I love our local churches! I love the leaders, families, relationships, teaching, developmental opportunities it has offered, and the passionate environment of Christ followers. In many ways, the church has been like an incubator. The Lord, having given new birth to His children, placed them in His trusted church. In the church, the young are fed, cared for, and nurtured in a safe, attentive, and healthy environment. However, just like babies who spend their first days, weeks, and perhaps even months in those safe places, the young believer must eventually come out and survive in a world filled with demonic germs.
In Acts 8:4, the early church came to such a point. Persecution had hit the body of Christ. Stephen, a faithful leader and minister of the church, was executed with the official blessing of the Jewish leadership and the public encouragement of onlookers. The apostles were quarantined in Jerusalem as they stayed to confront their antagonizers with grace and faith. However, many of the believers were scattered in this persecution. Though scattered, they were not in hiding. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit within them caused their passion for Christ to break out wherever they went.
This generation of students needs the local church to disciple, encourage, develop, and challenge them. But they also need to be released back into their world, the world into which Christ is sending them, so His Gospel can break out! Our students are going away to colleges and universities, being hired for jobs, and joining sports—as well as academic and cultural clubs. This is not merely by their choosing or just the happenstance of adolescent maturity. It is also a work of God whereby He places our young believers in places that the leaders of the church do not have access. Why is the Lord doing this? So that the Son would be glorified and His grace would be revealed and embraced.
It’s time for our students to not hide in plain view of the world but rather to distinguish themselves as Christ’s ambassadors. It is time for our students to break out of the coziness of youth groups and inward-focused local churches which at times can turn into lifelong incubators that stifle the stretching of faith and Spirit-given inspiration. Instead, as youth ministries and local churches called of God to disciple students, let us now begin to prepare them as if we are launching pads, sending them into intentional relationships with friends, communities, and professional networks so that the awesome kingdom of our God will be known, praised, and received. In this youth issue, we would like to focus on a few areas in which students need to break out:
Discipleship: Students will need the local church to aid them in owning their own “followship” of Christ. Students need to be given the tools by the local church to embrace Christ and openly grow in His grace before a world that has never experienced biblical truth and spiritual renewals.
Community: Students will need to connect the worlds of faith and faithlessness by building relationships with those who are far from grace and walking with them towards Christian community.
Student Evangelism: Students will need to break out under the empowering outpouring of the Holy Spirit and become fervent givers of Christ’s love to a cold and darkened world.
Christian Service: Students will need to break out of familiar self-worship that focuses only the needs of the self and begin to live for the betterment of others.
Ultimately, the Gospel is a radical relationship of love that lives in unconditional commitment regardless of whether others reciprocate and mirror the same value. We are not raising evangelistic robots; rather, we are discipling a generation burdened for God to heal the brokenness around them and think deeply about how they can see and introduce Christ into it. That kind of burden must be nurtured by a church who hears God. As our churches move from incubators to launching pads, students will move from faithful worshipers to Spirit-filled world changers. Church of God, we need, Christ demands, and the Holy Spirit is ready to empower this generation to BREAK OUT! To this end, may His kingdom come!