My apologies for taking another week’s break from my series on organizational alignment. I’ve been on the road every week so far this month, and I haven’t had the time to develop what I would consider to be a helpful piece on alignment.
My travels this week took me to a conference in Pine Mountain, Georgia, at the Impact 360 Institute, an organization that provides gap year alternative programs of study for high school graduates. Part of the program featured Trip Lee, who is an author, hip-hop artist, and pastor. If you know me at all, you would know I’m not a huge fan of the hip-hop music genre, so I wasn’t sure what was in store for us that evening. What transpired was a challenging discussion on this current generation and how we are ministering to them.
Students are thirsting to give themselves to something that is radically countercultural, and when presented with that challenge, they will throw themselves into it fully. Unfortunately, in many cases, our students don’t see a vibrant faith lived out in front of them, a faith where words and actions match, and in a radical way. Trip Lee made three points (also found in his book Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story) about ministering to today’s students.
Our students’ lives are critical NOW. We must not assign a lesser place for them because they are young! They are created to serve and be disciples of Christ right now. The notion that they can live their lives for Christ later and that they should simply enjoy their youth runs contrary to the message in Scripture. Our students must know they play a role in God’s plan today, and that, as image bearers, they can have a tremendous impact for Christ in the world.
We have no control over our circumstances or other people, but we can have control over ourselves. Central to this idea is the concept of self-control and the importance of self-denial. This isn’t a popular topic for any generation, but Christ clearly talks about denying yourself. Put simply, walking as Christ called us to walk requires us to surrender our will to him, say no to our personal desires, and decline to do some of the things we want to do. That is one of the countercultural pieces we need to ensure our students hear and see. In a world of instant gratification, instant information, instant everything, the concept of self-control often seems antiquated, but we are called to “look to the ancient roads” (Jeremiah 6:16).
As image bearers, we have the opportunity to glorify God… or to do the opposite. Lee gave a few ideas of things we need to tell our kids, and that we ourselves could learn.
- Stop acting surprised when people aren’t thrilled to hear you are a Christian. Jesus said we would not be well received: we’ll be hated and persecuted, actually.
- Fall out of love with being cool: we cannot lay down our lives for Christ, live the way he has called us to live, and have everyone like us.
- Be compassionate, not combative: we are called to be kind to all, patient when wronged, but willing to correct with gentleness (2 Timothy 2:22).
The Same Standards
Lastly, and most importantly, there is no teenage standard for being a disciple of Christ. We shouldn’t lower the bar or create a different standard based on age. Christ calls us to follow him. Our students are created to serve him and this world now, where they are, and not at some later date.
As the school year begins and our thoughts turn to our students and what we will focus on this year, I’d urge you to set this challenge before them. As for me, I have to go catch another plane. Perhaps this time I’ll leave my headphones in my bag and actually engage in a conversation with the person next to me instead of insulating myself from the world that God has placed me in to represent him!
– Joel Westa