Seeds, Growth, and Youth Bands

sand-straw-1392579-1280x960Earlier last summer I spoke at this young adult group. I was invited to speak on whatever I picked, at a church I had never been to before. And so of course I picked talking about Jesus, which if given the chance is what I will always pick.

But this amazing thing happened when I went into the room. I knew a huge number of the young adults. In fact everyone on the leadership team other than one or two people had been a part of my youth group at some point.

And what was so amazing to me was to see them continuing to step up into leadership, and creating and giving God space to move. All these youth were there; many of them whom I’d spent hours and hours with and were now discipling others. It was just beautiful.

Now certainly I don’t get to own their decisions to step forward and lead young adults deeper into a relationship with Jesus. But in some ways God did remind me in that moment that we never know what the seeds we plant in others will grow into. That we can never discount the hours we give and pour into others.

The truth is that as human beings, we have a short horizon for time. We do things and expect results, in weeks and months. Sometimes I think God thinks in decades, or centuries. Some of the seeds planted by me, other youth leaders, parents, and friends are now years later bearing fruit. People are being changed, because people years ago poured into this youth who are now young adults. That’s the beauty of God, community, and investing in others.

For me that night to speak, was a reminder that pouring into others is never wasted. I don’t get to own the results. I also can’t own whether or not someone else gets filled up. What I can own and be responsible for is pouring out my life, and letting God do the rest.

And so while I spoke, hoping that God would use my words, God had already spoken so clearly to me. The moment I walked into the room, it was like God was just reminding me, “investing in others is never wasted”. So while I came to bless them, they blessed me and I think that’s how God works.

The Future of the Church Isn’t Our Youth…

1205206_64700205It’s been pretty customary to hear for years this phrase, “The youth are the future of the church”. And I certainly understand and agree with the sentiments behind that statement. But it’s actually a bit misleading on two fronts.

First, the youth aren’t the future of the church…they are the church now. Since when are committed followers of Jesus not fully functional members of the church family? Being part of the church is about a decision to follow Jesus together, not about your age, stage, or whether you are out of high school or not. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are not the future of the church, you are the church. Period.

Secondly, this statement “the youth are the future of the church” is misleading in a much more subtle, and dangerous way. Because the way this phrase functions is to assume that the youth are the guarantee of the future of the church. That if we lose the youth, the church’s future is in danger. So we must pour money, time, and effort into developing the best and most current youth ministries.

But this is wrong for two reasons. First, it distances us from the youth themselves. Rather than being persons to be loved, they become a means to what we want (a church in the future). And secondly, and most dangerously, this idea is actually idolatry.

Let me be clear about why this idea of “youth being the future of the church” is idolatry. Because the future of the church is not guaranteed by getting youth to come to church, it is guaranteed by Jesus Christ. The sustaining and growing of the church is not dependent on wonderful youth ministries, but on the faithfulness of Jesus Christ to his bride. And while in some ways this point can seem like semantics, it’s actually important because it’s about priorities.

If we assume that “youth are the future” of the church, we can mistakenly forget that the most important thing isn’t getting youth to come to church, but for all of us to come to Jesus. If anything supplants Jesus from the centre of our thought and practice, we will go off course. Youth ministry is absolutely important (I was a youth pastor for 8 years), but it is not primary. Jesus is at the centre and primary. And whenever anything good, like youth ministry, being missional, family ministry, or any other new thing, pushes Jesus to periphery and takes centre stage we’ve missed the point.

Bonhoeffer puts it this way.

The future of the church is not youth itself but rather the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the task of youth not to reshape the church, but rather to listen to the Word of God; it is the task of the church not to capture the youth, but to teach and proclaim the Word of God.

This is what I mean by priorities. We need to first be centred first on Jesus, and not anything else. It is so easy for the desire to have a cool youth ministry, a missionally based church, or any other desire to move Jesus from the centre. This is what we must guard against, if we want to see the future of the church come to pass. Of course youth ministry, being missional, and relevant are all good things. All I’m saying is that they shouldn’t push aside the best and most important thing – a person – Jesus Christ.

We’re All Parents – Some of Us Just Have Kids

65294_10200932839150099_1427605294_nOn Sunday we are going to look at a major issue for all of us as Christians. We are looking at parenting.

You might actually want to push back a little bit. You might be asking, “Is it a major issue for all of us? What about those of us without kids? What about those of us with grown kids? What about those of us who never want kids?”

Well I hate to be the one to tell you…but if you are a follower of Jesus you are a parent.

That’s right. As followers of Jesus in a community we all matter in ensuring that the next generation launches well. You are a model and an example, even if you aren’t a biological parent.

Stanley Hauerwas writes it this way: Christians, single and married, are parents. “Parent” names an office of the Christian community that everyone in the  community is expected faithfully to fulfill.

And he is absolutely right. We all have a responsibility with the youth we, as a community, have been entrusted with. Kids matter. Youth matter. And you matter too in developing a caring community that launches them well. So yes parenting is a major issue for all Christians.

And come Sunday we are going to look at how to launch our kids well. I’m going to share with you three things that I think are really key. But before we get there what about you? What do you think is key in raising kids as a community? What did your parents do – that worked so wonderfully? What have you learned not to do from your parents?

Because the reality for good or bad, we have all been shaped by parenting. Whether that’s good parents, bad parents, or non-existent parents. The question we want to discover is then for those in our care and community how can we raise them well. How can we launch them well? What do you think?