I had that unique opportunity where all the staff were going to be out of town and I was the only one left to preach and, at 55, I still wring my hands and laugh maniacally, “Muahahahahahaha!” because it’s my chance to involve students in “big church”
I asked my youth, “Who wants to tag team preach with me this Sunday?” One freshman girl, I’ll call Izzy, immediately said, “I will”.
I gave Izzy the topic I was preaching on, (Waiting on the Lord), the passage I wanted her to focus on (I Samuel 1;1-20) and I gave her a short outline of things she might want to include (personal story, scripture context, etc.).
I checked with her a couple of times during the week and asked if she needed any help and if she did, to hit me back.
The day arrived and Izzy delivered the first point of my message with passion and power. It was not perfect and I did not expect it to be. The point wasn’t for her to deliver her point perfectly, it was to afford her the opportunity to let God use her, and He did.
I share all this because the church is at a dangerous precipice in time and culture. The Atlantic has a great article called Why So Many Americans Have Stopped Going to Church and in the article included this quote
“Take a drive down Main Street of just about any major city in the country, and—with the housing market ground to a halt—you might pass more churches for sale than homes,” two sociologists wrote in The Atlantic in January. And the facts bear out that visual: As Jake Meador, the editor in chief of the quarterly magazine Mere Orthodoxy, notes in a recent essay, about 40 million Americans have stopped going to church in the past 25 years. “That’s something like 12 percent of the population, and it represents the largest concentrated change in church attendance in American history,” he writes.
Their conclusion is that the church has become a religion of Workism, how to get ahead in life, how to achieve, etc, and not about community.
Because the church does not do a very good job of focusing on community, it forgets to include it’s youngest member in the life of the church and when they leave, they shout battle cries to “save this generation!” If you want to save this generation, let them lead, ask their opinion, give them more than pizza.
We thought it was cute to say, “Young people are not the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today.” Everyone claps and cheers and goes back to business as you usual.
This lip service was great for cheers but bad theology. The church, meaning the powers that be (a vast majority of them), who touted this phrase did not follow up with
- Increased youth budget
- Paying a youth pastor what they deserved
- Giving students a seat at the table with opportunities to serve in all levels of the church including preaching.
In a recent conference, a first of it’s kind called Z-Con, where all the speakers were Gen Z, one of the speakers said,
“We are going to claim the seat at the table, right now, right here — and if we don’t like it, we’re going to build a new one.” –Ziad Ahmed
Generation Z, like the generations before it who were not invited to the table and have built their own table of beliefs, cultures and causes outside of traditional churches and those churches who are dying, scratch their heads and wonder why.
My prayer for them is, “Bring them a high school freshman who loves God and is willing to be equipped for the work of the ministry.”