Here's the thing: I love Young Life. That wasn't always the case and it's been quite the journey over the past 11 years, but I love it. I try to capture it the best I can with pictures and stories but it's difficult to authentically describe until you've experienced it yourself.
Today I was reading a post from Rend Collective that I just loved. I went back and reread it when I finished the first time because it was just so good. There are so many truths crammed in that I wish all Christians could read. And so much of it reminded me of why I love being part of Young Life.
And so because Rend Collective is far more eloquent than me, I'm going to share their words with you and I've bolded all of my favorite parts. Feel free to read it with their Irish accent to get the full affect.
But by the time millennials enter the scene, ironically mustached and coffee scented, a generation or two later, the focus has shifted somewhat. The buzzword of the church used to be “evangelism” but now it’s “community." We saw that while the numbers of converts and “salvations” were wildly encouraging during the last era of the church (think Billy Graham revivals), the perceived “weakness” was that sometimes the actual integration of these people into the church wasn’t that great. Church leaders summed it up well saying, “We made a lot of converts but not so many disciples.” Basically we were really good at inviting people to the party… but the party itself kind of sucked. The dance floor was pretty much empty. There were only a few slices of pizza left. And it was the weird veggie one.
Millennials want to change that - with sound scriptural basis for doing so. The church should be the greatest community on earth. As the earthly echo of Jesus’ heart, the world should stand amazed at how we love each other. We should be a warm, glowing safe-haven from an often harsh world.
The danger I foresee for us is that, in the busywork of crafting an exquisite, Kinfolk magazine quality, Pinterest wedding-y vision of Christian community, we might lose our passion for the lost. We might lose that quality of courageous commitment to sharing the good news that was such a strength of the church in the past - and such a battering ram to the gates of Hell. We might lose our likeness to the Good Shepherd and start preferring to stay in comfort with the ninety-nine rather than pursue the wanderer. It's just so tempting to become too cozy, too comfortable and too safe.
We need to remind ourselves that we are not a social club - we are the church. Our community has to be more than just nice people behaving nicely together in nice coffee shops, discussing nice spiritual things. It’s been said that the unique thing about the church is that it’s the only organization that exists primarily for the benefit of its NON members. Let’s make sure this stays true, all the more so as we continue to strive for the deepest fellowship imaginable among our “existing members”.
I think one of the excuses I sometimes tell myself is that community is evangelism. There’s an element of truth in that sentiment, I guess. A community that really lives out Christ’s vision of radical sacrificial love for one another is an attractive, inviting and almost irresistible thing. St Francis of Assisi is credited with having said “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.” The only issue is that I’m forced to agree with the apostle Paul that “Faith comes from hearing the word” - it’s pretty much always necessary to use words. The fellowship and unity of the church certainly do provide a living picture of some of the gospel. Just not enough to articulate a saving knowledge of Jesus. As much as I would like to be let off the hook and not have to go through the effort and cringe-y awkwardness of telling people about Jesus out loud, letting my life and community speak for itself, I just can’t get around it. I have to speak up.
The campfire, for us, is a picture of missional community. There are no walls around its open flame. All are welcome and invited to the fireside. We shout over to passers-by as we sing our stripped-down songs and offer them a place among us, asking them to add their voices to our ramshackle choir. We share our stories and inevitably share about The Author, because we’ve been blessed so richly that we can’t stay silent.
I’m so excited for the strides the church has made in becoming more like the church in the famously beautiful picture of fellowship at the end of Acts 2. We are sharing life, teaching, worship, faith and even our money better than ever as far as I can see. Let’s just make sure we are also seeing the Lord "adding to our number daily". That is the hallmark of a kingdom community.
As we embark into a whole new year of Young Life I'm so excited for all of the potential of what God will do amongst us, the people who will join us and the ways we'll radically love together. I pray that we will keep our barn doors open-- always bringing in and inviting more and more friends to join us in this community. We will continue to share our stories and live lives of a worthy calling.