I feel sort of like I have been to church for two weeks straight. Wait a minute. I HAVE been to church for two weeks straight. Well, pretty much. I have shared probably more than you wanted to know about Big Stuf in Daytona. But the week we returned to Birmingham our own church, Church of the Highlands, hosted it’s own youth conference, MOTION, and welcomed 2,000 students from around the country to our town and our church for three days of worship, teaching, and learning how to go after God with all they have. I’ll just say that our church is quite a lively place, so to see these kids in full on worship just made me smile.
I worry sometimes about the next generation. Isn’t that what us old fogies do- worry about the next generation? But as I looked out at these kids holding nothing back in praise and worship of their God, I could begin to think, “Ok, they’re gonna do fine.”
So many in our faith look at the empty churches of Europe and fear that we are just one generation away from that happening in America. I’m pretty sure those people have not been privileged to see what I have seen over the last couple of weeks. I wish I had had the passion these kids have when I was their age. Youth pastors of today are leading the charge and students are following. Many of the students themselves are leading.
I won’t soon forget what our own youth pastor told those kids on the final night of the conference. He told them that many of them had a real encounter with God over the last few days- and that his warning to them was this:
Don’t be surprised when family, friends, or others try to discredit what
you’ve experienced here.
It’s a sad day when that happens, but it does. Picture a kid who goes to camp or a conference over the summer and God does a real work in their heart. They leave that place changed, touched by a holy God… only to walk right back into their reality at home, or their reality with the friendships they have. Those people weren’t there, they didn’t see first hand the transformation take place. They have doubts. After all, they know this kid. They know what they’ve been capable of. Leopards don’t change their spots, right? So the kids gets barraged with scrutiny and criticism… until the shine fades and doubt sets in.
This warning from our youth pastor struck a chord because I knew it to be true. My own son had posted on his Facebook page recently something to this effect:
“Dearest girls of the world,
If your shorts are so short that the pockets on the shorts are longer than the shorts themselves, we have a problem.
Grossed out teenager.”
This a message from a teenage boy who cares about the virtue of the girls he sees around him. He understands that girls speak much louder to boys by what they wear than through what they say. Boys don’t get much into conversation anyway. They are VISUAL, remember? This from a young man who is desperately trying to keep his thought life where it should be.
Here is a sixteen year old boy sending a message out to teenage girls which says in reality “Listen to what you are telling the world when you show so much skin. It makes me uncomfortable for you. You are worth so much more than this.”
That single comment from my son made my heart swell in my chest until I thought it might burst. Then I read the comments that followed. Almost without fail, he was ridiculed in them. Even one girl took issue with what he had to say. The kids who gave his comment a “thumbs up”, were ironically kids who are also chasing after God. Thank God for them!
Young people who step out for righteousness must be prepared to take the heat for it. My prayer for my own kids as well as the 5,500 students I saw these last two weeks is this:
May they never lose the fire they felt while on their mountaintop experience. May the words of the careless fall to the ground before them and fade quickly away. May they hunger more each day for the God who reached down to them and instilled his power into their lives so that no matter what they face, they put him first in all things.