“I see a generation rising up to take their place.”
Those were the words that came to me this Sunday morning in church. I stood, worshipping and singing, as I watched the group who was leading worship. I saw that it was made up of youth and young adults, no one older than I am.
That was my generation up there and I had never been so encouraged.
There are many statistics and articles out there on the subject on young adults leaving the church. They are grim and disheartening. And I saw it happen in my own church. But on Sunday, I saw hope for this generation.
I didn’t always feel this way in my church. There was a time about 5-6 years ago when I was very discouraged in my church. I remember sitting in the parking lot of McDonald’s with my now-husband, crying. I told him I was spiritually dying in our church. I wanted to go some place else, some place with a vision. I wasn’t even 21 years old and I was already so tired.
My husband and I grew up in the same church. We had gotten close in our youth group. We had felt connected in a group of young people led by a youth pastor who was part-encourager, part-teacher, part-friend. Although we were college age, we still considered us to be a part of that group. But by this point in the parking lot, our youth pastor had, for many reasons that we understood, left our church. We did not have a senior pastor at this point. I could count on one hand the people our age who consistently came on Sundays. To me, it was time to leave. My now-husband wanted to stay. Although we weren’t engaged yet, I knew that we would get married and I thought it was important to stay in the same church even before we did, so we stayed.
We stayed in a church that was dwindling in numbers. There were many reasons for this, but I believe that most of it had to do with not being culturally relevant to the time and place the church was in and a lack in local outreach.
Soon after that, we assumed the position of Sunday School leaders. I remember that I did not have a passion for it but accepted it because there was nobody else. I had no training for this position.
I became resentful when I would hear of friends and family having the opportunity to visit other churches like Hillsong (which I wanted to go to for years when I saw there was one in London). As a Sunday School leader, I had to be in church every Sunday. I felt more discouraged to not only not be able to go to a church with loved ones, but to not be spiritually fed in a Sunday morning (because Sunday school was held during he main service) and to not have a friend in church to commune with.
So this Sunday, looking at the worship team that was playing, I couldn’t help but smile. I saw two girls from Sunday School class all those years ago on stage, using their beautiful voices. I like to think that my husband chose to stay all those years ago because he has sensed something like this was in store and he knew I would not have wanted to miss it.
With all this madness in the world today, it was refreshing to see my generation praising the name of the God I love. It was encouraging to know that I am not alone.
Three years ago, during another period without a senior pastor, I sat in the church nursery with my newborn son and I heard the voice of God telling me that my generation was going to rise up and take over this church. Two days ago, I noticed the fulfillment of His promises.
Two years ago, there were no youth or young adult ministries in our church. Today, they are the fastest growing ones in our church.
I want to be clear that I in no way am against an older generation. Just as church should not be exclusive to an older generation, it should not be exclusive to a younger one. There should be a rich cultural and age diversity inside of the body of Christ. No group should aim to kick out another. All groups should work together with the purpose of furthering the Kingdom of Christ.
“The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.”
1 Corinthians 12:25-26 MSG
God keeps His promises. Even in our lowest points, He whispers something to us, gives us a small reason to keep hanging on. And then, without even realizing it, we see He has been working in the background the whole time and His promises are being fulfilled.
I pray this encourages you in the same way it has encouraged me.