As I’m writing this it is October 21st, 2015, back to the future day. If the 1989 movie Back to the Future II were based on true events, Doc Brown would have landed his time machine amongst hoverboards and flying cars today. I remember the movie well. I always wanted a hoverboard. I haven’t got to try one yet. Lots of predictions can be made about the future, but the only thing we know for sure is it will be different.When we think about the future of the Church, it will be different. See, the now is inadequate for the future. Because the now is tailored to the now (or to 50 years ago in some churches. I wish I was joking.) Each generation has to figure out how to best live out the Gospel and show and tell the Gospel, in their context, in their culture, in their generation. The Gospel doesn’t change, the core of doctrine doesn’t change, but the church’s methods, language, approaches, needed services…changes with what works and the neighbourhoods where God has placed you.
The question is, who is going to lead us into the future? Who creates the new hoverboards and flying cars for the church? Who is going to make sure we don’t get stuck in 1989 or 2015? The young. To the young, we need you! Lead us! Our imaginations are getting thin, lead us with your best imaginations into the future. Our creativity is getting old, lead us with new creativity. It’s not just any young that will lead us to the hoverboards and flying cars or whatever is needed for the church of the future. It is the young that are willing to risk and do the sorts of things in the list below.
This past weekend I was privileged to be at the Inspire Justice Conference in Halifax, NS (#IJC15). I’ve been chewing on one phrase ever since. “It is the task of youth think beyond your elders and leaders.”-Rick Tobias. When Rick Tobias speaks I listen. He has a heart after God and continues to live his life in partnership with the poor and marginalized in our society. He continues to give his best towards helping break the cycle of multi-generational poverty.
Here’s a piece of what Rick said, that I’m probably misquoting slightly. “To the young, think past your elders and leaders. It is the task of youth to think past and see beyond your leaders.” “Youth, move us to justice and inclusion. Dream, innovate and create the new.” “Youth are saying ‘enough already telling us to care for the poor, tell us how to change stuff.’” He continued to call the young to “rise up, don’t wait for permission, just do it. Live out your purpose.”
As I chew on this, here’s what keeps coming back to my mind. WE NEED THIS. We need you, young, to push us. We need you, young, to not let us stay where we are. We need you, young, to do the new. We need you, young, to lead us into the future.
Church now will not be Church 25 years from now. It shouldn’t be. Now is inadequate for the future. Young, call us into being the Church we need to be. Young, call us into the Church of the future.
So to those who are young and young at heart. (Feel free to define “young” however you like.) Please think beyond us. Dream new dreams for the Church, for the Kingdom of God. Below is what it will take for the Church to actually become different. This is what it’ll take for the young to go beyond current day leaders. Repeating and building on what Rick said, here is a list to the young who are willing to lead beyond the now.
To the young… 1. Take courage to experiment. As Rick said, there is no blueprint, invent the new, invent the way. 2. Question. We need your questions. Question us, your leaders, the Church, the way “things are always done”. Let your voice be heard. Often the best way to let your voice be heard is to ask really good questions. 3. Listen to the voice of the outsider, those who feel forgotten, left-out, outside of your “camp”. Especially listen to those who oppose you and learn from them. 4. Be fiercely committed to the Gospel, but be very agile in how you live out the Gospel in different neighbourhoods. 5. Be fiercely committed to justice, including and embracing those who have been treat unjustly. Correct whatever allows injustices to continue. To quote Rick again "Compassion responds to need. Justice asks why those needs exist in the first place." Both are needed. 6. Stay close to Jesus. This path will not be easy. 7. Just do it. Do what needs to be done to follow Jesus and His heart for justice in our world. Do not wait for permission from the older folks. Do not wait for the older folks to figure out. You, just do it. Live out your purpose.
To the older (not old, just older)… 1. Let the young lead. 2. Let the young experiment. 3. Let the young ask questions, even the ones that make you feel uncomfortable. 4. Release the young from unnecessary systems, rules, and traditions that are holding them back from fresh expressions of justice, faith, and showing and telling the Gospel. 5. Serve alongside the young, be the hands and feet of Jesus together. Join their cause. 6. Mentor the young, not as guardians of traditions, but as ignitors of God’s Spirit work. Help them develop a deep, robust faith, rooted in their relationship with Jesus. 7. Be the biggest cheerleader of the young. Support them and their efforts to live out their faith.
Let me say it again, we need our youth to lead us beyond. Lead us, we pray.
Young, lead us into the Church we need to be – the Church that shows the Gospel, the Church that tells the Good News, the Church that heals brokenness, the Church that corrects faulty systems that keep people down and trapped, the Church that brings peace, that Church that lives Jesus and points to Jesus. The Church that is Jesus in the neighbourhoods where we live, study, work and play.