You know it is Christmas as the John Lewis advert is out. Have learnt over the years that it is better to get a present for Beth than none. Often leave it to the last minute, Christmas Eve. Once tried to buy a Christmas jumper, which Beth wanted from Topshop. Couldn’t remember what is was, cocoon slouchy jumper. Saw a shop assistant but decided to ignore the help and instead became cave man hunting for woolly jumper to bring back to cave. Looked everywhere, after 20 minutes, and the same shop assistant is now looking slightly smug. Eventually the pride gives way and Andy asks for help. Eventually in the right one but it is the wrong colour so wanted to burn Topshop down. Had to buy something from Zara in despair which she took back. Found out the cocoon jumper didn’t exist in navy!
Been looking for the silver bullet in evangelism and yet its never appeared. Looking for that formula where young people spring out of the ground. The silver bullets where everything becomes instant and easy doesn’t exist. The urgency is becoming more – it is getting harder and the situation for young people is increasingly desperate. At Soul Survivor looked at relationships, and tried to make space for people to encounter God through the Holy Spirit. Staggered by the pain that came out. Had a word that someone said to a family member they wanted to commit suicide the day before they came to Soul Survivor there were scores of young people. Those are the ones in the church!
There are less young people in the church than ever before. There are less young people in the church than when Soul Survivor started. The Christian story doesn’t exist in society any more. They’re fed dreams and aspirations that they can’t realise and/or are empty promises that never quench desires.
Although that is the context, never more confident that the gospel is the thing they need to hear. We don’t rejoice that the situation is becoming increasingly serious, we grieve in that, but we know Jesus is who they need to meet.
Matthew 12:21: In his name the nations will put their hope
Type “Am I Ugly Be Honest” – young people as young as 11 years old are asking the question. Some people in the comments say I’d shoot myself or put a bag over my head. We try to find a secure bedrock to build our self-worth on it. We tell the young people that God is the only solid ground, if you try with sport, exam results etc. it doesn’t work.
In youth ministry sometimes we lose confidence, we forget we have the medicine – unconditional love – it doesn’t get more powerful or simple. All love in the world is to some degree conditional, but Jesus’ love on the cross is unconditional. Let’s use every method, every course, every formula to help them somehow realise the unconditional love of God.
When we talk about peer mission it’s true, but only if they get it themselves otherwise they’re talking about a reality that isn’t in his core. Little girl has a pillow fight with her dad, during which this china doll gets broken. Daddy offers to buy a new one, she wanted that one, so he got all the pieces and glued it back together as best as he could. He gives it back to the little girl, she says “It’s ok, I want that one, just because she’s broken doesn’t mean I can’t love her.”
Just because you’re broken doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. Our young people are broken and they need to know more than ever they are loved.
Hope that something can change
Hope it doesn’t have to be the same. Some young people are really messed up. Sometimes it can be I doubt that the Lord can do anything. We lose confidence that He can do anything.
If you hang around anyone for long enough you become like them. How much more so when you hang out with the king of the universe. Of course we change, of course no one is irredeemable. Youth group after one of the services chatting, and one of the guys spoke about how his brother was murdered when he was 7. Brought to Soul Survivor and wouldn’t go into the evening meetings but punched a post until his knuckles bled. On the last night he asked God to speak to him. He felt all his anger was ripped out of him, and that’s all he’d ever felt. A year later he was so much softer. When people encounter the living God they can be changed. And we know that as he’s changed us.
Andy was dumped when he was 16 and so decided not to show vulnerability, didn’t want to get hurt again. Tried to change himself, grit his teeth to become more joyful but it didn’t work. But meeting after meeting God softened Andy. It worked itself out in really practical ways. Never had a relationship with his older brother who wasn’t a Christian, never really spoke. Realised that wasn’t normal and so decided to try and form a relationship with his brother. Went into his room, “Paul I feel like we’ve always had a superficial relationship and I’d like to get to know you is that ok?” he said yes, so Andy then walked out! Jesus has changed us in lots of different kinds of ways.
We can’t bring change but we can be a channel for that. A lot of it is speaking hope into the situations. We need to bring a message of hope and change, but we have to help young people go out with brokenness, the healing is in the going and the doing, empowering them in mission. In mission their friendships with God come alive in a whole new way.
At the Great Commission he says surely I am with you always. Young people get mission when they do it, they see their friends lives changed. We need to equip them that friendship with God is stronger when we go and do what he calls us to do.
Speaking at Oxford University CU mission, and had to speak at the Carol Service. The night before Psalm 71 came to mind and was encouraged. The next morning nothing was coming, it was quite stressful. Got in the car and didn’t have any talk. Was thinking “I could pray but what would that do!”. Marched off to the theatre where he was due to speak and sat on the toilet wondering why did God not give it earlier. Kept opening up to Psalm 71. Texted dad asking him to pray for him, dad texted back and said the holy spirit is resting on you and driving out fear, great but where is he! The deadline came and had to speak with a scrap of paper with a few notes. It went okay in the end. Driving home thinking what was all that about. The next morning sent dad a text, it went okay in the end, check out Psalm 71; he texted back it is a good one, that was in our lectionary reading last night in chapel! There was the Lord – you were there all along.
There is an urgency but there is confidence.
Hope they are worth something
Hope their lives can be changed
Hope they can be part of something bigger
The only way we can communicate that is with the power of God. A.W. Tozer “I sometimes wonder about those who fancy themselves as important evangelicals will discover at the end we have been busy harvesters of stubble.”
Classical concert waiting for the famous pianist to arrive on stage. Little kid ran onto stage and was playing chopsticks. The pianist arrived and instead of telling th child to stop, the pianists put his arms either side and wove a beautiful piece of music from the chopsticks. If we play our chopsticks over and over again then the Father will weave his eternal spirit around and he will bring the change our country needs and with that we can be confident that the tide will change in this nation.
So we’re going to ask the Lord to give us that power.