I am 32.
According to most Christian researchers, writers, and church leaders, I am the future of the church. I am the person who will “save” the church from its membership decline, from its lack of vitality, and its structural problems. I am the one who will lead people back to Christ, create new ministries that reach to the broken and lost of our world, and find ways to be relevant to a media-obsessed culture. I am the person who will redeem the church in our culture.
As a young adult (someone under the age of 35), I am the considered as the “answer” for all the church’s problems. We are told that we are the future. The people in the church, especially pastors, who are to take charge, take the lead, and fix what has been handed to us. We are to bring our fellow brothers and sisters along with us, and redeem the church. We are marketed as such by our church leaders who, rightly so, want to reach the young adults who are missing in our congregations and church life. We are proclaimed as the church’s hope.
I have a problem with this, because I am not the church’s savior. I am not the church’s solution. I am not the answer to any one set of problems.
What I am is a servant who is seeking after God’s own heart. I am a disciple. I am a leader. I am a pastor. I am a teacher. I am a writer. I am many things, but what I am not is the church’s solution or answer.
Why do I feel this way?
First, the church already has a savior. The church doesn’t need me to act as “Jesus” and save the church. We need the church to believe Jesus is alive and is present through the Holy Spirit. Vitality in the church will come when we are in relationship with Christ and are desiring to be led by the Spirit in our communities and world. It will not come through marketing schemes that seek to make the church more appealing to younger generations. The church must be relevant, because it seeks to be an authentic and transparent community that seeks to live in a faith relationship with Christ and in community with one another.
Second, we must be unified together. One of my biggest struggles with the focus on young adults being the future is it ignores the contributions of older generations. I am saddened when the church fails to listen to the needs and concerns of older adults simply because of their age. Our older adults have much to contribute to the life and vitality of a congregation. The church should not ignore others because of a person’s age. This is ageism and it has no place in the church. The church of Jesus Christ should not be segmented into factions that puts older adults in one corner and youth and young adults in another. A vital church focuses on all people.
Third, it’s not about me. Many of my fellow young adults have embraced the idea that we are the church’s future and have attempted to grab the leadership mantle with both hands. This is a mistaken approach. You lose your ability to speak to all people when you seem to be more interested in power and authority than true change and engagement. As pastors and leaders, regardless of our age, we must remember that it is not about me. It’s not about what I want for the church. It is about being the church that Christ has called us to be and living in response to that calling. This might mean that our dreams are never fulfilled and our agendas are never accomplished. Many of us might need to spend time wrestling with that. If our dreams and goals are not fulfilled would we feel as though we were obedient to the Kingdom? In other words, is it about me or is it about Christ?
I expect to be a leader and a voice in the church for a long time. I hope that I will be influential and a servant to Christ in that role. However, I am not your savior. I am not your solution. I am not the answer.
I am merely a servant seeking to lead others to Christ and proclaim the name of Christ in our communities.