The letters written to Timothy in the Bible could be read as letters to the current generation of young adults roughly 16-30 years old. Call them Generation Next, Generation Y, Millenials, or whatever you’d like, they are poised to influence their world like no other generation before it. As Paul was committed to helping Timothy finding his place in God’s story, so we must help this generation find their place. Even with their potential to do great things for God, many are walking away from their faith. This exodus has been researched more than any other student ministry trend in the past five years. There are numerous books written on the subject that have great insights into what is leading this generation to leave their faith. Some of my favorites include Sticky Faith, Almost Christian, and Spiritual Parenting.
Though Paul’s encouragement to Timothy was contextually different, his words still resonate with the concerns we face in student ministry today. “Cling to your faith” (1 Tim 1:9); “Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation” (1 Tim 4:16); “Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses” (1 Tim 6:12); “Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching… shaped by the the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 1:9); “Remain faithful to the things you have been taught” (2 Tim 3:14).
While reading these letters from Paul to Timothy, I’ve been encouraged to believe and pray for three points of experience in the life of teens/young adults at our church… Desperation, Dependence, and Defiance. Through these experiences, Generation Next can become the trees of Psalm 1, “planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”
Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. (1 Timothy 1:14-15)
We recently covered the ABC’s of salvation (admit, believe, confess) on a Wednesday night and it brought back memories of my own salvation experience in my teenage years. It was the culmination of a night of teepeeing gone wrong, two weeks of reflection, and a clear revelation that I was a church kid who believed in Jesus, but didn’t really need him. I was trying to be a tree without roots. I knew everything I supposed to know and did everything I was supposed to do, but never really felt the kind of desperation that Paul had experienced.
I was in a place many from this generation find themselves… easily believing in Jesus and confessing faith in him, but neglecting the most important step… the first one! Admitting I’m a sinner. But why would I admit I’m a sinner? I attend church, get good grades, stay out of trouble, and know all about faith and the do’s and don’t of Christianity. Dallas Willard coined this “the gospel of sin management” in the Divine Conspiracy,
When we examine the broad spectrum of Christian proclamation and practice, we see that the only thing made essential on the right wing of theology is forgiveness of the individual’s sins. On the left it is the removal of social or structural evils. The current gospel then becomes a “gospel of sin management.” Transformation of life and character is no part of the redemptive message . Moment-to-moment human reality in its depths is not the arena of faith and eternal living.
I’m praying that this generation experiences the kind of desperation that leads them to say, “God, I can’t do this without you!”… realizing we all need salvation in life, not just salvation from death. I’m believing it will be a water-in-the-face awakening… inescapable, shocking, and leading them into the arms of a Savior now irresistible. Strong roots are sprouting and faith is finding its foundation. Lord, may they… may we… be desperate for You.