“What are you looking for?” I asked Jenna and Natalie, two young women in their early 20s, as they talked with me about the launch of the new Young Adults monthly gathering that TWMC is launching in September. “We are looking for the rich depth of Jesus, so please don't stay light and on the surface,” they said. That answer might shock you, but versions of this same conversation play out in my ministry more often than you might think.
In fact, let me go on record saying my conversations and interactions with the young adults of our church lead me to believe they are ready to step forward in faith with the rest of our congregation at this historic time in the life of The Woodlands Methodist Church.
I believe they are ready because they seem both grounded and agile in today’s volatile, post-Christian culture. They have been a generation heavily challenged on their faith, their beliefs and where they stand, from day one. But before I jump in too far, let me say this: our church’s young adults are not a “magic generation” for having all the answers. What I’m saying is that they have distinct advantages, such as standing on the shoulders of all the generations that have come before them. They have been given a rich faith heritage, a depth of biblical sacrifice they don't even comprehend and an extraordinary amount of love from parents, grandparents, ministry mentors and a community still largely rooted in the Christian faith. And even as they receive those blessings, they are stepping into a workforce and culture hostile to the Christian faith unlike the generations before them. Yet, if it weren’t for the rich heritage, sacrifice, and love given to them, I honestly don't know how they would have remained steadfast.
I see a generational commonality across my conversations with young adults: they want to dive deep into the things that matter while also navigating the complexities of digital media and the pitfalls that come with vanity-driven, image-based portrayal of life so prevalent on social media. As first-generation digital natives, they are the ones to discern objective truth from subjective truth like none other.
You can't speak about this generation without talking about the fact that they are coming into adulthood in faith, while at the same time, month after month, having access and seeing the fall of spiritual leader after spiritual leader for one reason or another.
With all of that, they look for safe places to dive deep. What I am noticing, and think we can all learn from, is that the safe place isn't the place that automatically agrees with them on every issue. They are less concerned with being in a space that would be unified on every front but more concerned with a safe place where they can wrestle, dive deep, and at the same time remain welcomed and not feel like outcasts. I honestly don't know if they always see the depth they are diving into their faith or if it is simply a reaction to the culture around them.
When I think of the generation of young adults here at The Woodlands Methodist Church, I am drawn to Psalm 1: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinner take or sit in the company of mockers, but who delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law, day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose lead does not wither - whatever they do prospers.” (My emphasis added)
Our young adults are growing up with deep roots in the faith. They ask hard questions. The young adults I'm getting to know here are deconstructing all the time. Still, unlike the cultural deconstruction movement, these young adults are deconstructing culture based on the truth of Scripture, not the other way around. They are going deep because they understand the influences that are against them in their lives.
I see this in my conversations with Jonah and Thomas, both young men in their early 20s, as they have established a prayer room on our campus that meets every Wednesday from 12:00-1:00 p.m. You should come and join them with the other 15 - 20 young adults. It's a beautiful time of deep intercession before God on behalf of their generation. This is how our young adults want to spend their time!
It's in an ongoing, summertime conversation with a young man who is 26. He sincerely wants to hold onto his orthodox faith and, at the same time, show the love of Jesus to his friends who live life from a different world perspective. His desire is what we call living into both Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis (orthodoxy is what a person believes; orthopraxis is how a believer acts).
Living through the lens of orthodoxy and orthopraxis is what not only impresses me about this generation but gives me the greatest hope for what's ahead. This is the spirit in which they are walking. They embody their approach to the truth of God with the spirit of the grace of God.
The next generation is ready to move forward in faith. They have grown up with a resistance to their faith, and because of the rich heritage they stand on, the depth to which they are willing to dive, and the spirit of God in which they are reaching out to their peers that don't know Christ… well, I stand in awe of them. Our young adults aren't the complete answer to all we are approaching and walking through as a congregation, but they are not a generation to be left to the side as it gets figured out. They are to be included! They are a key component in advancing our future ministry at The Woodlands Methodist Church.
May the Gospel of Christ be proclaimed, and the Kingdom of God be advanced now and in the days ahead!