Over the Easter weekend I took the family down to the Baptist Easter camp in Busselton, a camp for 18-25 year olds and an event I hadn’t been to for a long long time. I was the camp speaker, another role I hadn’t been in for quite some time either. I think my last gig was 15 years ago…
The theme I chose for the weekend was the ‘Road Less Travelled’, focusing in on the call to discipleship and to following Jesus. My point was to say there are a couple of roads we can travel – one involves not following Jesus, another involves ‘recreational’ Christianity, while the one I was calling people towards was the one of discipleship – of seeing Jesus as the centre of life rather than a useful add on.
It was challenging to get back on the same frequency as the crew who were there and while it went pretty well, it was hard work. I realised half way thru my prep that in not knowing the people who would be there I was pretty much flying blind. So I prepped two messages to get things started then made the rest up while down there.
One of the messages I felt I needed to share from deep in my gut spoke to longevity of faith. You could call it a ‘prophetic urge’, but I felt the need to tell the group that if stats are reliable and history is a guide, then of the 30-40 of them sitting there, only 60-70% of them would still be following Jesus in 20 years. Around 10 of them would lose their way, give up on faith, wander off or reject faith and there are many many reasons that happens.
But I offered 7 things to do to minimise the chances of being a casualty:
Pursue simplicity – avoid being trapped in the career advancement, upwardly mobile, aspirational life cycle. Allow Jesus to define life and priorities and this will give you a fighting chance of not being seduced by the marketers. For most of the crew this one was bordering on irrelevant as they haven’t yet been trapped. I hope it served as a ‘heads up’, but I think this one just slowly entangles us and it isn’t until we are knee deep in consumer slime that we realise we’ve been dudded. I could hear them grappling with it theoretically but kinda blind to its devastating pull.
Choose fellowship – whatever shape it takes, be committed to living out the Christian life with others. The gospel is not an individualised salvation package designed around accommodating our western lifestyle and your own philosophies of life. Its not about life enhancement, and when we reduce the gospel to ‘my personal relationship with God’ we leech it of its powerful communal aspect. If a person wants to keep going for the next 20 years then it won’t happen by dropping in on church occasionally. Discipleship occurs in robust authentic community not in isolation.
Develop Healthy Spiritual Rhythms – in the absence of spiritual disciplines and practices that sustain us we end up easily gravitating towards activities that require least effort. We take the path of least resistance and that can easily lead to us losing our sense of focus. I’ll watch TV before meditating on the scriptures, so unless I develop healthy spiritual practices it will only be a matter of time before I am flabby and out of shape. And we all know what its like trying to get back in shape after letting ourselves go…
Deal With Your Demons – we all face various challenges that limit our progress towards Christlikeness. We can choose to face them and confront them or we can accept that they are just part of who we are. I have a sense that those who take on their dark sides will get much further in the journey than those who deny its there, or simply accept it. Living with debilitating sin is a recipe for discouragement and weariness.
Expect Disappointment – if you are expecting an easy pain free ride then you will be disappointed. Jesus didn’t come to guarantee personal happiness. So hard times will hit – friends will die, divorce will happen, illness will strike and tragedy will come our way at some point. If you see God as the ‘happiness fairy’ then you’re screwed. Just know in advance that Christians don’t get an exemption from pain and you have a chance.
Choose to Marry a Christian – this one seems kinda obvious to me and many of us who have been on the road for a while, but its a challenge for younger people. Perhaps its enough just to have someone who isn’t antagonistic towards my faith? Maybe that will allow you to limp along, but if you want to pursue discipleship and the life Jesus calls us to then experience tells me this is actually one of the most critical of all.
Find Someone to Confess Sin to and Be Specific – Its probably a bit like dealing with your demons, but its essentially making sure we live authentic lives and we grapple with our humanity rather than hiding behind a veneer of apparent holiness. Not being true who you really are is a sure way to getting 20 years down the track and feeling like a fraud.
That’s no comprehensive list, but its a bit of compilation of my own thoughts after watching what happens in young people’s lives. What was interesting was that around 30-40% felt that maybe they could duck a few of these and still make it 40 with no worries… Yeah – that same percentage that stats show will drop out was about the same as the percentage of people who felt they could ignore the info and still make it.
Like I said – that’s no failsafe, ‘fifth gospel’ approach to the issue. Its just my observations after being around the church scene for a long time.
I was encouraged by the crew of people I got to spend the weekend with and the genuine passion for following Jesus that many of them possessed. I would have loved to have had longer to hear more of the challenges they face as young adults in the world today and to consider how the gospel speaks to them. At QBC we don’t have a heap in the age range so my insights into the issues they face is limited.
That said I imagine that at baseline level they face all of the same issues we have faced since time began… selfishness, pride, indifference… and so on. Its the human condition just expressed in different ways at different times.
time to write that book Hamo
Great advice, Andrew! I love it. It relates to my own children’s ages and I’ll pass it on to them. I think you should give this talk again at any opportunity you are given.
I think it’s prophetic indeed!
You could add one more: “Don’t Ask Hard Questions”. As soon as you expose yourself to people outside of the Christian worldview, you’ll run across challenges to faith that are much more difficult than the straw men that are erected in your apologetics study. If you begin to question the validity of faith in a God, the people at your church will begin to separate from you…urge you to “renew” your faith…and tell you that you are at risk of “falling away”. They won’t have the answers and they don’t like people who ask those questions. Your pastor will be the first to accuse you of sowing dissent and probably exert some sort of discipline.
If you want to keep your faith strong, don’t ask hard questions of it. Just use it as a way to make yourself a “better” person. You’ll be happier.
thanks mate, helpful.
It sounds like a fairly straight forward formula – lets tick the boxes and the foundations will be in place to have a good chance of being a life long Christian.
But does it get to the heart of the matter?
Yes = deal with disappointment – Tick… (as full responsibility is now put on the shoulders of the young believer).
The question may be why so many young people of these will people leave Church, and more importantly why so many will be cynical and angry at Church when they get older … and even more importantly again – how will the treat those who may tentatively land on your doorstep distrustful and angry at some point in the furture – willing to give it just one more chance.
The sad thing is that there are so, so very few healthy churches out there.
Behaviours in many Churches by Leaders who have ofttimes been born into the Church and never really lived in the real world where their behavior would not be tolerated.