Here’s our blog of the talk from the first big session at Youthwork the conference, by Kiera Phyo, from Tearfund.
We want to put to rest any comparison, any fear or inadequacy this weekend. Take on a position of surrender, listen to him astutely. We offer our weary feet and remember that he washes them. We come before him with hopes which might be unmet and ambitions based on ego and lay it down and let him lead us. Our posture is kneeling, our cry is calling for your kingdom come.
This week I nearly killed my husband Trevor. He is fatally allergic to peanuts. He has about 20 minutes before he dies. He ate this Thai Green Curry – suddenly felt his mouth tingling. Looked at the packet and saw it had roasted peanuts. He went for epi-pen and couldn’t find it – looked everywhere – it was where it should be – the panic blinded him. Jesus is before us and our panic and stress consumes us so we can’t see him.
Paul says follow me as I follow Christ. He knew who Jesus was, he had experienced a blinding moment, his blinkers had fallen, and he saw God in real light. May God take away any scales we have tonight. May comfort and consumerism not skew our view to the call of Jesus.
What would a generation of young people following Jesus look like? Mainly they look like this. They know they are the people who God has invited to host heaven on this earth. They walk it differently, gently caring for creation, inviting those on the margins to join in, they boldly walk where fear lurks, their friendships is surprising and their judgement is ceasing, they are sold out for Jesus. They understand how their local and global neighbour relate to them, standing against a me first culture. Loving their neighbours until it hurts. We need their influence and their power for good. We need them to create a different way. A generation of whole-hearted disciples. Deeply believe that young people are Jesus’ people and make a different. They maybe tomorrow’s leaders but they are today’s agents of change.
- What does it look like for us to follow Christ?
- What does it look like for us to lead a generation of young people?
Repeatedly the story of Jesus is he didn’t bend to the pressure of culture. He set a different value system, praising things the world belittled. Jesus the ruler of the world was born in a stable, following a rabbi was the equivalent of Oxbridge and yet Jesus collected a random group of poor people; instead of elitism he created radical inclusion. It was usual for the Roman ruler to ride into the city on Passover with the war horse and his men so the subordinates knew if they rebelled they would be crushed; instead he came in on a donkey with a rabble of disciples and some of his friends and family. He didn’t believe in the power of the sword but in the power of an idea – to love your enemy. Jesus the saviour of all laid down his life to the point of crucifixion, to the point of the ceasing of his heartbeat. This is the Jesus we follow.
What did his leadership style look like?
Philippians 2: the most ancient words written about Jesus, Paul was quoting a hymn written about of Jesus. In 1st century Rome the rulers were demi-Gods, they didn’t just receive taxes but offerings and worship. These words were deeply political, linked to people who normally wanted to be Caesar, isca-theo “little god” you needed a power base, creating a temple in your name, growing a cult like following. Jesus instead practices something called kenosis, self-emptying – emptying the use of power for his own gain, coming like a servant. It is the same essence we hear from John the Baptist in John 3:30 “he must become greater, I must become less”. This is about leadership the right way, not about striving, and grasping, but humility, love and servanthood.
The 1st century Christians claimed the pagan language – it is unashamedly saying we are part of different kingdom following a different kind of Lord, it changes our frame of reference. I am not measured by what culture says is right or good, but about surrender and faithfulness. Whether or not we have 200 young people or 2 young people it makes not a blind bit of difference, it’s about being faithful. Leading young people away from Caesar’s empire and into the kingdom of God.
What stops us seeing Christ revealed, pain, suffering, disappointment, tiredness, feeling alone. Our emotion fibs to us and doesn’t tell us we’re worthy, it tells us the world is against us when Jesus the Lord is for us. Spirit come be with us, convict us of ill placed ambition and comparison. Breathe courage into us to drop false identity. May we be contagiously comfortable in our own skin, gloriously proud of God’s workmanship.
What does it look like for us to lead a generation of young people?
What does it look like out of this place to lead a generation of young people. We help them to know God is their friend. In the moment when their emotions are lying to them and when pain is in their life we let them know God is there and isn’t a God with a magic wand who makes the world a better place but he is present with them, and believes that we can be the people to help bring transformation.
For a generation who want to influence society we can paint a compelling picture of Christ that shows they are part of his mission dei, the mission of God. Tim when he was 18 was passionate about Christ and was passionate about the idea of stopping homelessness. He shared with his friends and eventually went to his MP with 1,200 signatures from young people saying this is not good enough, asked his friends to get sponsored to sleep on their floor for a week as he wanted to think about the millions who can’t sleep in a house. Teresa ran a fun day for her community and saw 300 children come to the day. Her church saw double the number at their holiday club.
Love a bit of pop sociology. Mainstream culture says Generation Z says I am resourceful, growing up in an age of austerity, I am 15 and striving for my career now, want to own my own business and be an entrepreneur, self taught by webinars. Our young people have an enterprising spirit, we need to let them be spiritual entrepreneurs, let them play.
I am 15 and I want to participate. Don’t give me a tokenistic invitation, I have seen more advertising in 1 month than my parents have seen in their lifetime. They want authenticity, one summer festival ran a stream on vulnerable leadership and the seminar size doubled and demographic of age halved.
Malala Yousafzai is my hero, she was shot by the Taliban as she wanted girls to be allowed to access education. 70% of young people are concerned about the poverty and justice. IN the Sahara normally they grow crops and have 15 bags to feed them, this year the climate gave them 1 bag. They are looking for ant hills, digs down a metre deep and steals the crane from the ants to feed her children. Generation Z care about that, their impact on the climate and how that links to those living in the Saharan strip.
They are self-interested as well as altruistic. If their belief in Jesus is emotionally based and peer based it is fragile and in moments of crisis it will always fail. We need to help them base their faith on something bigger, a frame of reference that is God centred. A high view of others, themselves and God.
Malala was interviewed by Emma Watson: “Don’t think you are young and can’t do something, when I was writing a blog for the BBC I was 11 years old, when I was speaking out that was my age … age cannot put a limit on things. Don’t think one day I will grow up and I’ll do things. Don’t wait for the stage. It will be too late.”
I used to believe that to encourage and lead young people I needed to be one step ahead, but it is changing, instead of leading from the front we need to allow them to participate and lead and know they are as important as any other member of the family.
If given the invitation they will shape the culture of our church for good. They will walk on this land differently, people will see them and say they are Jesus’ disciples.