Blog: How Today’s Youth Will Redefine The World
I’ve watched the church I started, Northwood Church, evolve in many ways since a small group of us started it in 1985. It has been several churches over its life span:
- 1985-92 The beginning years of establishing
- 1992-02 Discovering the Kingdom of God practically and what that looks like glocally, in my church and flowing beyond my local church.
- 2002-08 Discovering the world, how it’s put together and how to relate.
- 2009-Present Convergence of the church, the world, and the Holy Spirit
I have dissected Northwood to the point that it has been as many as eight churches! This will be true of any church, it is never stagnant, but is always developing or declining. The path for each church is different and unique based on context, leadership, culture, time, and call. In this world, the day of cookie- cutter churches and new and improved models for all to follow is over. Models will provide insights, clues, tools, and examples – but not a single pattern. When a church is planted or a city engaged, thinking is more critical now than ever before and that won’t change anytime soon. So what will the future be like?
When I look at those divisions of our church it is interesting on the primary question facing those time periods:
- 1985-92 Boomer questions of how to be happy and successful
- 1992-02 Buster questions of why and what really matters more than me
- 2002-08 Millennial questions of the implications of connectedness
- 2009-Present – War generation with questions of spirituality, community, & justice
Today’s teens have seen more global conflict and war than any generation since WWII. The two wars of Iraq and Afghanistan have affected their parents and classmates, but the other wars from the Arab Spring, to other global conflicts are redefining the world before their very eyes. The primary emphasis of Louie Giglio’s youth Passion conferences has always been the global glory of God – but the practical expression is/has been changing. The early response was to join or volunteer with an established mission organization. Last year they were all over news media with dealing with slavery. Look at all the issues, human trafficking, water, orphans, malaria, hunger, refugees – any organization that is global that isn’t addressing these issues has no credibility.
Daniel Langford, Northwood student pastor, held our youth camp in downtown Fort Worth this year. Their camp would be like any other camp, in the morning with Bible study. Their evening would be the same with youth worship – but what was different was the location and what they did from 10am to 5pm. Instead of being at a college campus or retreat center – the city – downtown Fort Worth was the camp ground. It wasn’t a place to retreat from, but to serve in. So from working with inner-city school children, homeless, refugees, and tons of other projects, they were connecting their personal walk with God and their commitment not just to go back to school and tell all their friends about Jesus, but spirituality was being connected to serving the city.
The youth were simply incredible. They loved it, the city loved it. Parents loved it. I had one parent email me saying they had never heard of a youth camp where the kids stayed at a hotel downtown, worshipped in a community college building, and served the city. They only wished they had come to Northwood sooner so their older children could have experienced it. I don’t know how you could have gotten away with doing camp like that ten years ago – but I predict a lot of churches will begin doing this. What is it about today’s youth that make that possible and how will it impact the future of the church?
- Deep spirituality is tied to servanthood not just for the lost (those without Jesus), but for the least (those that are suffering or hurting).
- My faith’s relevance is tied as much to “how” as it is to “what” I believe. What difference does it make if I believe all the right things but it makes no difference in the world or humanity? How can I be a follower of Jesus and ignore injustice or human suffering? Faith should make a difference.
- Faith is best lived out in community as we come together. With broken homes, a polarized country, and multiple worldviews – the faith community becomes the stabilizer or unit that youth lean on to stand.
- Get ready for a lot more questions on social issues and morality, but even more than the questions, get ready for new responses to old questions – some will be incredibly healthy, and some not.
- Causes will compete if not replace many mission organizations. Whereas their parents became the new “missionary force” where volunteerism went over the top, this generation assumes they are the “missionary” but their work will be nothing like what we see today. THAT WON’T BE BAD. Though many would fear that, people will find Jesus and churches will be established, but as a result of loving and serving others, not starting churches in hopes of them touching the city.
- Neither harsh conservatism nor wobbly liberalism appeals to this generation which means far more independents, or perhaps even the formation of a significant third party politically in the U.S., more in line with this generation.
I don’t mean to romanticize today’s youth. Sorry guys – you’re just as self-centered, greedy, etc., as any previous generation! But your circumstances have made you more alert to the world and suffering than any generation perhaps in 50 years. I also believe they think deeper, not just smarter, than previous generations. I’m excited. I’m glad this is the world my grandson, already named Moses, will be born into. Here is my challenge to Northwood students & all youth. Know the intimacy of Jesus. Stand on God’s word. Love unconditionally. Speak with grace, love, honesty, humility, and clarity. Serve with abandonment. Hold on to each other. Blaze new trails. Expect great things.
Bob is the founder, senior leader, and chief spokesman for Glocal.net . His primary focus is to connect leaders and estabish relationships to explore transformation. Follow Bob on Twitter at @bobrobertsjr.