Last week I visited a mega-church, and I sat behind a group of college and high school students who were goofing off and checking their phones and leaving early. One of their mothers left in the middle of the sermon and didn’t come back. I started getting terribly sad and angry about the whole thing; they all had Bibles in their hands and some had notepads to take notes, but they were just being rowdy and whispering loudly and laughing at the most inappropriate times. I thought, This is it, this is our future of church. No one cares.
And then — I remembered when I was in high school and college, and how much I goofed off and talked during the sermon and was so dang fidgety and rowdy, and how God still worked through a young rebellious punk like me. I remembered how God side-tackled me into pastoral ministry and blessed me with a full scholarship to seminary and pulverized my heart into a Jesus-loving, people-serving, unashamed follower. Not perfect, never, but far from where I used to be in the very same place as those kids.
So I stopped judging and I started praying. I prayed for big visions for all of them, that God would do incredible wonderful things that they could barely believe were happening — amazing works that they never thought possible. I mean if I went back to my past self ten years ago and said, “Here’s what you’re going to do for God,” I never would’ve believed it. But this is what Jesus does. He takes the most ragged, rowdy, unlikely wanderer and puts us on the frontlines to flex His glory, to wield His love, to heal people just like us. He’s always doing things like that: and it gives me hope. It gives me patience, and grace.
8 thoughts on “Hope For Those Punk Kids At Church (Like Me)”
Definitely a perspective I don’t always realize. Thanks for this!
Thank you Leah! 🙂
When I wanted to get rowdy I left church for awhile and came back, It is tough to hold their attention or mine long. Mega churches leave to much room for that as they are auditoriums with stages and it is a show, no different in movie theaters. My father was right, “If a church gets over 600 members it is time to build another church!” You loose all intimacy. I was in the habit of getting out of the chancel and going down the aisle when I preached so I could make eye contact. If they are engaged you don’t loose them!
To be fair, I’ve always told myself that if the youth don’t pay attention, it’s either 1) my fault that I didn’t enter their world, or 2) they’re paying attention but it’s hard to tell. I’m always surprised when the most rowdy or least interested-looking seem to be the most impacted. Credit to Christ on that one.
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Out in the rural congregations life is different, I went to all their sporting events, 4H and FFA, County Fairs, Rodeos, music and dance recitals. It was visitation, and the best entertainment in town! I baptized confirmed, and married off some of the kids. You can know your sheep by name out here!. Ditto the ones who didn’t seem to pay attention. Ironically they are in the Marines and I Facebook with them weekly!
That’s one of the things I hate most about religion, the authoritarian demand for conformity! I always thought when little children crawled under the pews it was good, the little ones acting like little ones. More than once I sensed the crowd was somewhere else and I just ended my sermon. Like really, did Jesus make people into robotic responders, or did the Saviour meet people where they were and enter into their living?! I’ll stop before I say so much that I sound un-Christian…
It’s good that you’re sensitive to the pliable moment in sermons. It can be tough for the ego, but I always think better too short than too long.
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