First of all, I want to warn you that you have entered into one of those hot topics. This week alone, I have read at least ten (probably more) new posts on what Millennials want from churches, or what churches should do to serve young adults. Some blogs or articles even talk about what churches can do to bring young adults back to church. Often, the question I am asked by my fellow church goers is: “Why are so many of our own kids leaving the church?"
The first thing I want to point out is that question is not a new question, and yet the experiences of young adults “growing up” and “growing out” of faith is still something that pains the church. Second, this “growing up” and “growing out” of faith tends to be viewed as a natural progression of life that the church is just supposed to let happen.(with the hope that all those who leave will return)
There is little doubt that the day we leave our parents house is the day that the world really does seem very different. In fact, that is the time when our world expands and we become -- independent (HA!). Much like the story of the Prodigal Son -- off we go to new adventures and new freedoms. Of course, recently there has been much online and social media attention on the return of the Prodigal Son -- not so much the bible story -- but the fact that we have several 30 year olds who are moving back in with mom and dad.
After high school I went away from home - for me it was an 8 hour move away from Pennsylvania to Michigan. For you it might have been military or college or getting married right out of high school. After college I got married and we moved to Memphis. By the age of 22, I was in graduate school, was married, and lived 12.5 hours away from family. (Your story may be similar or completely different, but I share these things to point out that it is fair to say that I was on my way to “growing up” at age 22) For generations living right now, this is a similar story, but for most of our Millennials, the idea of "growing up" shouldn't really be thought about until close to 30.
What every book on young adults will talk about right now is a new period of time between the ages of 18-30 named “emerging adulthood.” (some authors will extend this time period to 35) In a nutshell, what this time period indicates is a shift in the thinking of our culture, especially as it pertains to extended adolescence and "growing up". There is a slogan for this period and it goes like this, “30 is the new 20.” What this means is that the 20s are to mainly be enjoyed, to be lived freely - free from responsibility and free from consequences. In the mainstream of American culture, your twenties are a time of:
Yet Meg Jay, an author who claims that young adults should take their 20s more seriously, wrote in her book The Defining Decade (which I'm sure I have referenced before):
“Our 20s are the defining decade of adulthood. 80% of life's most defining moments take place by about age 35. 2/3 of lifetime wage growth happens during the first ten years of a career. More than half of Americans are married or are dating or living with their future partner by age 30. Personality can change more during our 20s than at any other decade in life. Female fertility peaks at 28. The brain caps off its last major growth spurt. When it comes to adult development, 30 is not the new 20. Even if you do nothing, not making choices is a choice all the same. Don't be defined by what you didn't know or didn't do.”
Jay looks out at 20-year-olds and tells them that their bodies are not going to slow down, so women who wait to get married at age 35 might only have a small window in which to have children. Young men who never get a job in their twenties will have to work entry level positions in their 30s, which is usually the time for promotions. And we could go on, but if you are interested in Meg Jay’s insights, then you should read her book. What we are finding out is that persons who take longer to “emerge as adults” in their 20s will have to work harder, invest more money, and simply miss out on parts of life in their 30s. (If they ever caught up at all)
So, it is extremely important that young adults set themselves up well in their 20s, but the truth is that fewer and fewer are really doing that, seeking to have fun and live for the moment despite the warnings. (after all, there’s nothing fun about warnings)
This new time period known as “emerging adulthood” coupled with a few more things like:
Much like the Israelites, freed from the bondage of Egypt and finding themselves totally trying to survive in the wilderness, young adults are making the very same mistakes so many years later. Young adults forget that God has not abandoned them in the wilderness, and that God is trying to guide them to the promised land, a place He has prepared for them. If only the Israelites would have stopped grumbling and complaining and realized that God was trying to help them rely on Him through that time...Hello young adults!
This is post 4 of 4 covering the Sermon on the Mount material presented at White Station Junior High Camp. Again, I want to recommend Randy Harris's book Living Jesus to you as you seek to take the teachings seriously and incorporate them into you life. For a link to the book, go to my post titled, "You are Blessed..."
When it comes to sharing our world with other people, we must practice the generosity of God. If we are truly doing that, we will be less quick to judge other people and more inclined to treat people the way we would want to be treated. Jesus asks us to beware of “wolves in sheep’s clothing” that is he is asking us to watch out for hypocrites. Their internal qualities do not match who they are on the outside, and Jesus tells us that this is easily seen by the fruit they produce. There is a warning to us as well, rid ourselves of hypocrisy.
Teaching: Matthew 7:1-23
Judging others (1-6) = Remember that what we see is often the result of what we are looking for...so given that God has been so generous towards us, it goes without saying that we should be generous towards others (or maybe it doesn’t go without saying, because Jesus had to say it.) We must be gracious (blessed are the merciful) towards others, so that they too experience the goodness of God. This will never happen when we rashly judge...never. Interesting enough, Jesus then goes on to call a group of people dogs and pigs. This is how the Jewish audience would have thought about Roman soldiers and Gentile people. Jesus is telling his audience not to give their allegiance to world powers - Taking assurance in Roman power will not give you security. Trusting the Gentile occupiers to supply you with political power will not give you what you really want. We are to trust that God will provide for us..
Ask, Seek, Knock (7-12) = As we ask God, seek God, and knock on God’s door; God will provide for us. (You can keep asking, seeking, and knocking for the approval of other people, and there is no guarantee, actually it looks pretty pessimistic...) God knows how to give us good gifts...as we give to others (that’s always tied in isn’t it??)
Two ways (13-14) = Jesus will return to this in the building images at the very end, but there are two ways, one that seeks popularity and leads to destruction and one way that few really try (maybe it’s harder because it involves a reprogramming of how we think and what we value) but lead to LIFE (not just beyond the grave, but I believe Jesus is saying right here, right now)
Distinguishing False from True Followers (15-23) = There are always going to be many people who do things in the name of Jesus that don’t represent him well.
There is a way of knowing where we stand with Jesus...but we need to understand how Jesus keeps Score...We need to understand what impresses Jesus. (and to be clear, it is not doing miracles, prophesying, casting out demons...which would be marked high in my score keeping. But it also isn’t touchdowns, championship rings, prayers or perfect attendance in school...) Could it be that Jesus is challenging us to compare our lives to his teachings and see where we might produce more fruit:
Rid yourself of hypocrisy. Do you believe Jesus, want to follow Jesus, but you have music, video games, movies, shows, stuff stored on your computer that you know make you a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Get rid of the things in your life that prevent you from being an authentic follower of Jesus. If you haven’t committed to Jesus... then understand that you are not following Jesus until you really commit to him. We are to be committed to Jesus above everything else, then we will be on the right path.
Maybe Try This: When you get home, look at your tweets and/or statuses. Count the ones about yourself, the ones that are judgements of other people, the ones that misrepresent who you really are -- and then count the encouraging ones and the confessional ones and the authentic ones. You will actually have a history of how you are spending your time...
Class Wrap Up: Matthew 7:21-29
The Question for this study was: WHY FOLLOW JESUS, WHY TRUST GOD?
I tried to answer this question by using Jesus’ most famous teachings in the Sermon on the Mount: I argued these points:
Listen to the words of Jesus as he closes his teaching:
The Lesson is yours to do (or to not do) as you want with it...
This is post 3 of 4 covering the Sermon on the mount material that was presented at White Station Junior High Camp.
The desire to be noticed is deeply ingrained in us. We absolutely do things for the purpose of being seen by other people. Jesus realized that this desire is a threat to our faith journey. Therefore, Jesus tells us to follow the “discipline of secrecy.” This “discipline of secrecy” is a way of protecting our hearts from gaining an audience, or a following, from other people and focuses us on whether or not God is seeing and God is rewarding us.
Teaching = Matthew 6:1-34
Jesus realized that the desire to be noticed is a serious threat to our lives of faith.
There are two places your rewards are given - on earth (by people) or in heaven (by God). Jesus asks us to store up treasure in heaven, and understand that you know where your treasure is by where your heart is invested. Interesting enough, Jesus then proceeds to talk about the condition of the eye; in that, as you see the world and the people in it, you will begin to understand for whom you are living - the world of observers or God...Healthy is better translated generous, and unhealthy is better translated stingy... So, are your eyes generous or stingy - when we look at the world, do we see ways to give to others, or ways others can give to us?
Ultimately, this chapter moves us to consider the question: Can I trust God to provide? Jesus takes this up as he tells us not to worry about our lives...
Practice the “discipline of secrecy.” Commit to pray for something in which you need to trust that God can heal, help, move, or bring justice. Don’t tell anyone. Commit to giving to church, an organization, or some situation that moves your heart. However, when you give, do not tell anyone and give anonymously. There are other ways to do this, so be creative and practice the "discipline of secrecy" - but understand:
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.