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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Growing Young - Take Jesus Seriously

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            What do growing churches do that stagnant or declining churches fail to do?  Pastors’ bookshelves are lined with volumes giving the definitive approach to church growth.  Pastors’ email in-boxes are overrun with advertisements promising to “grow your church.”  Sometimes techniques in one program directly contradict the ideas put forth by another author.  What leads to church growth?  There’s no simple answer. 

We don’t want growth for growth’s sake.  We want our church to be a place where people are drawn closer to God through their relationship with Jesus.  If we are that kind of church, we think growth will happen.  Our elders and deacons have prayed that God will help us grow as we help people become disciples of Jesus. 

The writers of the Growing Young study researched 100’s of churches that successfully help people aged 10-25 learn to follow Jesus.  One of the top findings of their research is a set of six core commitments.  Every growing young church exhibited at least four and in most cases all six.  

This week we look at the third core commitment: “Take Jesus Seriously.”  Don’t all churches do that?  Maybe not.  In the lingo of Growing Young “take Jesus seriously” means teens and young adults prefer to deal with what Jesus really said and did.  He died a bloody, violent death on the cross.  He told any who would follow him that they had to die to self, and take up their cross.  Following Jesus means he is first in our lives.  He comes before our ambitions, our most important relationships, everything. 

Not all young people (and not all older Christians either) are ready to put Jesus first.  We have academic goals.  We have career ambitions.  Some kids’ lives are all about their sports careers.  Some young adults are wrapped up with dating.  Maybe some hope for marriage.  These and other good things can be all consuming.  Jesus says, no, these things have to fall in line behind the commitment to and relationship with him.  Young people don’t always make that radical commitment, but the research shows that churches that grow young present robust Gospel challenges rather than a non-descript, easy sounding Gospel.

Pop culture, unfortunately, too often promotes that easy, non-descript gospel, sometimes called as moralistic therapeutic deism.  The National Study of Youth and Religion concluded that “American young people are, theoretically, fine with religious faith – but it does not concern them very much.”[i]  The sense is that faith leads to being a good, moral person.  Moralistic.  Religion helps you feel better.  Therapeutic.  And God exists, somewhere, up there, out there, but He’s not involved in life here.  That’s Deism. 

It’s fine to be moral, feel good, and say God exists.  The Bible says much more.  In 2 Corinthians 1:3, “The God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ … consoles us in all our affliction.  … The sufferings of Christ are abundant for us.”  Some God of some kind somewhere out there in some way helps us feel better?  No.  God is revealed in Jesus, a first century Jewish man.  This Jesus died on a Roman cross around 33 AD. The God revealed in him consoles us through the love shown to us in the death of Jesus.  He suffered this violence suffered because sin leads to death. We all sin.  He took our place in death.

Moral Therapeutic Deism, feel-good religion, has as its partner, Golden-rule Christianity.  Based on Luke 6:31, do to others as you would have them do to you, this approach to faith is effort-based.  Advocates of Golden Rule Christianity skip over the instructions Jesus gives just a couple of verses previous to this one.  Love your enemies.  Bless those who curse you.  When struck, turn the other cheek.  Feel-good religion (Moral Therapeutic Deism) and Do-good religion (Golden Rule Christianity) both live out very positive ideas.  But they are individualistic and based on our behavior, not our confession of faith in Jesus and a growing relationship in which we follow Jesus’ lead in all the places of our lives. 

I was in a bizarre conversation about politics with a friend in my neighborhood.  She and I feel the same way about the issue we were discussing: health care.  Yet she started going off on me, railing against Christians who disagree with her point of view.  “How can someone be a Christian and not take my view on ‘Obama care’?”  She was in a pretty worked up state of agitation, so I decided it wasn’t the right time to tell her someone’ Christianity is not tied to their opinion of ‘Obama care.’  Our Christianity is tied to our faith in Jesus.  Who am I in Christ?  That’s what defines my Christianity, not my politics or moral code.  Feel-good religion and do-good religion, only vaguely interested in Jesus, think life is about an individual’s story.  Life is all about me.  Followers Jesus know life is about God and God’s kingdom.  Our individual stories are part of God’s larger story.

I started this message asking “What makes the church grow?”  It’s a question I hope you’ll consider, but even more, I hope you’ll deeply ponder a bigger question.  What is the Gospel?  Is it feel-good, do-good?  Or is it God’s story, and how God’s story is central to your experience and your life? 

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead; He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us” (v.9-10).  He’s referring to an experience he had while sharing about Jesus in Greece.  However, though his words mention a specific instance from his life, those words speak to our lives once we decide to be totally sold out in following Jesus.  In Christ, God rescues us and we live as saved people here and now, today.  We live dependent on God because he who raised Christ can be trusted.

This way of living is seen in three shifts described in the Growing Young approach.  First, we talk less about abstract ideas and more about the specifics of Jesus’ life and teachings.  We’ve already addressed this.  We choose radical discipleship, following Jesus and receiving the blessings he gives, instead of anemic, vague feel-good, do-good religion. 

The second shift is a move away from religious formulas and a move toward a redemptive narrative.  Our faith is part of a real, messy story full of twists and turns but ending in resurrection, first Jesus’ and then ours.  It can’t be reduced to a pithy statement on coffee mug.  It is a lived relationship, a full-fledged, epic narrative.

Shift 1, from abstract ideas to specific teaching from and about Jesus.  Shift 2, from formula to salvation story.  The third shift is a move away from talk about heaven in the distant future and a move toward life lived following Jesus in our day-to-day, here and now. 

Paul had a stormy relationship with the Corinthian church.  He probably wrote four letters to that church.  Second Corinthians is either one of those four, or it is a composite of parts of letters 2, 3, and 4.  Paul wrote to them so much, with such force and emotion because he loved these people and wanted them to find redemption in Jesus and they were having trouble doing that.  Even though he was an itinerant minister and away from them more than with them, he didn’t abandon them. 

In the passage read earlier, he tries to explain why he hasn’t arrived when he said he would.  If his “yes” I’ll come became a “no,” I can’t come it was because God led him to change plans.  He appeals to his Corinthians friends to trust that he loves them even if they don’t see him.  He’s trying to obey God.  Obedience: that’s how we live our salvation here and now. 

Imagine the teenager.  She likes her boyfriend and she wants to follow Jesus.  She wants both, badly.  She wants to be in love with this boy. And she wants to grow in Christ.  She and that boy are healthy, their bodies are mature, and the hormones are raging.  He wants to have sex with her.  She wants that too, but she believes Jesus wants her to wait.  Save sex for marriage. She is sure Jesus is leading her that way, just as she is sure the boyfriend is ready at a moment’s notice.  The decision to follow Jesus means she’s not going to have sex before marriage.  Even if the boyfriend she thinks she loves gives the ultimatum – sex or break-up – she won’t budge. That’s one example of taking Jesus seriously.  That’s one way she is living her salvation here and now. 

In that example, sex is not an evil.  It’s a beautiful aspect of God’s creation, but like all things, it is submitted to Jesus.  A disciple submits fully when he or she takes Jesus seriously.  Young people and everyone, when we do that, we live differently than the people around us.  The way we make decisions will not always make sense to our friends who don’t follow Jesus, but our stories are entwined with God’s story.

We also discover that life in Christ is the most blessed of lives to be lived.  In Jesus Christ, Paul writes, “every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes’”.  That teenager may not ever get married, may not ever have sexual union with a man.  She has spiritual union with God in Christ, a union she grows into throughout her life.  She’s part of the church family.  She experiences joy that builds throughout life and continues building in eternity. And if she does get married, then her marriage is submitted to Christ as well. 

I’ve talked about a teen’s decision to abstain from premarital sex as a discipleship decision.  We could say the same about who we are in our work.  Our work ethic and our personal morals come as a result of Jesus at work in us.  In feel-good and do-good religion, people call themselves Christians because they think their morals are good.  And the pay-off is religion makes them feel happy and fulfilled.  When our lives are in Christ, any good we do is a result of the Holy Spirit expressing God’s will through us.  We don’t settle for fleeting happiness.  We are filled with divine joy that remains no matter how well life is or isn’t going at any particular moment.  We sense God’s presence smiling with us in the highs and consoling us, to use Paul’s word, in the lows.

The final words from the passage are “It is God who establishes us with you in Christ and [who] has anointed us, but putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment” (2 Cor. 1:21-22).  No program or book can guarantee our church will grow.  The good news is, Jesus has died for us, is with us, and offers us forgiveness and new life as his disciples, sons and daughters of God.

Young people aged 10-25 can handle all that this Gospel entails.  When they meet Jesus, they become on-fire disciples ready to follow Him to the ends of the earth.  And by the way, that’s true for people of all ages and it is never too late to take that first step toward him in faith.


[i] K. Powell, J. Mulder, and B. Griffin (2016), Growing Young, Baker Books (Grand Rapids), p.130.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Growing Young/Empathy (Colossians 3:5-17)

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I See you, I am For You” (Colossians 3:12-14)
Sunday, May 19, 2019

            “Pastor, if I raise my finger, will God know which one I’m going to raise even before I raise it?”
            Thirteen-year-old Steve attended church every week and this particular Sunday, he asked the pastor this question.  “Yes,” the pastor answered, “God knows everything.”
            Steve then pulled out Life magazine, with a photo of children in another country starving to death.  He asked the pastor who had just told him ‘God knows everything,’ “Does God know what’s going to happen to these kids?” 
            The pastor said, “Steve, I know you don’t understand, but yes, God know about those dying children.”  If you were Steve, would you be satisfied with the pastor’s response?  Steve wasn’t.  He walked out that day and never again worshiped at a Christian church.
            When Steve was troubled by the question of starving children, he went to his pastor.  I don’t know what answer the pastor could have given, but in the case of 13-year-old Steve, the answer he did give drove the boy from church.  He didn’t feel the pastor respected him.  He was asking a serious question, one that troubled him, one that should have troubled the pastor, and should trouble all of us.  If God is all powerful and God is good, how can there be suffering in the world? 
He felt that the pastor dismissed him with a trite answer and the degrading assertion that he “wouldn’t understand.”  That inquisitive boy grew up and founded a company whose products you might have in your pocket.  Steve Jobs created Apple, the iPhone. When he was a kid trying to work through pain and big questions, he felt like all his pastor and his church did was tussle his hair and tell him he didn’t understand.
Imagine if that conversation went differently.  Thirteen-year-old Steve, clearly troubled, asks, “Pastor, does God know there are children starving to death?  What’s He doing about it?”  What if instead of a simplistic answer to a complicated question, instead, the pastor invited Steve to sit and talk.  What if Steve’s big question became an “on-ramp to a deeper discussion about faith?”[i]
We can’t go back in time to change the interaction between adolescent Steve Jobs and his pastor.  Maybe the pastor was ready to talk, but nothing he could have said would have made a difference.  We’ll never know.  Here is what I do know.  I have spent time with the teenagers in our church.  The middle and high schoolers in our youth group, the young adults, and some of the older elementary students ask questions every bit as big as those Steve Jobs asked his pastor. 
We have the opportunity to respect them when they ask big questions.  We can dive deep into those question with inquisitive young people.  When they ask big questions, we adults can allow ourselves to be reminded to ask big questions too.  We can allow ourselves to be reminded that there aren’t always easy answers and we don’t always agree with each other on the answers.  But, we can care about each other enough to listen to one another, go to the Bible together, prayer together, and seek answers together. 
If our church is to successfully grow young in our mindset and in our spirit, we need to say to our children, teens, and young adults, “I see you.  I feel you.  I am for you.”  We need to be so genuine in adopting a posture of understanding, presence, and respect, that young people hear us and know that we mean it.  We really do see and respect them.  We are for them.  And if we practice this stance when our young people bring big questions, we’ll find that we’re treating our older people with similar generosity because we realize we all have big questions.  It’s just that some of us have become old and jaded, and we’ve become afraid to ask. 
The church is essentially a gathering of people who each are in Christ as individuals, and together are united in Christ.  In Christ, we welcome all people.  Every seeker and inquirer, every child and intrepid teen, everyone looking for a second or third or tenth chance after life has repeatedly broken them – all are welcome and invited in. 
When we have declared Jesus “Lord” and receive forgiveness, we receive the Holy Spirit.  We are in Christ, new creations.  Colossians 3:12 gives three names to all who are in Christ: they are God’s chosen ones; they are holy; and they are beloved.  If you have received Jesus, that means those are your names; chosen, holy, and beloved.
Those in Christ should live differently than those who are not Christ.  You could easily see if I changed my shirt.  You should be able to see just as clearly if I am in Christ or am not.  In Christ, I put to death fornication, impurity, uncontrolled passion, evil desire, and greed.  In Christ we get rid of anger, wrath, malic, slander, and abusive language.  We examine our lives and make the changes to put to death in us the things that need to be killed and to get rid the things that cause hurt and come between us and God. We strip off the old self.
But, we don’t prance about spiritually naked.  As the Spirit works in us, transforming us, it says in verse 10, we clothe ourselves with the new self; verse 12, we clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience; and verse 14, we clothe ourselves with love – the love that binds the church together. 
Of these garments that signal to others that we belong to the Lord, compassion, and patience are especially important when we talk about helping young people in our church become disciples of Jesus.  We can only help young people grow if we are in relationship with them – eliminating the us-them divide.  That relationship only happens when we identify with the struggles young people have.
Here’s one example of how we have to learn empathy and understand that without it, we won’t connect, we won’t grow young, and we’ll actually lose the youth and young adults who are here.  I come from the school of thought that we overmedicate kids.  I don’t remember kids when I was growing up taking medications for ADD or ADHD or anxiety or other things.  So, like an out-of-date curmudgeon I grumble about it.  Well, I was discussing this with a psychiatrist who prescribes meds in her practice.  I was ready to go off on my “kids these days rant,” when she, with genuine compassion in her voice said, “Imagine how hard life is for him without the medication.”
Ouch!  I don’t know if that psychiatrist is Christian.  I know I am supposed to be one.  I know I just read a passage from the Bible that’s supposed to my authority.  That passage said people in Christ clothe themselves with compassion and patience.  I, Mr. Christian, was already to grumble about the behavior of teenagers.  This “secular” psychiatrist felt the young person’s pain.  She wore the compassion that is supposed to be my clothing.  I wore that anger that Colossians 3:8 says I am supposed to get rid of. 
Showing compassion for today’s young people takes effort.  We have to put on patience, not just being patient with the young person I want to love and nurture, but also being patient with the process.  A woman recently wanted to introduce me to her teenaged daughter.  The kid wanted no part of this interaction.  As her mother tried to make introductions, the teen never removed the earbuds from her ears.  When I said, “Nice to meet you,” she said nothing, but just looked at me with eyes that told me to … well, I won’t use the crass phrase she communicated with her seething glare.  Her mother told her to take the earbuds out.  She snapped, “I can hear you.” 
If all I do is think, “What a rude kid!”  I’ll never reach that young person.  I need patience to get past that initial encounter.  Young people today, are on their phones all the time.  They want instant stimulus and immediate feedback they can control.  We have to stay present, open and ready to gently enter their lives when they invite us in.
We also have to be patient with the process.  Kids today are entering puberty a younger age and marrying at older ages.  That’s a long time to wait and many aren’t.  By 18, 75% of unchurched young people and 53% of church-going young people have had some kind of sexual experience.  Usually it is emotionally unhealthy experience.  Add this distorted sexuality to the way social media has opened the world to kids, and you have a much earlier starting point for entry into adulthood.
At the same time, these digitally connected, sexually confused young people stay home later.  Parents today are provide more financial help to their grown children than 40 years ago.  More American young adults are either don’t move out on their own, or do, but then move back home.  In terms of adult maturation kids are behind where they used to.  Twenty-five is the new 15.  And 15 is the new 25.  Both are true.
We aren’t going to solve this.  It isn’t a thing to be solved.  This is the world in which we are called to bear witness to Jesus.  He is Lord.  In him people have salvation. All people need salvation.  We are called to share this news and help people become his disciples within this world.  We have to put on compassion and patience every day. 
To be announcers of the gospel and makers of disciples, we have to work hard to understand our young people.  When they hear us say, “I see you; I am here for you,” they have to be convinced.  We have to say it in a way that they know we mean it. 
We have to get rid of phrases like “back in my day,” and “when I was growing up.”  Nowhere does the Bible tell us that nostalgia is a mark of discipleship.  We can honor the past and appreciate and learn from it.  We must not idolize it.  Relating to young people is messy, but we’ve got to be willing to go right into that mess, neck-deep. 
If we do, we’ll see the difference.  People come to Christ in a church that makes space for them the way Jesus made space for tax collectors, beggars, prostitutes, sinners and people deemed unclean by religious authorities.  If we convey the compassion the lost found in Jesus, the lost will come to us.  His Holy Spirit will effect transformation in them and in each one of us.  We don’t need to change people.  We need God to work change in us, making each of us more like Christ. 
We do that, and we’ll be ready when 13-year-old Steve comes with big questions.  We won’t rub his head as we condescendingly mutter, “Oh you’ll understand when you’re older.”  We sit with him and say, “Thank you for raising big questions.  Let’s explore it, reading the Bible, praying, and thinking together.  We can learn together and meet God together.”  We do that and this will be a church where seekers become disciples no matter their age.

[i] K. Powell, J. Mulder, and B. Griffin (2016), Growing Young, Baker Books (Grand Rapids), p.89-90.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Growing Young: Keychain Leadership

“The Importance of Being Fifteen” (Jeremiah 1:4-10)
Sunday, May 12, 2019

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            You’re 15, or were 15 at one time, or will be in the future.  Through memory, anticipation, or current lived experience, everyone has a sense of being 15.  You have your learners permit, or hope to get it soon.  You can drive, but only with mom or dad sitting beside you, so is it really that great?  Dad can’t stop himself. 
Slow down.  You’re too close the car in front of you.  Ohh, you’re taking this turn too sharply.  You’re going to run up on the curb.
I know Dad!  OK Dad.  No I am not, Dad.  That last “dad” gets stretched out.  D-A-A-D.  Fifteen. 
Your parents don’t like or understand your music.  You’re probably starting to have crushes, teenaged romances.  Of course the only thing worse than your parents asking about that is your pastor mentioning it Sunday morning.  Fifteen.
You want to be taken seriously, like a grown up.  But sometimes you want to play with your old toys. By the time today is over you will have amazed your parents with your grown up speech, and you will have held tightly to that beloved, needed childhood.  And if your grandparents visit, you’ll have to help them use their smart phones. 
You who remember being 15, whether it was 5 years ago or 60 years ago, hear this: God wants you to help the children, teenagers, and young adults in our church grow as followers of Jesus.  Your will develop as his disciple as you figure your role in helping the young people in our church develop as his disciples. 
You who are young, who will someday be 15, hear this: God wants you to play.  God wants you to enjoy your childhood.  God wants you laugh and be curious and be filled with wonder.  Even at your young age, you can begin knowing God through faith in Jesus.  Don’t rush it; 15 will come to you soon enough.  Today, look for God in your life, love your parents, learn, grow, and play.
And you who are 15; play is for you too, as it is for all of us.  Never stop playing.  But, along with play, think about the wide, vast, wonderful world God has made.  Think about your place in it.  By the time David turned 15, he had already defeated Goliath.  One or two of Jesus’ twelve disciples were not much older than fifteen.  You middle and high schoolers are called by God to be disciples of Jesus and live a life in relationship with God, a life in which God is glorified and enjoyed.  Enjoy God. 
With several other Cooperative Baptist Churches across North Carolina, our church has entered the “Growing Young” process for ministry and church life.  It’s more of philosophy than a program.  Here at HillSong it will be adjusted to awaken the potential for great ministry that beats deeps within the hearts of all of us.  Our church is small, but in the hearts of the people in this room beats the potential for great works done in Jesus’ name.  We love God and God’s spirit empowers us.  We are committed to this church family.  One of the ways we worship the Lord, exist as a family, and proclaim Jesus to our community is the “Growing Young” approach to church. 
This means we will be asking all adults in the church to play a role in the discipleship of young people.  We believe the work of developing the discipleship of young people will spark all of us to grow in Christ.  Promoting teens and young 20-somethings will benefit everyone.  Emphasizing the faith of Millennials and Generation Z will make our church ready to welcome visitors into all areas of church life. 
Our desire is to follow Jesus and as we do to love all those who come into our path.  We have first-time guests just about every week.  If we welcome them with genuine warmth and youthful energy, many who come through May, June, July, and August, will come back.  And our church with grow.
People born between 1928 and 1945 are called “Builders.”  Those born between 1946 and 1964 make up the Baby boom after World War II.  These are the “boomers.”   My generation, “Gen X” are people born roughly between 1965 and 1980.  Millennials, or “Generation Y,” were born between 1981 and 1999: these are the young adults.  They don’t really remember the Cold War or Russia as a Communist threat or the Apartheid in South Africa, or the wall coming down in Berlin.
“Generation Z” was born between 1997 and 2010.  They don’t remember the 9-11 terrorist attacks.  That’s history for them.  They don’t remember a world without cellphones or Facebook or Uber or Netflix.  They don’t remember going to a Blockbuster video store and renting a movie.  The thing to keep in mind is – all of us, every generation – feel the call to help people become disciples of Jesus. 
God is the God of every generation.  God will continue saving this world through the death and resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, and God will continue that saving work the same way God always has: working through his church. 
God’s church must always have young people at the heart of what we do and who we are.  In Jeremiah chapter 1 the prophet writes, “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations’” (v.4-5).  Jeremiah wanted no part of this.  “Lord God, truly I do not know how to speak for I am only a boy” (v.6). 
God was in no mood for Jeremiah’s hesitancy.  “Do not say ‘I am only a boy,’” God replied to Jeremiah.  “You shall go to all whom I send you and you shall speak whatever I command you.  Do not be afraid of them for I am with you” (v.7-8).  I don’t think our teenagers have the call God sent to Jeremiah.  He was a unique prophet at a specific time in Israel’s history.  But I do think God has a work for the teenagers and young people here in HillSong’s family that is every bit as important.  God tells us, do not say they are only kids.  God has called our teenagers and young adults to lead the way in ministry and God has called our entire church to empower our members to answer His calling. 
God wants Chapel Hill and Carrboro and the surrounding communities to know that we are lost in sin, but have salvation in Jesus.  The word of the good news gets out to people who aren’t in church and don’t know the Lord when we share it.  We invite people to church.  We tell people about our own faith.  And our children, teenagers, and young adults will be some of our more powerful witnesses. 
God told Jeremiah, “I knew you, I consecrated you, I appointed you, I am with you, I have put my words in your mouth (v.5, 8, 9).  God knows each one of us.  Young people, God has words for you and God’s Spirit gives you the courage and composure to speak those words.  We, your church family, are here for you, and we all grow as you embrace God’s call on your lives. As a church we have to develop the faith of our young people and we have to listen to our young people. 

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The “Growing Young” philosophy is organized around 6 core commitments, the first of which is Keychain leadership.  Too often, churches ask people to be involved in ministry, but don’t share responsibility. A community of key-less leaders is formed.  In setting the church’s direction, they have no voice.
Key-hoarders are the powerbrokers: maybe the pastor, maybe the elders, maybe the church secretary, or maybe a group of people who have been around a long time and donate most of the money.  These leaders hoard leadership and don’t listen to young people and don’t share decision-making. 
There are leaders who loan out keys, but with a tight leash.  In my 20’s, I served as a youth pastor with key-loaning leader.  He let me plan youth programs, but I always had to check in with him and my plans could be changed or canceled without much warning if the lead pastor and deacons deemed it necessary.  It felt good when he trusted me, but my confidence was shaken when he overrode my ideas.
At HillSong, we want to practice keychain leadership.  In keychain leadership, we train younger people to be ministry leaders and then walk with them and encourage them as they learn while doing.  Keychain leaders don’t necessarily have to be young, but they do need to be confident enough to let young people take the wheel on a project and support them whether they succeed or fail.  Keychain leaders do not need to make extra efforts to be relevant, but they need to be genuine.
You have already seen examples of how we share keys in ministry.  Angel, our youth pastor, has the youth group handling the Sunday morning greeting twice a month.  Most statistics show that more people will decide whether or not they are going to return to a church a second time based upon how they are greeted than based upon the music or the sermon.  When we entrust our youth with the responsibility of being front-door greeters, we are entrusting them with our church’s future. 
Another example of sharing the keys?  I am not the head of our “Growing Young team.”  Our team is me, Diane Asbill, Angel Lee, Nooshin Ghazi, and Chris Hollingsworth.  That’s one baby boomer and one Gen-Xer; Angel, Nooshin, and Chris are millennials, and Nooshin, one of the Millennials, is our team leader.   We have had millennials as elders and deacons. 
We don’t want to be like the leaders in Jerusalem who were out-of-touch with God and thus ignored Jeremiah when he was a young prophet.  They fell under God’s judgment.  We know God has something to say in Chapel Hill, and God’s going to say it through churches.  In our church, God speaks through all our members, including our young people.  We want to give them the space to speak and we want to give them our attention because we want to see where God is working and join in that work. 
Pray for Diane, Angel, Nooshin, and Chris.  Go to them, and share your willingness to be part of our church’s growth.  Maybe you’ll work with young people directly.  Maybe your roll will be indirect.  Maybe you’re not yet sure, so pray about it.  Pray about how you can help us be a church that helps people grow as disciples of Jesus.  Pray for our community and especially for young people.  We’ve got middle schools, high schools, and the most prominent university in our state all within a mile or two of our church property.  God’s mission is before us: go and make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We see clearly the importance of being 15.  It’s the future of the church; it’s the work of God in the present; it’s our calling to walk in faith today.