Young Christian Don't Forget the Old Churches: A Call to Revitalize

I wrote earlier this week about the need of passing the baton of the Gospel to the next generation. As we all know, this is easier said than done. Young Evangelicals today are a diverse bunch. I am amazed what God is doing through my own generation. These younger Christians seem to have a great value for theology, the Bible, community, discipleship, social justice, and mission. This is incredibly encouraging as we watch this younger generation of Christian millenials arrive on the scene of the local church. However there is one big problem, they are not going to the churches that need them. I've noticed that younger evangelicals tend to prefer churches that are already doing those thigns they are passionate about. They want churches where there deep community, discipleship, and mission. As a result the churches that are healthy and do these thigns well tend to keep growing and growing. To keep up with the growth in these churches and to spread the Gospel, there has been a renewed emphasis on church planting. This is a wonderful thing and should continue to be done. Young evangelicals flock to these growing churches and to these new church plants.

I've seen this around my seminary. A seminary is a concentration of  thousands of young and passionate evangelicals. Yet at my seminary there are about four or five "seminary churches" they all tend to go too. Imagine the influence and reach these younger evangelicals could have if they spread out into hundreds of churches rather than cloistering together in a few? The great problem is that there are thousands of churches that are forgotten. Churches that are unhealthy and need revitalization. Yet for many it is soil to difficult to plow and nobody sees any potential for a ripe harvest.

In some ways many have wrote off older established churches that are platued or declining. Many think we should not even bother attempting to revitalize these churches, we should just let them die. Out with the old and in with the new. As a result these platued or declining churches are left desolate.  They are wanting to reach the younger generation but they don't have any young people to show them how.  These older churches need the health and vitality that comes from passing the baton to the next generation.

I have spent most of my life in platued or dying churches. As I have conversations with many of the members there, I see that they really do have a heart to reach young people. The problem is they just don't know how.

If you are a younger evangelical looking for a church, let me challenge you. Don't forget the unhealthy churches. They need you. Sure it might not match your preferences and it will be far more difficult than you can imagine, but they need you.  The Lord needs you to go into these churches. Go to the hard places. Go to the difficult churches. Go to the unhealthy churches. These platued local churches could be a powerful force for the advancement of the Gospel. The potential is brimming and the resources are vast, yet so many younger Christians just write these churches off as irrelevant.

If this next generation of Christians ignore these platued and declining churches within twenty to thirthy years there will be empty, closed up churches scattered all across the country.

So do not forget these churches. Pray for them. Serve them. Love them. And yes, even join them. It might be far more difficult than joining the cool trendy church plant that all your friends are going to, but Jesus doesn't always call us to where it is most comfortable.

Youth Ministry: Daycare or Boot Camp?

Teenagers are fascinating.  After spending five years in youth ministry, they never stop amazing me. So often we write off students as dysfunctional, clueless, and rebellious.  However, over the course of this summer I've been amazed by students who take on responsibility, demonstrate the character of Christ, and serve in ministry at their local churches. Here are a few things that have just left me in awe of God this summer.

  • At my last church, the current youth ministry leaders are students in their late teens who I discipled and trained.  They are currently doing all the teaching, planning, organizing, and ministry.
  • Students at Forest Hills Baptist Church have given up their summer for ministry.  Whether it is visitation, making decorations for VBS, teaching children at VBS, or leading Bible Study.  They keep stepping up to the plate taking to heart 1 Timothy 4:12.
  • Last week was Youth Week 2013: The Search for Truth. After asking several students from different churches what their favorite part of the week was, I kept getting the same answer: The Breakout Session. Now if you click through and see all the breakout sessions that were offered, they covered some deep and difficult issues.  Classes like "How to Share the Gospel with an Atheist" or "Biblical Womanhood" or "What is Truth?" The amazing thing is these students loved these deep classes.  They want to be grounded in what they believe.  They want someone to treat them like adults and engage deeply and honestly about difficult issues.
  • As I'm serving as the Interim Senior Pastor/Youth Pastor at FHBC, a team of six students have stepped up to help plan, lead, and organize the youth ministry for the fall.  They will be doing things from managing our youth twitter to teaching on wednesday night.

Who says students are spiritually incompetent? This summer I have seen God use young people powerfully. As Alvin Reid says, we must learn to Raise the Bar for our youth ministries.  When we disciple young people with the truth of the Gospel and train them as leaders and then empower them for leadership, I believe young people will continue to surprise us.  I praise God for His work in these students lives.  One of the ways I measure "success" in my own ministry is when disciples I've trained start making other disciples.  That is happening, and it is incredibly humbling.  As I sit back and watch God work in our church and these students lives, I'm humbled at the power of God who takes the unexpected and does the remarkable.

Churches must begin to look at their youth ministries not as an adolescent day care services but a bootcamp preparing young people for advancing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

  • Daycare babysits kids and keeps them out of trouble. Boot camp pushes, trains, and equips.
  • Daycare treats kids as consumers, always entertaining. Boot camp is hard work and teaches discipline.
  • Daycare prepares you for nothing. Boot camp prepares you for war.
  • Daycare is a waste of time. Boot Camp has a mission and purpose.

What kind of youth ministry is your church building? Are you baby sitting students until college or are you equipping the future ministry leaders for the decades to come? Are you just fostering the poisonous atmosphere of consumer Christianity or are you training soldiers for war?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!