Across the world, college-aged and twentysomethings are devouring pop spirituality and buzzing with obsession over the supernatural. We are “spiritual, not religious” as the popularity of movies such as The Matrix Reloaded and Lord of the Rings provide evidence of our curiosity with regard to otherworldly phenomena. We long to be a part of something bigger and better than this seemingly small and empty world. Today’s young adults are seeking God, even if we don’t realize it. It’s imbedded into each brain and imprinted in every soul.
Many of us have rejected the organized Church because it has, in many cases, rejected us. We don’t want the religion of our parents, a Christianity grounded in philosophical modernism, which emphasizes intellectual proofs and apologetics over experience. We don’t want to listen to people who can quote Scripture and talk like Christians but who won’t love and accept us. We refuse to pay attention to people who have been going to church all their lives with no result. We know there is more out there, we just don’t know where to get it.
We are the first generation to have been raised in the age of computers and technology, where it seems nothing in the world expects or requires much of us. Computer games, television and movies are fast replacing bike riding and basketball, and with each new technological advancement, greater efficiency means less human involvement and responsibility. We’ve been taught to be passive and oblivious, to sit back and watch life go by, and to a degree, the Church has treated us no differently.
Church leaders program entertainment, incorporating drama, contemporary Christian music and games. These are meant to keep us interested and attentive, and often the message takes a backseat to the method. But we don’t want more entertainment. We are desperate to belong to something worthwhile, to make a difference in an apathetic world, to experience the God we were made to love and serve. Jesus is not just another consumer item; He is everything we’ve been seeking.
Some ministries are doing it right. Prayer movements such as 24-7 Prayer and The Call have been hugely successful in mobilizing young people to pray for their peers and for their world. The Call DC in September 2000 gathered 400,000 youth for intense prayer and intercession in Washington, D.C. Following events over the past two years went to cities including Boston, New York, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The songs of young adult British worship leader Matt Redman are being sung in churches across the world. A ministry called Passion has had a big impact, hosting huge conferences for college students and putting out CDs featuring twentysomething worship leaders like Charlie Hall and David Crowder. Youth With A Mission (YWAM) currently has more than 15,000 missionary workers in 135 nations. Worldwide, an awakening has begun among twentysomethings.
These movements have been beneficial because they are beginning to address the needs of today’s crowd. However, there is inherent potential danger in a ministry that is entirely focused on college-aged and twentysomethings. Although these movements have had success, they will flame out without the support of the older generation. The insight, wisdom and support they provide are invaluable. Just like a family unit, church communities and ministries need all different ages in its demographic to fill the many and multi-faceted needs of growth.
We need adults who love and seek God, people who can take us under their wings and say like Paul did, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). Any youth movement that does not seek the renewal of the entire Church is missing the mark. God does not want to throw away the existing Church and start a new one with a new generation; He wants to restore and heal what was broken, to "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers" (Malachi 4:6).
We have problems, to be sure, but we are looking for God. Eventually young adults will come to the Church expecting it to deliver on its promises of helping to develop a relationship with that God, and when it happens, I hope we will find Him, and an accepting community, there.
[Editor’s note: See “Between the Cracks: How the Church Has Failed Twentysomethings” in the current issue of RELEVANT.]
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