May 26, 2013

How a bunch of unread e-mails made me happy

Image credit: Barna Group
This morning I open my laptop, click on Outlook (yes, I use Outlook for my work e-mail) and am greeted by a deluge of unread emails since I checked last night. Typically, I experience a moment of feeling overwhelmed when this happens (ugh!). But this morning was different. It took me a moment to realize why. But as I looked through the senders of these emails I realized that they were all from people younger then 40. I was excited. A bit giddy, actually.

You might think, "You're title is 'Young Adult Missioner.' What's the big deal?" It's true; people in their 20's and 30's are who I'm tasked to work with. But anyone who is exposed to church work knows that there tends to be a whole lot of interaction with people not in this age bracket. Which–don't get me wrong–isn't a bad thing. But as I often tell people, my line of work is significantly evangelistic in nature. Just read the data from Pew Forum to Barna.

So, when my inbox lights up with e-mails from young people collaborating, sharing ideas and scheduling time together I had this moment. A pause. And I thought: "Something is working... something is happening."

I don't write that to pat myself on the back. Sure, I take my work seriously–and probably too personal–and work as hard as I know how. But this wasn't about me. I think God is up to something.

It's moments like this that bring to mind the first Pentecost Sunday (which we just celebrated), as told in Acts 2. Jesus' disciple, Peter speaks to a gathered group and quotes from the book of Joel:
"... I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy."
The Spirit is up to something. I just like being along for the ride.

When I interviewed for my position I was asked why I wanted to work with young adults. As I recently wrote, it's because young adults want to change the world–they always have. Throughout human history you will find young people at the center of almost every major movement. From the Zapatista march on Mexico City to the fall of the Berlin Wall. From Tiananmen to Tahrir Square. In both the Tea Party to Occupy movements. And though I may no longer be so young, I want to change the world too.

In big and small ways, young people insight change. They tend to be unafraid of what others deem impossible. Jesus taught us to pray, "... Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is heaven." His simple prayer holds within it this dream that the impossible is possible. That there is another way to be human, as if God's rule and reign was present today.

Folks talk about the absence of God among young people's lives. The response of western Christianity is too often one of two moves: abstraction or restriction–God is anything (and therefore nothing) or God is only these things (and you go to hell if you color outside the lines). All the while, a generation is coming of age that is no longer waiting for the shapers of these categories to catch up. Young evangelicals are increasingly breaking from the "party line" on issues such as same sex unions and immigration. Young liberals are asking their leadership to teach more from the Bible and about following Jesus. I'm not mimicking the stats you might read–these are the conversations I have. The categories are falling away. God is showing up all over the place. It's never been about getting God to show up–no matter how much we've convinced ourselves of this. Rather, it's always been about how we respond to the fact that God does show up.

So, this morning, I find myself praying the charge given in 1 Timothy 4: "Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." I pray that they set the pace and make God's dreams become reality. I feel very fortunate to simply be a part of this journey with them.

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