Monday, March 30, 2009

thoughts on young adults and the church: part 2

OK, for those who haven't yet, my suggestion would be that you read the part 1 first. You can find it here. If you have read that one already, just keep reading this one.

Today is one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to the attitude that some people in the church have about young adults.

The thinking: That if we just have good, upbeat, loud music we'll get young adults and they will stay.

Uh, are you sure? Do you know this for a fact?

Good music is a plus and it will attract young adults initially. But, if we're nothing more than another body to fill the pews on the weekend those that actually do want to be involved in the church won't stay. The majority of young adults I know stay with a church because they're connected, not because of the music. They feel like they have a place.

Now, before someone comes back at me with the argument that young adults won't commit and will go to many different churches in the course of a week, let me clarify the young adults I'm talking about in these blogs. The young adults that I'm speaking of are those who have a desire to commit to a local church and be involved. Honestly, this kind of young adult does exist! A large number of them are young adults who have grown up in the church and had church involvement modelled for them, but there are also young adults outside of this group of "church kids" that are looking for a church to call home.

OK, now that I've clarified that, back to my pet peeve. Good music alone will not keep us at a church as young adults. Neither, quite honestly, will good teaching and amazing speakers - at least it won't keep up forever. We may come when the speaker we like it teaching, but when the speaker moves on, the young adults that came for them will too.

Like most people in our world today, young adults crave and are actively seeking authentic community. We don't want image management (although we know how to do that when we're in situations where that seems to be what we need to do), we don't want to be just another face in the crowd - we want to belong! We want to be a part of something!

This means that the church needs to be a place the supports us in helping us to create places for young adults to meet together with other young adults. But, there also has to be a balance in helping us to feel a part of the larger church as well. We are at a unique stage in life. We often feel like we're kind of stuck between two worlds, and the church needs to acknowledge this and allow us and help us to straddle those two worlds (that of just beginning to establish a life independent of our parents, and that of being an adult).

The church cannot assume that the jump from one world to the other is an instantaneous jump, because it's not. We may be out of high school, but very few of us are truly independent from our parents for years to come because of post-secondary education. And even when we enter the workforce our lives still will look different from the lives of other adults that we work with and attend church with. If the church turns a blind eye to this difference they are doing themselves a dis-service in the future when there are no young adults.

Young adults crave authentic community! The will go where they find it! Good music and good teaching will not hold them for long if they feel anonymous and disconnected.

So, to the church: Please, stop assuming that your music and your preaching/teaching will keep us. We need you to acknowledge us part of your family and acknowledge that we are between two worlds and need opportunities to connect with other young adults. Challenge us. Call us to step up where we can. But, don't assume we can do it all on our own, or that we right away fit into other adult ministries. You don't have to pour resources of staff and money in our direction, but we need you to tangibly support us in what ways you can as we seek to connect with one another, and find our place in this world as adults.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

thoughts on young adults and the church

I've been thinking a lot about the church lately - and about how young adults seem to be viewed by the church. The more I've done this, the more I've come to the conclusion that oftentimes the complaint about young adults leaving the church in large numbers proves true, for reasons we don't care to admit. Not all, but many people seem to think that young adults will just stay at church and move from youth right into adult ministries without a problem . . . and then they complain when young adults leave the church and there is a huge gap in the young adult demographic at church.

As much as I love that I have connections with people of all generations in my church, I also feel a huge need to have an opportunity to be able to connect with other young adults. I don't fit in with the youth anymore . . . hopefully that is obvious. And while in some ways I fit in with the adults, in many other ways I don't fit in with people who are 20 years older than me. I'm single, hoping to be married one day (which means I need a place where I can meet solid Christian guys who are single), in my mid-twenties, and still getting started in my career and getting a life outside of my parents' house established. I appreciate and seek out the wisdom and advice of those further along on the journey of life than me. But, I feel most connected and develop my closest relationships with those who are in a similar situation to me. If I don't find opportunity to connect with people in my life stage at one church, it is relatively easy for me (because it's just me) to start going somewhere I do find that . . . or to just stop going completely and seek out that connection elsewhere.

I honestly think that if the church wants to keep young adults involved during those years of their lives when they are making some of the most life-impacting decisions they will make, then they must let young adults know that they care about us. The church, in very general and broad terms, has failed to do this in many instances . . . and then they wonder where the young adults are.

Yes, as young adults we are exactly that - adults. But, our life stage is much different than many of the other adults in the church. And the church needs to acknowledge that and make an effort to allow young adults to feel included and valued as part of the church as a whole, while also supporting a place where young adults within the church can connect with one another. Supporting it doesn't necessarily have to mean throwing tons of money and staff at a ministry for us, but it does require the church to step it up. It can be as simple as providing us with space to use and having church leadership acknowledge our presence in the church and caring enough to know what's going on and let us know that they will do what they can to help us make something happen.

We don't need to be spoon-fed, and if we're going to be ready to be the leaders of the church in the future I don't think it's really beneficial for us to be spoon-fed. But, we're still young and we're still learning and growing - we're in kind of a strange in-between time: we don't fit with youth anymore, but we don't quite feel at home with the adults in the church either. We need to know that the church cares enough about us to help us feel like we have a place in the church. Manny churches have children's ministries, youth ministries, women's ministries, men's ministries, seniors ministries . . . all of which may or may not be supported directly by church staff and church money . . . but they're supported by the church. And, I think that if the church wants to survive in the future then young adults ministries need to be supported by the church as well.

As I sit here and type this I can think of many names of young adults I know who have left the church in recent years. Some of them because they have chosen not to follow God anymore. But, just as many, if not more, have left because they felt like the church didn't care about them. They were left to navigate the murky waters of moving from youth ministry to adult ministry on their own and it was overwhelming so they left the church rather. It remains to be seen whether these people will ever return to the church in the future - my guess would be that not as many of them as we hope will return. They will build their lives around something else and over time the church will continue to lose importance to them until it is no longer even on their radar as a part of life.

Is this really what we want for the church? Will the church survive in the future if this trend continues?

Maybe . . . but I believe one of the keys to survival, maybe not of the church worldwide, but of the church in North America, will be a change in the attitude with which young adults ministries are approached.

I have been told over and over growing up in the church that young people are the future of the church. And when I was in children's ministries and youth ministries I believed that the church believed that. But now, having been a part of the young adult demographic for a few years, I'm not completely sure that the church believes it. I often feel as though they say that, but don't act it out in actuality. If they did act it out, I think that instead of just asking the question of where the young adults are in our churches, the church would do something to fix it - to draw young adults back to the church and to keep the ones who are still there but may be struggling with these same questions that have caused some of their peers to leave.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

conviction versus condemnation

I have had a couple of conversations with people lately where I have heard them struggling with the same thing I have so often. We'll be talking about they'll be talking about how worthless they feel because of their past sin, and how they've confessed it to God and repented of it and yet they're still beating themselves up over it. I've done it many times. But, I think when we do such a thing we're getting two word that sound similar, but have very different meanings confused.

Condemnation and conviction are two words I have heard a lot. I was at Bible college when I first had someone explain the difference in the meanings of these words to me. It made sense then, and I hope that it makes sense to you reading this today.

Condemnation is the feeling of guilt and of being worthless because of past sin that I mentioned above. Its whole purpose is to keep you trapped in your guilt because of your shame over your sin.
Conviction is the guilt you feel for sin that causes you to confess it, repent of it, and move on. Its whole purpose is to get your life moving in a direction that is pleasing to God.

Conviction is something that comes from God. It challenges us to get things right in our lives. It may come with feelings if guilt, but these feelings are what cause you to turn to God ad seek His help to change your ways. Condemnation brings with it feelings of shame and worthlessness that keep you trapped.

One of the books I just finished reading helped to remind me of the difference between the two.
When God speaks to us, He doesn't point out our sin to condemn us or burden us with guilt. His desire is to lovingly reveal our sin and encourage us to confess it, so He can cleanse and change us. He never wants us to act out of guilt or fear of rejection but rather out of a love relationship with Him. . . . There's a difference between God's convicting voice and the Enemy's condemning voice. Condemn means to consider something worthy of punishment. Convict means to bring something to light in order to correct it.
(Priscilla Shirer, Discerning the Voice of God, Moody Publishers, Chicago, pg. 155-156)

Romans 8 makes it pretty clear that condemnation is not from God.
"Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1, NIV)

Shirer goes on to say the following in the book, when talking about how we are not condemned.
God has the right to condemn us because He is without sin, but He has chosen to bestow grace on us despite what we have done. . . . God's voice will convict us (point out our sin); but it will also express His love for us. It won't condemn us or burden us with guilt. It will offer us the grace to leave the sin behind and continue on in righteousness.
(Shirer, Discerning the Voice of God, pg. 157)

Our past sins do not have to define what we can do in the future! Our past sins do not limit us in what we can do in the future! Our past sins do not need to keep us bound in shame and feelings of worthlessness! Condemnation is not from God - it from the enemy! Conviction allows us to move beyond our sin with God's help.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

do everything in love

In 1 Corinthians 16:14, Paul writes these words: "Do everything in love."

This is a verse I often miss because I'm not reading the chapter very carefully. It falls in the midst of Paul's personal greetings to the church in Corinth. It is a lot of names that I usually just skim, but I'm discovering that there are a lot of truths contained in these sections of Paul's letters - like 1 Corinthians 16:14.

Do everything in love.

This is how we should do all that we do. But, in reality, is it? Do we actually do everything in love?

In all honesty, I think followers of Christ today do a poor job and living this way. We'll give money and send other people overseas to love people. We'll agree with messages or books that tell us we need to love people. We'll read Scripture, which tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God and to love our neighbour as our self. We'll even talk about our need to do everything we do in love. But, we don't really do it! We talk about it, read about it, agree with it . . . but we don't often live it!

I think of the song They'll Know We are Christians by Our Love and seriously wonder if we can sing that. Does the world know we are Christians by our love? Especially in the West, we're known more for what we're against than for our love. If you ask the average person on the street what they think of when they think of Christians, I don't think our love will fall very highly on their list if it rates a mention at all. Yet, our love precisely what we should be known for! If we actually do everything in love, then that is what we would be known for. But sadly, we don't do everything in love.

We can still oppose things that happen in our world, but we must do it with love for the people affected by it. And it must go beyond just voicing our disagreement with what is going on. When we oppose things in our world, one of the ways we do it in love is providing an alternative and making that alternative happening. This gives us credibility as people who do care about others. We don't just say that something like abortion is wrong; we get involved in providing a place for the mothers and children to get the help they need rather than the child being aborted. Doing everything in love requires action on our part.

I believe that if we really began to take Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 16:14 seriously, our world would begin to change. If we truly did everything in love, we would be beginning to live the Kingdom of God out in this world. We would begin to change our world! But this change won't happen until we begin to consistently do everything in love. And it will take time. They way our world views us won't change overnight, but it will change over time if we begin to live in such a way that we do everything in love.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

i'm trying so hard to stop trying so hard

I've had a line to a song running throuhg my head for the last week. I can't remember the song or who it is by, but there's one line that I cannot get out of my heard: "I'm trying so hard to stop trying so hard". Looking at those words in print makes them sound even more confusing than when you just hear them. It doesn't seem quite right to put them together like that.

I think they have a good application to our lives though. How often do we try to change something in our lives by our strength to make our lives more pleasing to God? How often do we read Scripture and see in it nothing more than a list of things we should do or shouldn't do, so that our lives are pleasing to God? I think that's probably our default way of reading the Word and spending time with God.

But, I wonder if there's more. If there should be more to it. I think these words sum it up so well: "I'm trying so hard to stop trying so hard." We try so hard to get things right in our lives by what we do, when maybe we need to trop trying so hard. Maybe we just need to learn how to spend time with God without seeking to come away with something we need to do.

And learning to do will probably be a challenge on our part. We want lists and things to do, but sometimes we just need to spend time in God's presence just for the sake of being in His presence. I think this is where the whole phrase makes sense - we may have to try really hard at the beginning to stop trying so hard in our walk with God.

I'm trying so hard to stop trying so hard.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Have you ever really thought about how much your attitude plays a role in how you view the events that happen in your life? I came across a quote that I had read before the other day that reminded me of this.

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, then education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company...a church...a home. The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the past. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens and 90% how I respond to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes...
-Charles Swindoll
There is so much truth contained in those words. The attitude that we choose to have about each day has a huge impact on how we perceive things.
This has challenged in the last few days to really take a look at the attitude that I choose to have each day. The days when I choose to have a bad attitude about things are the days when everything seems to go wrong and I see all the bad in all of it. The days when I choose to have a good attitude are different. Things may still go wrong, but I look at things differently and I see the good in my day.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


I was listening to a speaker at a city-wide missions conference on Sunday night talk about repentance. I have heard messages on repentance before, but this speaker really got me thinking.

OK, before I go on to write about this . . . I have to say how cool it was to be at en event that was put on by many different churches - the Church as whole - coming together to make it happen. It gives whole new meaning and significance to the words of some of the songs we sang that night. I mean, I love the song "God of this City" in the first place, but to sing it with people from other churches in my city was amazing!!! This wasn't just one church declaring the truth - it was the Church as a unified body of believers declaring God the God of our city and that God had greater things yet to do in our city!!! It was just cool!

Back to topic now . . . repentance . . .

The speaker started by giving us a bigger picture of what repentance is. We often hear of it as being a changing of direction - you see your sin and then turn and walk in the other direction from it. But, this guy said that it was more than that, in that it was a complete revolution of the mind. Rather than just walking away from our sin, it's a changing of the way we think. It just made so much sense when he put it that way.

The speaker then moved on to talking about how the church needs to repent of its hiding behind religion. Christianity has wrapped itself in religion, when Jesus never intended for it to be that way. Religion is about following rules and regulations and all that. Jesus talked about faith, not religion. Faith is saying "I trust you" and then acting on it.

I've had those thoughts running around my head since I heard them. And they've really been challenging me. I find it so easy to get caught up in religion - in the things that I "have" to do. It's so much easier to follow rules - to follow a form that sets out how we should live. But, Christianity isn't about that. It's about a relationship with our Lord!