Every year I look forward to going to Gulfcoast Getaway, a college rally in Panama City, FL. This year didn’t let me down. I had never heard Earl Lavender speak before. You can tell everything he said came from a richness of study and reflection over years of teaching, preaching, and living Christianly. Randy Harris didn’t disappoint and I look forward to listening to the messages again on CD. The theme this year was On Earth as it is in Heaven with the questions “When?” When will this happen? The answer we heard repeatedly was “NOW!” We don’t have to wait “to get to heaven” to live this out. I want to mention several joys and several concerns for what is ahead for Christianity.
- Our young people are zealous and will make a difference for others.
- Church is moving from insulated assembling to living missionally
- Worship is improving. I know that is subjective and God can be just as displeased by energetic vain worship as he can by lifeless vain worship. I say worship is improving because our young people want a celebration and that is what worship should be about.
- There is a sense of empowerment among our young adults. This is seen in several things: 1) They aren’t afraid to ask tough questions or assess traditions. 2) They really believe they can make a difference for others and so they aren’t afraid to put their hand to the plow of mission if that is what they think God wants them to do.
- We are going to see a lot more expression of the full range of emotions in our worship. Thank you to our college students for reminding us that God made us to experience a full range of emotions and not to be afraid to bring our whole selves before his throne.
Every single generation has its own set of concerns so I am not just picking on anyone here. Here are a couple of concerns that it is at least important to be aware of so that we can address if necessary. Good leaders (not that I am claiming to be one) know how to identify and address concerns early on before they become major. So that is why I point these out. Feel free to disagree, agree or ask questions in the comment section:
- Need to understand the place of scripture in the Christian life – College age people seem like they want authority in their lives to help them have a solid foundation. So they are looking to God for answers through studying scripture. It is important that we teach them the unique nature of scripture and its place in our lives. It is also important we teach them how to read scripture on their own and make application for themselves.
- Need for spiritual depth – Mark 4:5-6 says, “5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.” Zeal is often the product of rocky soil. I am so excited about how zealous our young people are but I fear that some of it will be short lived. I am not saying it will be, just that I fear it will be. What I see in our young people is so refreshing and real that I just know Satan will do whatever he can to get it off track. One way he does that is by slowly tossing pebbles into the soil of people’s lives. In and of themselves they don’t seem like much and don’t seem like that would hinder us but slowly they pile and leave no room for roots to grow deep. It is important that we help our young people grow deep and that their zeal drives them further and further into the soil so that they can find nutrients when water is lacking.
- An anything goes mentality in regard to doctrine – Because past generations held so tightly to traditions as if they were law there has been somewhat a rejection of tradition but what can easily get blurred is where the line between tradition and scriptural doctrine is drawn.
- An anything goes mentality in regard to morality – More generalizations and things to be aware of and not a judgment on each and every one of our young people. Our young people are bombarded with a constant message that what you do really doesn’t matter as long as it doesn’t affect anyone but yourself. Here is the key in my opinion. If we stay with the old message that church is about 1 hour a week and God’s mission is solely in heaven and getting you there they will be ill prepared to meet the challenges they will face. But if they are taught about discipleship, holiness, and their purpose in the kingdom of God (rather than the kingdom of this world) then they will be ready to uphold a Christ-like morality in their personal and private lives.
- A rush to put immediate ministry opportunities ahead of sharpening and equipping – Several of our Christian college graduate departments set up booths at this event. But the majority of booths at Gulfcoast Getaway are for missions and intern opportunities. The Christian graduate education booths get very little traffic as people are far more interested in doing something immediately than they are being trained to be more informed and effective in ministry for the rest of their lives. I love our young people and admire their willingness to jump right in to serve others and make a difference but we cannot diminish the value and importance of being equipped either formally or informally. We need more campus ministers talking with students interested in ministry to look at our graduate programs. If we are not careful we will end up with a generation of spiritual snackers, jumping from one spiritual sugar rush to the next rather than people who know how to find spiritual depth and are willing to be equipped and tooled for effective ministry.
Again, all of these are generalizations. I love our young people and I pray that God would equip them to engage this world with the life-giving message of Jesus Christ, him crucified and the new birth that comes through his resurrection and conquering of sin and death.
I made it out to the “Getaway” for my first time tonight and even though it’s not for “old folks” like me, I’m wondering how I’ve missed this great event all these years. Hal already had plans after church so I just went out there by myself. Of course, I wasn’t by myself once I got there!! What a blessing it was to praise God along with all the young people and their leaders. And, yes, I was challenged by Earl and Randy’s messages tonight. I guess I’ll have to listen to the ones I missed online.I agree wholeheartedly with your joys and concerns … great observations as always.
Hope you got to see the Cherry’s while you were here.
I wish I had known you were there. I would have loved to see you! We did get to see the Cherry’s. Little J.D. is adorable.
A good post – and very encouraging. Your concerns are appropriate, but you presented them in a balanced way.
The desire to put immediate service opportunities ahead of preparation for future service is a tough one. While I am a firm believer that it is not a waste of time to sharpen one’s tools, it is also possible to become a professional student and never enter actual service.
In my own personal experience, I have often moved into a new area of service – only to discover that God had been preparing me for that very thing for years. I have seen many young people energized for a life of ministry after a short-term (anywhere from 2 weeks up to 2 years) ministry opportunity. I myself spent just over 2 1/2 years in mission work before I entered additional training – and when I went back to school, I was way ahead of others in my class because I knew what it was like to be “on the field.”
So, what advice do you give? When I had completed 2 years at Sunset after having been in New Zealand, I met 2 young men at camp. I told them about a program at a very mission minded congregation of a two-year internship for high school grads. They became quite excited about it – until a local preacher talked them out of it by telling them they would never go to college if they did this. I believe he was exactly wrong. They would have returned from the two year internship with a clarity of purpose that few college freshmen have – and their college experience would have been much more meaningful – at least IMHO.
Unconventional? Yes. But effective? I think so.
I value your feedback on this. I think either way you can go to extremes. You can get so caught up in learning that you never engage in hands on ministry. It is just as possible to get so busy running around doing that you never slow down to reflect, study, or improve your mind. Either way is too extreme and calls for balance.
I don’t think you have to go to grad school to be a decent minister. I just know my graduate experience has been one of the biggest shaping influences in my life and ministry.