Stop by your local church any given Sunday and you may hear the pastor say that fasting is a neglected discipline for most Christians in the United States today.

“[Fasting] … isn't a widespread corporate practice in the evangelical movement,” according to John Piper, author and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis Minnesota. A recent sermon of Piper’s described fasting as a “much-neglected Biblical and spiritual discipline.”

Author and theologian John Stott observes, “Most Christians lay stress on daily prayer and sacrificial giving, but few lay stress on fasting.”

In spite of this seeming neglect, a new generation of Christian young people may be growing up with a deep respect for the idea of Biblical fasting. Since 1992, Christian humanitarian organization World Vision has been sponsoring “30 Hour Famine,” a hunger-fighting program that enables teens to raise money and awareness for the world’s poorest children and families.

Young people who participate go without solid food for 30 hours to get a taste of what the many needy children face on a daily basis. World Vision provides materials and collects the money raised, while local churches organize activities and service projects to help teens better understand world hunger.

And this year, many church youth leaders are taking advantage of a major cultural event to raise awareness of world suffering: the release of Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ. By coincidence, or providence, Gibson’s film released the same week as most churches plan their 30 Hour Famine activities. World Vision spokesperson Karen Kartes spoke with many church youth leaders who planned to integrate Passion with their church’s events.

Like any issue Christians face in this life, teens viewing a movie like The Passion of the Christ can potentially have a down side. “[Teens] will be strongly impressed by the suffering of Christ, and will feel profoundly moved in deep and mysterious ways,” according to T.M. Moore, Pastor of Teaching Ministries and Director of the Center for Christian Studies at Cedar Springs Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.  “However, youth leaders should be careful to help young people understand why Christ had to suffer; The Passion is not real clear about that.  [Youth leaders] should explain that His sacrifice is the evidence of His love, and they should be careful to tell young people that any sacrifice… made for any reason other than love, for God [or] neighbors, is of no ultimate spiritual value.”

“Many youth pastors I have spoken with are viewing the movie first so they can be prepared to discuss it with the kids,” Kartes told

And while most of these kids have had Christ’s crucifixion explained to them many times, the impact of a visual production of the Passion cannot be underestimated.

“By his wounds we are healed,” says Kevin LaRoche quoting from the book of Isaiah. A youth pastor for junior high school kids at Renton Christian Center outside Seattle, Washington, this is the ninth year he has been involved with the 30 Hour Famine program. “The movie should bring an important visual presentation to the kids; this is what Jesus did for them,” he says.

Paul Millarc, youth pastor of the North Peachtree Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, agrees. “Kids today live in a visual world where everything is seen.” Christians must understand how kids today understand their world if Christians are going to impact them for the gospel, he says. Millarc hopes that when his teens see the Passion, they will be encouraged to talk more about evangelism. “Kids will feel more gratitude to the Lord for his sacrifice; I believe it will fuel their passion of service.”