An interview with Sándor Nemeth, Senior Pastor of Faith Church, on the future and fate of Christian youth
How should students who attend Christian schools prepare for standing their ground in the secular world?
Opposition and conflict between the world and the church have existed for more than 2,000 years. The main reason is people's views on the person of Jesus Christ, whether they reject or accept Him. We are Christians because we accept Jesus as the Son of God and as the Anointed One, and we are convinced that the only way to God the Father is through Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He is the one who provides the answer to the difficulties and most basic existential problems of people. The views of the world contradict this, they ignore Jesus, and since He is Jewish and fulfills the law, therefore a moral-spiritual ideology is attached to his person. We, as Christians accept and follow this ideology and world interpretation. This contradiction results in the great conflict which cannot be resolved yet. It is only the return of the Lord that will be able to resolve it, accomplished by adjudication: through rewards and punishments. This is why it is crucial for Christians to pay close attention to what the right way is to keep in touch with the world and to live in it.
Even at the time of the Old Testament this problem already existed between Israel and the neighbouring nations. God obliged Israel by law not to assimilate. Even so, Israel failed during the time of the Old Testament, because she could not stand separate. And what were the reasons for that? One of the most essential ones was not knowing God or knowing Him in a shallow way. So the most important thing is to know God. Then comes the observance of moral norms, so that man would have moral values, so-called principals, and as a result he would have moral resistance to conceptions that oppose our moral understanding. The sons of Israel as a nation did not do this, but there were always individuals who became successful, for example many among the holy prophets, priests and kings. However, on the the whole, they cannot be considered successful, this is why the old testament Israel was torn into two states. First Israel, then Judah collapsed.
I think, Christianity and Christian youth must face the same challenge, which can only be addressed by very strong Christian and Christ based education and teaching and, of course, by a lot of God-encounters, charismatic experiences, which are not fruitless, but create the knowledge of God in youngsters, and by acquiring a very clear value system, since this is what one's lifestyle is based on. We know that world views contain concepts of reality, but so that my views would not become dim and mixed with opposing conceptions and interpretations, I need to have a strong, straight and clear concept of reality. This is why Christians must understand that they have to learn a lot. Christians must be led by the spirit and sense. According to my experience, those Christians who are led by the spirit and sense are capable of moral commitment and attitude and also of representing spiritual power and are much more successful in this field than those believers who, due to convenience or some other reasons, do not renew their minds and senses. They are satisfied with merely being believers, but they do not acquire biblical values and worldviews. Naturally, parallel to this, man has to keep straightening his course of life, so that his ways, lifestyle, thinking, words and actions would correspond wholly with the truth of God. John tells the youth: 'Since you kept the Word of God, you are strong and have overcome evil.' So none of us are able to overcome evil, unless the Lord moves into our hearts and we are full with the power of the Holy Spirit, which is the revelation, the rhema, of God.
What do you suggest those should do who would like to attend Saint Paul Academy, those who really feel that they are led by the Holy Spirit to do it, but worry about their future?
Well, it is not easy to answer this... I would mostly like to say that everybody should check his own heart and see what God's calling is for him, what he has faith for and make a decision accordingly. It is possible to start studying law or apply for admission to any university after completing studies at Saint Paul Academy. Many people have done so and as I see, they weren't ever discriminated against. In the future theological knowledge is also going to play a very important role. We can see what change the education system has gone through. The level of theological knowledge among youngsters has been growing year by year in Hungary, therefore it would be really important that young people who belong to Faith Church and students attending Bornemisza High School or other schools are able to debate theological issues with Catholics, Reformists or Evangelicals. So they should have a wide knowledge of Theology, the Bible, God and the story of man throughout history and the plan of Salvation, so that they would not only be able to sensibly discuss the most basic and neuralgic questions of mankind, but would also be able to have a vision for solving certain problems. When such theological knowledge, a university degree and high qualifications are combined in the life of a young and talented individual, I am convinced he can become a very successful adult, both in the church and beyond.
I admit, there is great confusion in Hungary, because it is very difficult for young people to find jobs, with the help of which they can make ends meet during their studies. We have been thinking about this, it is a hot topic among teachers, the leaders of the school and in the church as well. We are looking for solutions, since it is a really important question and a lot will depend on it in the future. What is more, it may also influence the fate of Faith Church.
However, I am not glad that there are some who would like to study Theology but first they go and study Law or Economics and after a while they get tired of education, lose their interest in Theology and are finally captured by the inner attractions of their professions. I think it is important that there be young people with good abilities who graduate from Saint Paul Academy, not only those who are not accepted to any other college.
Another similar question: What do you think is the healthy balance between making ends meet and going to church?
Well, this is what 'give back to God what is God's' refers to. Man's most important duty is to meet his debts with God, so man must give God what He deserves from his time and energy. This paying back our debts is the worship, praise and honor due to God, the hearing and following of His Word. We are all debtors to God, and those who do not give priority to this aspect will get into even greater debts, mainly in case they do know what they should do. Those people who miss this balance will get into serious trouble sooner or later. In the present and the long run it is always clear that the systems they create for themselves face basic disorders. According to my experience, they stay successful in their jobs (let us suppose the best!), but these problems arise rather in their private lives: their marriages fail, they get divorced, they get into things they should not. So God takes hold of them in these things and as the scripture says 'to the devious you show yourself shrewd'. This is a devious attitude to God. What the proverb says refers to such young people: the table is ready, it is laid with food and drink, the invited ones are awaited, but they reply that they have no time because they have bought five yoke of oxen, they must try them out or they have just got married etc. What will be the results of this? These young people will break away from the Lord, because He will despise them. Those who despise God, God also despises. Those who despise God's word, are despised by God. Saul lost his kingdom because of this. Although God called him, anointed him and he had the talent to do his duty, he still failed because he despised God's Word. Those who do not put God in the first place and do not find the honour and worship or even the people of God more important than their workplaces or financial lives, will be lead into traps by God, with which He wants to teach them that it is not of him who runs or who wants, but of God, who shows mercy. And what good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. So such people do achieve goals, but according to experience, when they do so, they do not enjoy it. Or even if they enjoy it, there are such pains and thorns planted in their lives which others can clearly see as defects.
How can young people be sent into the ministry You have begun and Faith Church has begun in Hungary?
This is something that has to do with the relationship between a disciple and his master. Discipleship used to mean that young people followed and swarmed around those from whom they wanted to receive instructions, information, training and teaching. So it's not the master that has to catch young people but it is young people that must surround the master. If you go to Jerusalem, you can observe that at the Wall. When there is a famous, influential rabbi walking along there are fifty or a hundred young people surrounding him, it's just like when little chicks surround a hen. So this attitude is the first thing. This is the reason why God always raises up new spiritual leaders in Israel. The great ones always stand out from the rest in new generations, because there are many talented, young Israelites for whom God is very important; they think it is essential that they have a spiritual leader among their youth. And at the same time, it is clear that the performance of these young people in their professions is not simply good but astonishing, whether they work in the field of science or in other fields. We can witness this process. We know that Israel is a young state and what I'm talking about has only a few decades of history. However in the area of sciences and top technologies they have become leaders and this has been brought about by young people. What I have seen there though, is that members of the new generation have a harmonious relationship with those of the older generations. There are no gaps. So this is one thing that I'd recommend young people to follow.
The other one is that you must take part in different ministries as an activist. I don't think that Samuel started off as a spiritual man, but he would lie down beside the Ark. I think he used to have to carry water; do this and that. Or it is recorded of Elisha that he would pour water on Elijah's hands; in other words he was his water-carrier. Then at the end he inherited the anointing which was on Elijah, it came upon him. So it works like this, you can enter into it through a deep, personal relationship. Its not enough to come to Saint Paul Academy and get a degree in theology, or go to bible school. These are very important things, going to bible school, Saint Paul Academy, but the key fact is developing and growing in a personal relationship. So I suggest that young people gather around older ministers who are of good reputation and are good examples. Everyone can only lift others up to the very level they themselves are at. If you can only make friends with your peers, you will in fact predestine yourself and you won't be able to grow. Look at art, sciences and spiritual life: talented people have always found themselves a famous, mature master so that they can learn the tricks of the trade which cannot be learnt from books. And how did artists often start? With copying. This is the trick, and it works. It worked for the Greeks, and as a matter of fact, academies in Greek culture were developed on this principle. Also rabbi schools were like that, and it was the same with Jesus too, people followed him around. One of the prerequisites and main characteristics of discipleship is following. I follow a model, I start to develop and grow, and at the right time I will have my own way. You must be disciples!
Thank you for these edifying answers, we need to re-evaluate lots of things in ourselves.
Yes, I must say that in their teenage years young people are not aware what great differences there are among world views and what the functions of these are in human life. A long time ago, an existentialist philosopher said that people live first, then after several blows they realize that they need a guide. I would say it is better to have a guide first, because it's best to prevent problems and bad decisions from happening. So the most ancient training method is this: young people don't refuse even the things that they don't understand, but sit at the masters' feet and listen to them. This is the way young Jewish people can get strong. The fact, that I am different is not something to be ashamed of, but is something to be built up as an inner confidence regardless of the circumstances, for me to have a kind of strength that maintains this difference in me. And after a while we realize how wonderful it is, how good it is that I am not like others. This is how I can contribute to the whole – to the whole not in a worldly sense, of course – and this is how I can enjoy God's love, by realizing that I am different.
Daniel and his friends were teenagers when ended up in the court of the king of Babylon, where they were offered the same food and drink at the “college” as others. However Daniel refused to accept them, saying he wouldn't defile himself with them. The representative of the ruler, not wanting to be ashamed before the king since he knew he would get into trouble if the students only had vegetables and kosher food, and then look miserable, did a test. He saw they didn't get thinner but stronger. At the end of the three years of their education Daniel and his friends had far better grades in the exams than their classmates. It means they outperformed the others in wisdom, in knowledge and in everything.
And why did God bless them with wisdom and vision? Why did God reveal to them (especially to Daniel) the mystery of world history? For one thing, because he could be different even as a young man. He wasn't afraid that if he emphasized his belonging to God, strengthened and not impaired his identity in that, he would get into trouble.
So even as a young man I have to know that I stand by the Lord of the Universe, and He stands by me. If I cling onto him, He also clings onto me. The more you cling on, the more He clings onto you and this is how you will finally become His own. This is when the Lord starts to use you in great things.
It is important to see your life as a life-work. While you are at secondary school or even at university, it is like when an athlete is at the starting line of a competition and is getting ready for the race, training. These are training sessions not real lives yet. I also was in a situation like that and I thought it was life itself, but it wasn't. Life is the destiny of man, when he does what he was born to do, and he recognizes the cause and meaning of his life in his acts. This is one of the most important experience of man in this life on earth. This is what you prepare for at school. That's why preparation is important, it's important to be patient, not to go astray, so that skills, talents and time is not wasted, but invested in those future goals, which can profit you and raise you above your peers. Qualification and talent are extremely important. Talent used to be more dominant than qualification. The world has changed, qualification is almost more important than talent. Qualification has advantages. Let me give you an example: if you were talented as the leader of this country, but you didn't have the qualifications, you could not be the leader of this country. Sixty or seventy years ago, if you had talent, you could easily have a career in politics. It is going to be harder and harder. Qualification and knowledge will play a greater role in the future than does now.
But one can often experience that we have over-training and people's creativity is completely stamped out.
Because the training is bad and also, people lack a global world view with which they could rank pieces of information and knowledge, and put them where they really belong. One can be very grateful to have come to know God and to be able to own a biblical world view and moral insight, because this way he can get the criteria based on which right gets defined as right and wrong as wrong. This way storerooms are created in the human soul and spirit where the knowledge of right and wrong finds is place.
Thank you very much.