to think I was crazy for finding this shocking, but it is hard for me to imagine even an unbeliever physically touching someone else during a church service, even a youth church service. But it seems that those who were professing Christians and regular attenders of these youth groups were the ones who were getting handsy.

Here is my response to all of this: Will a person's sexual lust simply go away because they are not sitting next to someone of the opposite sex? Obviously I can't physically touch someone of the opposite sex where I am sitting if I am not sitting next to someone of the opposite sex, but that doesn't prevent me from thinking about or looking at someone of the opposite sex and still being distracted, does it? Why not carry these segregation even further and have girls in one room and guys in another? Most people would think that crazy, but I think even segregating sitting arrangements is a little crazy and ultimately not what is needed.

What is needed then? Good teaching and preaching. And I was told that they do get good teaching and preaching at this church and youth group. I hope this is the case, although I can say that I have heard this particular youth pastor on many occasions and, while I have no doubt he is a godly man who wants to serve Christ and help his youth spiritually, his gospel message, as so many pastors are, was faulty. And if the foundation is faulty (and the gospel is the foundation), no matter what you build on top of it, even if it is well constructed, is in peril of collapsing.

It is my belief that, normally speaking, a church that is preaching the truth of God and practicing church discipline will not have a problem with their youth group getting physically involved during a youth worship service. I understand that hormones exist, believe me I experience them myself, but I believe that the power of the gospel and the power of sound biblical doctrine and the Holy Spirit is stronger than hormones. Therefore, my premise is that, if a youth group is experiencing an epidemic of physical contact or distractions just by the very presence and proximity of members of the opposite sex in the building, either the preaching in this particular area is bad, many in the youth group are unsaved/unregenerate, or both.

I think that my premise is biblical because of the gospel. The gospel teaches that a person who is saved from their sins will be regenerated (given new desires to serve Christ and righteousness and put off sin) and given the Holy Spirit which will indwell the believer, convict of sin and righteousness, and enable the believer to serve Christ and live righteously. Since this is true, and since Jesus says that it is the constant preaching of the gospel and biblical truth that sanctifies (John 17:17), then a regenerate Christian with the Holy Spirit indwelling him WILL respond to good biblical preaching, understand it, be convicted by it, and will make every effort to live righteously. Since this is true, a situation where good preaching is regularly being delivered in regards to this specific area of sexual sin and the desires and feelings that come with our sexuality, it is not possible for the regenerate recepients of this good preaching on a regular basis not to be affected by it in a God-glorifying way that will inevitably and irresistibly produce holier living in the area of purity, chastity, and sexuality.

Therefore, if a youth group is sitting under good preaching, and yet they are not growing in holiness and sanctification in the area of sex and purity, then many in the youth must not be regenerate. If the youth group is struggling with sexual sin to such a degree that they cannot keep their hands off of one another during a youth service with the youth pastor speaking, yet many who are struggling with this sexual sin to this degree are regenerate, then the preaching they are hearing must be poor. My conclusion is that there is never a situation where good, biblical preaching is being delivered on a regular basis to regenerate believers where sanctification is not the result. Why? Because the truth of Scripture sanctifies by working with the Holy Spirit which indwells the regenerate Christian.

Ah, but somebody will say, "Yes, the Holy Spirit convicts the regenerate, but the regnerate Christian must be willing for the preaching to take effect." And now we are coming to the heart of the matter. This is why being a Calvinist and understanding the gospel is so important. God saves us by changing our heart's desires through regeneration and making us willing to trust in Him. Faith and repentance are gifts of God, not something man conjures up or creates by the power of his will. Man would never create nor be willing to repent and believe the gospel, much less put off the sinful deeds of the flesh in the area of sexuality, unless God changed their wills. The gospel teaches us that God changes our wills through regeneration and gives us the means to live righteously by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible also says that it is the Spirit that sanctifies us by the truth of God's Word. The question for the Christian is never a question of are they willing or not, it is only a question of how willing they are and how good and biblical the preaching they are sitting under is.

How do I know this to be true? By the clear teaching of Scripture. Titus chapters 1-2 for starters teaches us this. For instance, in Titus 1:9 we see that one of the qualifications to be a pastor is that he "holds fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict." This verse alone teaches that sound doctrine produces conviction (by the Holy Spirit) which produces repentance and holy living (also see Titus 2:1-10).

We see this same thing being taught by Paul again in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Notice it is learning doctrine and instruction in righteousness that makes the man of God, the Christian, complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work. So good teaching WILL produce righteous living out of a regenerate Christian, because a person who is regenerate is, by definition, willing and desiring to live for Christ and abstain from all sins, including sexual immorality. A person who is not willing to do so is not regenerate and is not saved.

Now I would like to give another more example, though I could go on since Scripture is saturated with them. 1 Timothy 4 teaches us that preachers are to "give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine" (v. 13) and to "meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you."  Apparently, sound doctrine is so important and so central that it can even save a person.

Now for my final example, and I believe this one puts the nail in the coffin. I am simply going to quote 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:6.

13 "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

 1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.
3 But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you.
5 Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.
Warning Against Idleness
  
6 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he[a] received from us."
 This is striking. From these verses, it is clear that God has chosen not only that we would be saved but that we are in fact saved through sanctification which is by the Spirit and belief in the truth. So salvation and sanctification are inseperable and inevitable and in fact, sanctification by the Spirit itself is part of beign saved. So the Spirit sanctifies, and we must be sanctified, we must grow in holiness, in order to be saved. Sanctification is a part of salvation. How can this be true unless it is God through the Spirit who is making us willing not only to believe but to live righteously? And as we read from before, Jesus Himself said that we are sanctified by the sound teaching and preaching of the truth Scripture.

All of this is precisely what Philippians 2:12-13 teaches:

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure."
Notice that it is God Himself working in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure. This is sanctification. God saves men by working inwardly in their hearts through regeneration when the gospel is being preached, and in the same way God sanctifies men by working inwardly in their hearts through the Holy Spirit when sound doctrine is being preached. Philippians 2 again reiterates that sanctification itself is a part of salvation, because the verse says to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." So this is not optional for salvation, in a sense this is salvation, a part of it at least. This is also what I believe James has in mind when he says that we are saved not by faith alone but also works.


So, to maintain the teaching that the Christian has to be willing and constantly make himself willing as a Christian to love God and live righteously and become sanctified is grossly unbiblical, an outright heresy, and is predicated on a false gospel that says you must make yourself willing to live righteously and promise God you will do that in order to be saved in the first place. To continue to assert that man makes Himself willing before and after salvation has serious consequences, eternal consequences. Notice, for example, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

 1 Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; 2 for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given[a] us His Holy Spirit.
In other words, if you disagree with me on this point, you are not in fact disagreeing with me, but with God. Now let us tie this full circle to the whole segregation issue in this particular youth group due to sexual sin. My contention that I think is clearly biblical is that it is an impossibility for true Christians to sit under true, solid, biblical preaching and teaching and not become sanctified in any area of sin, particularly sexual sin.

Now here is the biblical proof of my contention. As we just saw, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says that God's will is our sanctification, and in this particular instance God is referring to being sanctified in the area of being less sexually immoral and more pure. Will this sanctification occur only if the Christian makes Himself willing and keeps Himself willing? No! By no means! God will sanctify us, God will make us willing to become more pure and less sexually immoral just as He made us willing to believe the gospel and trust in Christ for salvation. This is true because in the next chapter, 1 Thess. 5:23-4 says:

23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
God Himself will sanctify us completely, God is faithful, and God will do it.

Now it is true that we are all at different levels of sanctification, and not all of us are going to die as sanctified as another person. But the point is that God is sanctifying us, and we are working out our salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that God is working in us both to will and to do. One of those things that contributes to our sanctification and how sanctified we become is sound preaching, sound doctrine, correct theology. This demonstrates that a person who is saved and under good doctrine and preaching will grow in holiness and sanctification and put off sin, including sexual sin. Therefore, a good pastor who is sound in his theology and has been reading the Scriptures would know what to do if indeed he was preaching biblical truth to his youth group. Instead of segregating the youth by gender, he would begin to practice church discipline.

We could go back to the verse I quoted earlier, 2 Thess. 3:6 which says to withdraw from every brother (meaning every person who professes to be a Christian) who walks disorderly and not according to what is righteous. In other words, a person who is living in sin and not repenting when confronted and rebuked concerning their sinful lifestyle should not be kept company with. In other words, you do not associate with them at all. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 makes it abundantly clear that a person who is living in sexual sin, a sexually immoral person, is to be excommunicated from the church, and not to be regarded as a true believer, even calling such a person evil in verse 13:

9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.
12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”[d]
I kept the first two verses for context because I think it continues to labor my point. Paul says that unbelievers are immoral and that we are not to seperate from them, yet we are to seperate anyone who professes to be a true Christian. Why is this? Because a true Christian cannot live in unrepentant sin after being rebuked for an extended period of time. It is not possible, because God sanctifies. To say it is possible is to slander the nature and power of God and the Holy Spirit. It is also clear Paul is at least telling us to regard such sexually immoral people as unbelievers, because he calls them evil persons.

So if the youth pastor at this youth group was biblically sound, instead of segregating his youth because of sexual immorality going on during the actual youth service, he would rebuke those who were committing such sexual sins. This would either end the problem, the true believer would repent and quit, or if they continued in this sexual sin and did not heed this rebuke then the pastor should not regard the sexually immoral youth as a Christian and remove him from the youth group and church. This is church discipline, its biblical, and to not do it is a sin and has far reaching consequences. First, it is BAD for the person committing the sexual sin- the worst possible thing to do is to segregate them and allow them to continue in the church as if they don't really have a problem. To rebuke them and, if necessary to expel them from the church and regard them as an unbeliever may also convict them and bring them to true faith and repentance and possibly salvation if they were not already saved. Secondly, because so many churches do not practice church discipline, to be a member of a youth group and church is very easy, and this defiles the whole church body, giving Christianity and the church a bad, hypocritical name. This is what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 5.

So segregation is not the answer. Sound preaching and church discipline is. God will convict and sanctify the regenerate Christian under sound preaching, and the biblical pastor will have the wisdom and faith in God to expel the immoral brother or sister who will not repent from the church and no longer regard them as a believer. I even disagree with segregating the youth just in case an unbeliever shows up and might be distracted because he is sitting next to a pretty girl. The girl should be dressing modestly if she is a Christian, and if the unbeliever actually does touch or or distract her, because she is a Christian she will get up and sit somewhere else and if necessary tell a pastor or parent. That is how you handle those situations, not by segregating the youth. Segregating the youth to me says that the preaching is not strong and the youth is not very spiritually mature.

I would advise a young person who is a true believer who is not getting the good preaching they so desperately need and want to overcome sin to leave such churches that preach free will theology, which says that you have to make yourself willing to serve God and live righteously by your own power in order to be saved and to grow in sanctification/holiness. That is not possible, that is not true, and that is not good preaching, and you will not grow very much in your faith under that poor teaching and preaching.

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