Staying Power

Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family. – Proverbs 18:24 MSG

We live in a culture that sees people as disposable.

We treat each other as commodities. Employees are now called resources or assets. The value of people is defined in monetary terms. As you can imagine, this very crass understanding of human beings seems to imply that people, once they no longer add to your bottom line, are disposable.

It’s not just in business that we treat people this way. When people are no longer helpful in accomplishing our personal goals, we will discard the relationship. When someone is not seen as being supportive of our agenda, then we will dispose of the friendship.

But true friends stick together no matter what—even when you mess up, even when you fail. These are the ones who will come and stand by and share the hurt, and yeah, even sometimes share the embarrassment of your failure.

I know you’re thinking a friend like that is rare indeed, few and far between. You are right, but if we are fortunate, all of us have at least one who we can count on to be there no matter what. This is the radical teaching of Jesus: God loves you no matter what. He won’t leave you no matter what. He’ll stick with you no matter what.

As you can imagine, this is a hard message for a lot of people to hear. It’s a harder message for some people to believe. The way they begin to believe it and the way they begin to understand it is when Christians stick with them no matter what. When we love them and when we’re their friend—regardless of what happened in their life—we begin to live out for them this determined friendship of God. It’s the same relationship from God that most of us know in our own lives. We become evidence of God’s faithfulness as we are faithful to our own friends.

So, how about it? Do you have a friend who needs a friend? Do you have a friend who needs you to stick with him no matter what?

Being that kind of friend to somebody may be the most powerful sermon you can preach to your friends. After all, in the words of E. Stanley Jones, a great Methodist missionary of the last generation, sometimes it’s better to be a sermon than to preach one.

Secret Powers

Most of us overlook the story where God gave Adam the power to name the animals. (Read it in Genesis 2:19-23.) But when we think about it, one of the most powerful gifts God gave humanity is the power to name. In naming, we gain control over a situation. It’s when we’re able to describe it to someone else that we begin to understand how we can address the situation.

That is why listening is so important. When someone is dealing with something that is so deep and so painful that they’re afraid to speak it, that secret keeps control over them. So until they can get to the point where they can say, “Here’s what happened,” or “Here’s the mistake I made,” or Here’s what somebody else did to me,” they are trapped by the fear someone will find out one day and hold the past against them.

So, when you’re walking with somebody on their life journey and they start telling you their story, understand this is some of the most powerful stuff that happens in a person’s life. This is why listening is so important.

You see, it’s when they begin to understand that we love them enough to hear their story—when we hear their frustration, when we listen to them with the love of Christ and still stick with them as they name their past and what’s going on—that’s when we are able to be part of their experiencing the love of Christ.

They are desperately afraid that once they tell you what has happened, you will run away from them or you will be horrified and never speak to them again. But when you’re able to stay there and love them anyway, that becomes a tremendously healing moment.

So here are the obvious questions for this week:
– Is there a secret within your own life that you’re prisoner to?
– Do you know somebody with a secret that’s holding them hostage to a past?
– How can you engage in a conversation that will make it safe for the secret to come out?

Asking Too Little?

Considering the Cost of Postmodern Discipleship

I know I’m stating the obvious when I say postmodern young adults are not like young adults before them. They have been born into a digital age that is unlike any in human history. Their lives move faster, they know more, they’ve been exposed to much more than any other generation before them. They have discovered the validity of the old truism that “information is power,” and they’ve learned to use this information to bring real change in our world.

As I write this, the non-violent revolution continues in Egypt. Think about it: young adults toppled the dictator, Mubarak. This revolution was all orchestrated by a thirty- something Egyptian Google executive using Twitter and Facebook. Not guns, not tanks. His smartphone and laptop computer—these are the weapons of the new revolution. He masterfully used Twitter and Facebook to spontaneously organize marches and protests; and at the same time, he eluded the forces that were trying to oppress the rebellion.

This is an interesting change—and indeed quite a contrast—from the gospel of the Baby Boomers which said, “Don’t require too much of your people.“ The Boomers wanted a faith that didn’t require too much of them. But the fact is, Jesus does require a lot of a person. There is a cost to discipleship—a radical cost. Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us in the stunning opening line of his book, The Cost of Discipleship, “When Jesus calls a man, He calls him come and die. “

The postmoderns have gotten this better than anybody else and are willing to put their lives in very dangerous places to do extraordinary things for the kingdom.

All the statistics tell us that young adults are leaving church and organized religion in astonishing numbers. While it is true that they are leaving denominations in astonishing numbers, a lot of them are finding church in a new way. They’re finding church that requires a radical response from them –a radical commitment in their lives.

So here’s an interesting question for those of us who pastor churches. Are people leaving your church, not because your church requires too much, but because your church doesn’t require enough? Is there a possibility they’re thinking, “There can’t be anything too serious about this if I can get it in a couple of hours a week?”

A lot of young adults are saying, “If the Christian faith can be summed up in a few hours a week and not demand my total life, then it must not be very serious.”

So, we have some serious questions to think about:

– Have we made the gospel too accommodating to our culture?
– Do we need to grab hold again of the hard commands of Jesus?
– Can we make a radical impact in the world around us without a radical commitment?

Meet the Emerging Adult

What are you doing to reach them?

Christian Smith—a noted sociologist from Notre Dame and the author of Souls in Transition —makes the point in his book that we are now identifying a fifth stage to adulthood. This stage, called the emerging adult, happens between adolescence and adulthood. Emerging adults are those young adults who are about to graduate college or; has graduated college and now has arrived at the moment when we would expect them to get married, a job, have kids and settle down.

Christopher Smith points out what most parents have already discovered – emerging adults aren’t doing that. In fact, these young adults are postponing entrance into full-fledged adulthood. They may or may not get a job right off. They may or may not get married. Many are choosing to travel or volunteer for a year or two. (Think Peace Corp). They are postponing marriage, sometimes beyond the age of 30.

And a lot of them drop out of church. For whatever reason, emerging adults do not see church as being a vital part of their lives. In fact, most churches do not do well with single adults anyway, and we do even worse with this new group of young adults who are asking hard questions and choosing a longer path into traditional adulthood. Few churches, if any, are adequately reaching this age group. And yes, this is a crisis for the church.

So, let me ask you,

• Have you noticed in your churches the phenomena of emerging adults?
• How is your church responding ?
• What have you found to be successful?