Trying to put my thoughts about youth in revival is like trying to put the water of the earth in a bathtub. It’s just too vast and immeasurable to make it all fit in a nice and neat package, but there are some things that i’ve learned along the way that are indicators of what we are leaving for the rising generation.
#1 Stop “Dumbing” It Down
Early in my youth ministry days, I had well intentioned people come to me and tell me things like; “don’t go too deep with them” or “you shouldn’t speak to them any longer than 13 minutes at a time so you don’t lose their attention.” There is nothing further from the truth when it comes to this generation. Today’s generation want to be challenged and engaged to things that are well beyond the surface. This thought or ideal is what I see as one of the greatest insults you can throw toward any rising generation. It’s as if we are limiting their opportunity to encounter the fullness of Yahweh before they ever really begin the process. Setting limitations or degrees on how they see and respond to the life of Jesus is one of the strongest shackles of religion that can be placed on a believer. To tell anyone that they can only experience a certain measure (typically because the person saying it has limited encounter themselves) is like caging a wild animal and trying to convince it that it’s domesticated. This generation needs people who will let them experience and explore the riches of the glory of God without the unintended restrictions of our personal experiences. There are things that we obviously need to slow down and simplify through discipleship, but it’s in no way to substitute or limit the power of the gospel of the kingdom for the sake of our own insecurity in trying to determine what they can or cannot process. Students today process one thing very well no matter how educated they are and it’s called AUTHENTICITY. If you are authentic and genuine, they will connect to you. Students are looking for something real, genuine, passionate and ultimately worth their time.
#2 Create An Atmosphere For Encounter
A number of years ago while in the infancy of my time in youth ministry, frustrated that I wasn’t “doing it right,” I heard the Lord speak to me about how do give identity to our students. I heard the Lord in prayer say, “give them a prayer culture.” I didn’t completely understand what that was or what it would look like, but I did realize that the focus would have to be all about HIM. At that stage of life prayer was the only term I really had when it came to a presence encounter. I began to process that the Lord was telling me to set an atmosphere for students to encounter him and prayer was the mortar that would help us build that culture. Like many youth pastors, I struggled to find my own identity while trying to convince students that they had to find their identity in Christ. Somehow it didn’t dawn on me that we needed to do the same thing with our youth ministry as we teach them to have personally. In other words, we would never suggest a student find their identity in movies, music, habits, or other culturally relevant entertainment. Somehow we load our youth programs with clean versions of entertainment that have inserts of biblical morals and tell them that was “youth service”. Based upon that standard, I was a miserable youth pastor, but when I decided that my identity as a youth pastor is in my identity as a believer, I stopped trying to be a good youth pastor and just decided to focus on encounter. In fact, when we set our hearts to build a prayer culture, we found that it set a healthy atmosphere for community. The way I would phrase it today is, “communion reveals community.” When we create a healthy and pure atmosphere void of unfruitful distractions, it will give us a better sense of community that we all really long for. The pressure comes when we try to build a “cool atmosphere” and nothing of worth to connect to. The highest priority of any group of believers must be the presence of Jesus and His grace toward us. IF that is in place THEN we are free to see the expressions of creativity and connection that we all want to be apart of our communities.
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#3 Don’t Give Room For Rogue Or Rebellion
What I mean by that statement is that you will never birth anything healthy in an environment built with a rebellious spirit. Please don’t mistake that concept as harnessing freedom, because it’s completely the opposite. We want students who are learning to express themselves and aren’t always afraid to make mistakes. I find that it’s a beautiful journey to watch a young person grow into maturity through a lens that doesn’t shame them for their faults but gives them a better illustration that keeps them moving toward a better possibility. But at the same time we want students to understand that a healthy identity doesn’t come from the attitude of, “WE are youth and THEY just don’t understand us”. A wounded heart is no place for a healthy identity. The hurt that comes with confusion will always leave a person wanting more as they are conforming to the system of an insecure thought pattern. If we are going to see a generation become a youth in revival then it begins with them discarding any rogue belief system that tells them anything less that the original intent God has for humanity. Students need to realize that rebellion isn’t them trying to be free from oppression, it’s actually them submitting to a lesser reality that will always hinder them from the freedom that Yahweh always intended for them to have. The Lord isn’t afraid of any person’s fears, failures or insecurities, but He also won’t let them build a healthy identity off of them. That’s why Paul said to the Roman church, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” This verse teaches us that a true identity is to live a lifestyle that is consumed by the goodness of Jesus and is pressing away from the rebellious thought patterns of this world. To be a youth in revival means a youth that is surrendered through devotion lifestyle and not a momentary experience.
We all have a part to play in seeing this generation turned upside down for Jesus, but it may not come in a moment, it will come through the commitment to a process. There are no clear cut roads or methods to revival, just committed hearts that desire encounter above experience. Experience will alone give you a memory, but encounter can change your life. Today I see a generation on the horizon and now rising that is shining like the sun and committed to the genuine nature of Jesus Christ. They have laid aside the notion of “fitting in” but have come to the conclusion that they don’t want to be entertained or dumbed down. They want the raw and real presence of a Holy God. That’s the encounter that I believe this generation is longing for and not the one based on the insecurities that come with trying to make people fit in. I am finding that Yahweh will do the “fitting” if I will commit to the longing for His presence. We are setting our heart for one thing: Seeing Jesus and Him glorified in the earth!