So to get right to the point today, I got a little game that I'd like for y'all to play. It's called How many teenagers do you know that are actively pursuing a life with God?
For most of us, that game doesn't last very long. Like a bangin' on a gong, the preachers say, "What's wrong with kids today?" and the song goes on and on and on. But the song being sung is partly true. We're surrounded by a generation who, for the most part, would rather smoke a joint than sit in a pew, and to be honest, I'm really tired of placing all the blame on them. So I'm here to suggest that perhaps part of the problem, church...is you.
Please hear me out. You see, teenagers today, and people, for that matter, would rather live by their own luck because they see the religious system is just way too stuck, and if you heard me say that I read my Bible every day, you'd be like "What the fffudge? Doesn't that mean you're quick to judge, never budge, and just a plain old schmuck?" And if this is the perception that we're so full of pride, then perhaps it's time we took a look inside and tried to reclaim the part of Jesus that some of us have lost: the one who partied with sinners, touched the lepers, loved the children, and who paid the highest cost.
Have you ever considered just how many parties Jesus went to in the Gospels? If someone wanted to throw a party today, church, I'm not sure that they would hire us. People don't wanna gather around Jesus anymore. They gather around Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus. And I'm not here to bash secular music, either. I'm tired of that, and plus, I like some of those songs. I'm here to suggest, church, that we also might be in the wrong.
Please hear me out. You see, it's clear in the lives of the next generation, the church rarely plays a part, and maybe that's because some of the messages in TV, and film, and radio are a little bit more from the heart. The church shouldn't be this billboard of propaganda, a list of shoulds and should nots. It should be a living, breathing artpiece, where people see us, and they say, "I want what they've got!" When did the movement of Jesus lose its authenticity and require its members to climb to some spiritual peak? Because if only the strong survive, then how come His power is perfect when we're weak?
Now please, hear me. I know some churches do this right, and I'm not tryin' to start a fight. I'm here to suggest that we might just be as blind as those to whom we're trying to give sight. We as the church need to wisen up because the next generation is rising up, and they're finding their prize in the things of this world because in their eyes, we haven't given them a better option. Runnin' away from the church like a toxin, because some of us are locked into a system of judgment and dismay, hate you if you're struggling, different, or gay. Why would anyone want to stay when they're just viewed as a project on which we can project a list of rules? And the more we try and "protect" the children in this way, the more we reject what God is trying to project through them! And that is His project of AUTHENTIC. LOVE.
Please hear me out. You've made it this far. I'm not trying to be harsh, and I'm not trying to be condemning to either side. I'm suggesting that instead of forcing people onto some religious journey, let's just invite them along for the ride. Let's look to share, before we look to teach, and maybe let's put a little more care into what we preach. Let us make faith in Jesus a little more attractive, and by that, I'm not talking about hip, or cool. I'm talking about interactive - because you can never underestimate the power of someone who truly cares and who dares to be the one person who will listen when no one else will. This is the kind of love that I believe Jesus was talking about, that authentic love that spurs us to a life that people can't help but be attracted to.
Church, let us begin to live in THAT love. And let us stop blaming the younger generation for every problem in the world, and instead, come alongside them and invite them on an adventure that Jesus said would bring even greater things yet to come.
THIS is authentic love.
"The church shouldn't be this billboard of propaganda, a list of shoulds and should nots. It should be a living, breathing artpiece, where people see us, and they say, "I want what they've got!" When did the movement of Jesus lose its authenticity?..."
This right here is why I first became attracted to The Vespers, back when I was still so angry at God and not believing that any of this "Christianity thing" could be anything more than a farce. (Was that really only three years ago?!) To anyone else, my interactions with them that warm February day here at Campbell probably seemed like nothing, but that day the seeds were planted in my head. I've said it so many times before; that day, I looked at these four strangers, and I noticed something so different about them that I knew I had to get to know them better. I knew they had this light and security about them, and I knew that that was what I'd been missing and searching for my entire life. I grew up with the list of should and should not. This was something totally different, and I knew I wanted it. Badly.
"I'm suggesting that instead of forcing people onto some religious journey, let's just invite them along for the ride."
This was one of the things that was so different about them. They never threw their faith in your face. They didn't hide who they were, but it wasn't what they focused on, at least not all the time. And I think that it was because of that fact that, as I got to know them more, I started asking questions. Because they never "preached" at me, I wasn't afraid to learn from them and inevitably get things wrong along the way. They showed me who God was and what He could do, but they still left it as my choice, without any fear, or judgment, or condemnation, or all of the negativity I grew up with, attached to it. I was able to take steps forward at my pace, and they never judged me for it. They were just there when I took the next one...all the way up to when I stepped in that Nashville church and I came home to my Father. And seeing Taylor and Bruno celebrate with me was what made me certain that they weren't just my friends, they were my brothers. These four, to this day, understand authentic love on a level that I'm still not sure I totally get The only people I've met since then that I think also understand it that deeply are my wonderful Reformation brothers, whose pure, unconditional, unswerving love for me has been well-documented over the past few months.
"...because you can never underestimate the power of someone who truly cares and who dares to be the one person who will listen when no one else will."
That day at lunch, when Bruno listened to me, a complete stranger, tell him my entire life story and didn't turn his back at all the gory details, that was the first time that I didn't feel like a freak for my past. I felt normal, and heard, and seen for so much more than the things that I've survived. And when he told me that "I'll do big things with that testimony..bigger things than [he'll] ever do," my perspective began to change, albeit slowly at first. Ever since then, one of my biggest goals in life and meeting new people and cultivating relationships is that I face them with the same attitude that Bruno had that very first day. That people would know they could tell me anything without fear of judgment. That God would use me to help people know that they aren't alone. Because it's thanks to those four kids who dared to listen to me that I finally saw myself as something more than my health issues. I spent quite some time trying to repay them for all the intangible gifts they had given me, but finally I reached a big realization.
Love, in its most authentic form, isn't about paying it back. It's about doing it just because you can and letting God get the glory for the gifts that spring forth from it.
Today I pray to love everyone I meet right where they're at. No questions, no conditions.
— Mallory Jones (@_callmemal) January 20, 2014