When I look back over my 20 years serving in the EMC—four years in Mexico and 16 years at the national office—I’m more in love with the Church now than ever before. Why? Because I’ve witnessed the Church do an amazing job of inviting, encouraging and discipling each successive generation to embrace a full identity as Christ followers, and as equal participants in the sacred beauty that is the church, the bride of Christ.
Take youth ministry as an example—increasingly more of our churches run youth ministries with growing numbers of non-church-attending students participating in their weekly gatherings. They study God’s Word, do service projects, and shine the light of Christ from the basketball court to the Movie Theatre, right on down to the basement of a friend’s house playing video games. And yes, many are also involved on Sunday mornings serving on worship teams, teaching Sunday School, or running the PowerPoint.
While lack of loyalty may be the accusation from many, what I see in this younger generation is a truckload of devotion when the “product” is genuine and marked with integrity. They are loyal to their friends, to their sports team, and to their favourite coffee shop. But if the customer service at a particular store is deemed inauthentic, they have no problems voting with their feet.
The same goes for the Church. Contrary to a growing opinion, I think that many students do have a good understanding of how the Church is the bride of Christ and that it should uphold biblical moral standards, sincere love, and unapologetic integrity. However, when that trust is broken, they move on looking for a congregation that practices what it preaches.
In response, I have sometimes thought about saying to them, “Of course the Church makes mistakes, so put your eyes on Jesus, not on sinful human beings.” And they may well respond by saying, “We need the Church to model Jesus to us so that we too know how to represent Christ in our world.”
By all accounts Mary was just a teenager when she gave birth to the Christ child. The script from the Master included a remarkably young couple raising the Saviour of the world in their home. Do we trust Jesus in the hands of our youth? Our Heavenly Father did.
Do we truly believe that they know the value of the treasure they have in Christ? Are we willing to let them experience the Lord, and, dare I say, be responsible enough to serve the Lord in their way, with their lives, in the Church, for His glory?
I have seen from personal experience that the Spirit of God works in the lives of people of all ages, from the little pre-schoolers right on through to the seniors in our midst. Let’s continue to be the Church where all generations experience relevance and truth wrapped in the swaddling clothes of love.
- Gerald Reimer, Conference Youth Minister/Missions Mobilizer