For several years, I was the teaching pastor of a young adult worship experience we called Kairos. Although I handed off that ministry to a talented, gifted, and yes, younger colleague, I still miss being part of that Tuesday night experience. I learned a lot from them, and while I hope I gave them something in return, I will always be grateful for the lessons they taught me about what really matters in life and yes, in the gospel itself.
While I was always surprised at what was going on in their lives, there were a couple of things that caught me off guard. For one thing, they were very serious about my marriage. Jeannie and I recently celebrated our 42nd anniversary and she is, without a doubt, the best part of my life. That means a lot of my sermons and teachings have Jeannie stories in them.
Kairos wanted to make sure I was for real.
One night, I came to Kairos without my wedding band. I had worked out before I showed up to teach and I left my wedding ring in my gym bag. When I stood up to teach, one young man yelled out to me, “Where’s your wedding ring?” I explained I had left it in my gym bag. After the service, he apologized to me by explaining, “When my dad left us, the first thing we noticed is he stopped wearing his wedding ring”.
Wow. Had this young man been looking for my wedding ring every time I stood up to teach?
We forget whenever we hear the statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce that, usually, there are children involved. These children grow up to be adults and like most adults, they will consider marriage. The one image they will have of marriage is that of their parents breaking up. They’ll remember every detail, like when dad stopped wearing his wedding ring, and they’ll begin to doubt whether or not any marriage can stay together.
So, they look around for other possibilities, and sometimes the example they find is the pastor of the local church. Sometimes, it’s a teacher or a boss, a coach or a mentor, but most young adults are looking for examples of what’s possible for their lives.
You can’t blame them for being a little jaded. After all, they have been the target of more advertisements than anyone in history. They have watched the major institutions of our culture be rocked by scandals and outright criminal activity. They are slow to believe the rosy pictures of a “happy ever after”. The economy, the environment, the educational system — all around them, young adults see problems the grown-ups around them just won’t fix.
You can’t blame them if they are a little skeptical of promises everyone makes to them.
But they would like these promises to be true. They would love to have a happy family, a good job, two happy children, and a safe community to live in. They just don’t think it’s possible.
So, they look around.
Too many times, Christ-followers get caught up in the culture wars thinking that if we attend enough protests, elect enough politicians, or pass enough laws, we can change our communities. We forget that one of the most effective methods of evangelism is to live the kingdom of King Jesus in our everyday lives. Our world is so dark and so messed up that the kingdom difference is easy to spot.
When a husband loves his wife the way Christ loves the church, people notice that.
When a wife loves her husband the way the church loves her Lord, people notice that.
When parents see their children as gifts from God, people notice that.
When someone shows up to work and does their work “as to the Lord,” people notice that.
When someone is a friend, a true friend, people notice that.
No one gets up in the morning and says, “Today, I am going to foul up my life beyond all recognition.” People make mistakes. People do wrong things. Most of the time they don’t mean to do wrong, they just didn’t know any better. No one ever taught them. No one ever showed them how to live better.
As Christ-followers, we can’t blame the culture around us for our lack of obedience which leads to lives that are indistinguishable from the culture around us. We are never given permission to compromise our faith or our allegiance to Christ.
And yes, we have examples of believers who didn’t. There’s Joseph and Daniel, there’s Barnabas and Paul, and there’s an entire history of believers – men and women – who lived their lives with such a positive faith that people around them noticed.
Remember, the world isn’t angry at us because we’re different. They’re angry at us because we aren’t different enough.
People around us are looking for something that’s better. They’ve been told it’s possible, but they’ve just never seen it.
That’s why our friends are looking around for what’s possible. You and I are those portraits — portraits of what’s possible in Christ.