Here is the final update from our Jr. High youth retreat. The other one’s are here, here, and here. The final talk Sunday morning centered around some motivations and applications of how to actually go about changing or influencing the culture.
Compassion: How do the kids look upon people who don’t know Jesus and “do the things” they do? Are they judgmental and angry at kids who simply are doing what non-Christians do (not following Jesus)? The correct response should be compassion. When Jesus looked upon the crowds, he didn’t see a bunch of idiots, or yahoos, or even simply a bunch of sinners, he saw people who were helpless and harassed, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9). He had compassion upon them.
One heart at a time: There is no need to assume that youth will necessarily see people come to Christ en masse and whole middle schools will be changed instantly. The challenge that he left them with was to think through one or two of their friends who need Jesus. Instead of judging them, spend time loving them, serve them, and begin to communicate the gospel message. Instead of having nothing to do with non-Christians, begin to pray compassionately for them, move towards them, and live out their faith before them. Darkness needs light. That which is stale and bland needs salt. Compassion motivated, not guilt, or results motivated.
The storm hell with water guns, rah-rah approach just doesn’t seem to jive with anyone anymore. I also appreciated his non-triumphalism, as though we’ll have this whole Satan influencing culture thing down pat in a few years. Unless you are a post-millenialist, you realize that the church will advance and have some effect on the surrounding culture while at the same time Satan will see major advances. I don’t know who will be in the “lead” when Jesus comes back. I also don’t care, as its really none of my business. Jesus thinks the same (Mark 13:32).
Nevertheless, one heart at a time, does really make a difference. When God calls us out of the kingdom of darkness, he brings us into His glorious Kingdom (Col 1:13). People can see that. Some will like us even if they don’t like what we stand for. They will like us for our love. When people like you, they usually will at the very least listen to you. So the opportunity for impact is fairly large even with one heart at a time.
Ultimately, David’s cultural approach can be summed up (as I see it) by “live out your faith among your Christian and non-Christian friends and let your faith make a difference in your schools, sports teams, neighborhoods, and families as much as the Lord sees fit. In the music, art, business you make/create or take in, let Jesus be Lord. Even just a few people who are Christians in a college religion class, where God’s Word is the subject of ridicule, does make a difference. I know from experience. The same is true for middle schoolers.
Some final thoughts on applying this
1.) Are middle schoolers ready to live out their faith among the world? That’s got to be entered into carefully and prayerfully. Maybe yours is not. Maybe yours is. Parents have to make that decision, but don’t assume that youth are necessarily too young to influence their friends for Christ.
2.) Middle-schoolers, like all Christians, need fellowship. They can’t ONLY be around non-Christians. Youth groups are key. So is church worship. So are other fellowship opportunities. So are godly families. If you and your youth are ready to be used in reaching out to others, they need to grounded in solid fellowship. And the flip is also true: if they are grounded in good fellowship, then they can probably can step out in faith and make a difference without being overwhelmed.
3.) Take advantage of outreaching opportunities. Invite unchurched youth into your fellowship. They don’t need to go on secret one-on-one missions, but instead can reach out with their fellowship.
- Hospitality: Simply having one of your kid’s friends over to your house, and living out your faith before them, is a good place to start. Have them over to eat, or come to spend the night, and go to church the next day. You can control, to a degree, the environment this way.
- Wyldlife: Christian kids can have an impact in their culture simply by inviting their friends to Wyldlife, the middle school version of YoungLife. Their friendships can play a part in leaving people to Jesus, and then to the church. All it take is a friendship and invitation. You need not fear the environment-though it can get a little messy on certain occasions!
- Youth Group: This is an untapped resource that I really challenged the kids to think about. Invite friends to youth group and they will get to hear the gospel as well as see what fellowship looks like. The early Christians seemed to do lots of fellowshiping, but obviously didn’t neglect evangelism. I think fellowship and evangelism probably happened in the same place.
- Church: While I don’t think this is the only outreach attempt we should make, we should still be open to inviting folks to church. Youth will often come if invited. Particularly if they spend the night.
In the end, God can use Middle Schoolers in a bigger way than we might have assumed. As families, you can be a part of something bigger than just hoping they good good grades and do well in sports. You have the opportunity to be involved in something big. Huge. Don’t waste or wish away the middle school years, because God can redeem.