how to reach the next generation

How do we reach the next generation with the hope of Jesus?  I attended a workshop recently that tried to answer this question.  The workshop leaders were “experts” in the field.  They spoke of the books that had been written and the book that they were going to write.  They had charts, demographics, statistics, headlines, polls, quotes, etc.  The next generation is tech savvy, on its mobile devices, unchurched, saturated in culture, etc.  At about the second PowerPoint slide, I walked out.

How do we reach the next generation?  Simple.  Let me give you two easy steps (the order of these steps is reversible):

  1. Tell them about Jesus.
  2. Love them.

Why do we make it so difficult?  Why do we bemoan the odds we’re up against, as if we’re fighting a losing battle?  We’re not.

We don’t need fancier buildings, hipper websites, trendier clothes, more social media, increased efforts with social justice issues, un-churchy language, cooler logos, more pixels, more video, shorter sermons, and so forth.  Shame on us if we think we do—what an insult to the next generation—as if they are that shallow!

Just care about them and tell them about Jesus (his life, death, and resurrection).

Shame on us if we think that God’s word about Jesus is on par with all of our other strategies.  The gospel is the living word of God, which is more powerful than any tool or resource we could leverage.  In other words, when we tell people the truth about Jesus, we are handling an atomic bomb.  It is powerful enough to change the human heart.  Our media and pixels cannot do that.

If you wanted to convince me of the benefits of quilting blankets, what would you do?  You would show me some blankets and teach me to quilt.  If you wanted me to become a basketball player, what would you do?  You would show me basketball and teach me to play.  If you wanted me to love your favorite movie, what would you do?  You would show me the movie.  Get the idea?  If we want the next generation to know Jesus, then we have to teach them about Jesus.  We don’t need anything else.  We only need the word of God.  That’s the “strategy.”

The Good News of Jesus is sufficient for reaching the next generation.  Let’s stop making it more complicated than that.

Or do we think that there’s better news than the Good News? 

Let me save you some time and money.  You don’t need to buy any books about evangelizing the next generation.  You don’t need to attend any seminars.  You have what it takes.  In fact, you ARE what it takes.  Use your mouth and your heart to speak about Jesus and to love.

 

Controlling Our Rejection

Hope Stands —  October 10, 2014 — 5 Comments

fit inWhy do some people get a ton of piercings?  Many tattoos?  “Creative” hair?  While some have really artsy personalities, others do it for another reason.

Some people transform their appearance to look strange just so they can control their rejection.  They don’t want people to reject who they really are, so they give those around them a “reason” for rejecting them.

“I don’t want you to reject me, so here are some things you can reject.”  By hiding behind their “strangeness,” they keep themselves safe.

Other people do a ton of good things, make themselves look wonderful, and pretend to have it all together, just so they can control their acceptance.  They want to give those around them a “reason” for accepting them.

“I don’t want you to reject me, so here are some things you can accept.”  My accomplishments.  My looks.  My jokes.  By hiding behind their “performance,” they keep themselves safe.

I don’t know if there’s a third kind of person.

vacation at beachWe are all in danger of being infected by a very dangerous virus.  It’s a spiritual virus.  It’s the thought that attacks our minds that says, “The hardship that I am going through is a sign that God is far from me.”  Let me explain to you why I think this is a virus that we need to fight.

Have you ever had a friend who fixed up an old house?  They went to work on it, knocking down walls, tearing up old carpets, putting in a new bathroom, painting, transforming, and so forth.  Then they finally let you in for a tour.  You slowly walk in, turning your head in all directions, looking at all the wonderful renovations.  Then what do you say?  You say, “Wow, you have really made this place your own!”  Because they spent so much time working on the house, it became more theirs, not less.

God spends time on his children and this is a signal that we are becoming more his, not less.  God tests us and disciplines us.  He often leads us through hardships.  But these are not a sign that he is far from us, but a sign that he is very near to us.  He is making us his own.  God promises to renovate the lives of his children.

Together, God’s people are the new Temple, in which he dwells.  When the new heaven comes to the new earth, God will be immediately present with his people, as he was in the temple of the Old Testament.  Until then, he is patiently working on his future house, making it his own.  He’s getting rid of all our spots and wrinkles, every blemish and stain.

When God is at work in your life, it feels a lot more like a construction site than a vacation at the beach.  When we place our hardship in the hands of God, he uses it as a tool for our transformation.

(Learn more from Soul Tattoo: A Life and Spirit Bearing the Marks of God.)

Opportunity Answers

Hope Stands —  October 5, 2014 — 2 Comments

opportunity answersMy friend was reminiscing about her grandchildren.  She had a hard life, to say the least, and was marveling at the opportunities her grandchildren were experiencing: excellent schooling, trips to world-class museums, traveling sports teams, a wonderful church and friends.

Thumbing through their school yearbook, she said to me, “I can’t help but think how my life would have turned out if I had been given all of these opportunities.”  When she was growing up, she didn’t have any of these opportunities.  As I said, her life had been really tough; but she grew to be a loving and faithful mother.

So I looked at her and said, “Maybe you were not the one to be given the opportunity, but maybe you were the one to give the opportunity.”

Looking at her face and seeing the love she had for her grandchildren, I knew that she wouldn’t change that for the world.  Giving opportunities to others is far greater than just getting opportunities for ourselves.

God forms us through all the trials and hardships of life to be the kinds of people who will give blessing and opportunity to others.  This is your calling.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:39 that we must lose ourselves in order to find ourselves.  This means that the greatest opportunity we have is to give opportunities to others.

Instead of worrying how you can get yourself ahead in this world, why not pause and look around, to see how you can be a blessing to others today?  There is so much freedom in forgetting to put ourselves at the center of it all.

The center belongs to Jesus Christ and he wants to use you to reach those that are far from him or in need.  Don’t look for opportunity to knock in your life, but find out how you can be the answer to someone else’s knocking.

(from Soul Tattoo: A Life and Spirit Bearing the Marks of God)