Growing Young #2 – Taking Jesus’ Message Seriously
Speakers: Phil Swain, Bec Swain and Max Day
Bible Reading: Luke 9:18-27
We are continuing with our Growing Young Program by exploring the next two wedges in our Growing Young Wheel – Empathy Now and Taking Jesus’ Message Seriously. Jesus encourages us to take our faith seriously … to pick up our cross and follow him and his example. This is a message that resonates with young people, so how do we as a church take Jesus’ message seriously and reflect his way in our actions? Our pastor Phil will be leading this discussion with some insights from some of our young adults. A challenging and uplifting message.
This week has been very distracted, especially with stuff with my sister, so I have not had the chance to put into the crafting of my sermon as much as I would have like to. So instead of a logical flowing narrative it is more like a four or five chunks of teachings with some challenges thrown in. I hope that is ok.
Last week we launched our Growing Young program where we are asked to rethink, reimagine and recalibrate our ministry to young people and young adults. This program is based on a book called Growing Young from the Fuller Youth Institute that did over 10,000 hours of research, interviews, church visits and conversations to see if there was any common characteristics with the churches who had strong lively young people ministry and who were growing young. Now, you might think that there results showed it was the big churches who were growing young, or the rich churches, or the churches from a particular theological point of view … but surprisingly it wasn’t. They noticed that the churches who were growing young were very diverse in size, belief, finances, location, leadership. Instead they concluded that there were six characteristics or core commitments of Growing Young churches that was shown in our Growing Young wheel that Molk showed us last week. The
– six characteristics or commitments are:
- Unlock Keychain Leadership –
- Empathy Now (esp with today’s young people)
- Take Jesus’ message seriously
- Fuel a warm community
- Prioritize young people (and families) everywhere –
- Be the best neighbours
Molk did the first one last week, I get to do 2, 3 (4) this week.
Last week – Molk asked us to think about the adults who have made a difference to our lives when we were teenagers. What was it about those people that impacted you? Maybe for some of us we might say they were great teachers from whom we learn a lot. Or that they invested in us, open doors for us. But when we dig deeper, I wonder whether the most common answer might be that they were interested in us, drew alongside us, walked with us, believed in us, were there for us, loved us.
The Fulton Institute research showed that church who attracted and retained young people and young adults were churches who showed empathy to them. They defined empathy as “feeling with”. Showing Empathy is just being with people, genuinely listening and observing so that you get to know them and understand where they are coming from rather than just making assumptions.
One of the ways that the book highlights where this empathy is critical is realising that the young people today are not completely the same as you were when you were a young person. They think different, they have different values and goals in life. Sure there are lots of things that are the same … like our desire for connection and community … but sometimes we jump to a conclusion without … well … actually talking and listening to a young person
We talked about this at Coffee with Kevin and Phil last Thursday. We noted that when we were teenagers – our goals in life were career, marriage, buying a house and raising a family (and that would happen mainly in our 20’s). Whereas 20-year-old today often prioritise experiences over settling down.
The book goes on to say that empathy is the willingness to go to the hard places with people so that they know you care about them. There is something powerful and transformative when a young person feels that you are there for them and know them.
Rather than me try to explain this, I have invited my daughter Bec to come and share on this idea.
Bec – Other than your friends and family, who are some of the adults who were deeply involved in your teenage years? What made them so special?
Are you hearing this? We know this to be true because we have most likely experienced to. So how do we make sure that we are a church who draws alongside our young people, who takes the time to get to know them and who is willing to sit with their questions and not necessarily rush to the answers.
On Wednesday 30th August, we are having a dessert evening here at the church where I am hoping to have a bunch of young people and young adults there – and I hope that it can be a place where we can … well … show empathy … but really to just be together, and listen and learn about each other. I also will invite them to consider sharing some of their thoughts, ideas and dreams for the church.
Taking Jesus seriously
One of the interesting insights that came out of this Growing Young research is that there has been a bit of a shift of how young people talk about the gospel. Like one girl whom the interviewer asked the question … “How well does your church help people know and understand the gospel … or Good News of Christianity?” The young person replied “Of Christianity or of Jesus … because I think that they are different.”
There seems to be this shift that young people are attracted to churches who talk less to abstract theological beliefs and more about the person and work of Jesus. They are attracted to churches who talk less about heaven and more about how Jesus invites us into a new way of living, right here and right now. When it comes to salvation – young people are less interested in what we are being saved from … but passionate about what we are being saved for. It is less about getting people in the door and more about making sure we are moving in the same direction as Jesus. They believe that Jesus when Jesus says to pick up our cross and follow him … it means to be like Jesus … to do what Jesus would do … and the way of Jesus calls us to be transformative and make a difference in the world around us.
In short … they take the message of Jesus seriously and are looking for a church, a community which takes Jesus’ message seriously too.
Once again, lets call up Bec to hear her take on this…
When it comes to expressing your faith … what are you passionate about? What does it mean for you to “pick up your cross and follow Jesus”?
Two points to finish with from the book. Two ideas of what we can consider to continue to be a church that takes Jesus message seriously.
The first is the idea of creating “on ramps for tough topics”. Young people have questions about faith, they sometimes struggle with doubts and are looking for people they can explore these questions and doubts with. I’d like to think we are a place that sits comfortably in the tough questions – aren’t we?
In other church I was in – I saw a young person talking with an older member and they said, “I don’t think that Hell is real”. I internally cringed as I was imagining the older person chastising the young person for being wrong and pointing out all the Bible references to prove their point. But instead, they said, “Tell me how you got to that?” Instead of closing down the question they invited the young person into a conversation and listened to their story. How do we as a community not rush to our answers but invite faith conversations…
And the second is a challenging ideas that the book talks raises. It talks about is how the children and young people at our churches are looking at us to see and learn how to live out or faith in our actions. They want to see if we are not just teaching Jesus’ message seriously but taking it seriously by living it out. How are we picking up our cross and following Jesus – and if the kids or young people are observing you, are they seeing that lived out?
As I said at the beginning – this sermon hasn’t been nicely shaped to flow well … so I am going to let that question sit which __________ reads us a poem.
This poem was written over 100 years ago, but I can imagine a young person saying the exact same thing today. It was written by Edgar Guest and is entitled “Sermons we See”. Let’s reflect how we can as a community take Jesus seriously and how we as individuals commit to living out our faith in our actions as we hear this poem…
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are the ones who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done;
I can watch your faith in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.
Jesus invites us to pick up your cross and follow him,
To follow his example, his way that leads to life.
May we all – from the oldest to the youngest,
take this message of Jesus seriously.