I have been called a devil, but I am not the devil. However, let’s for a moment, for the sake of this story, pretend I was in fact the real devil. If, as the father of lies and deceit, my purpose was to try my best to slow down, trick, and harm the Church then I would come up with plans to carry out, and then I put them into action. Also, I may need to grow some horns.
As the devil it may be a good idea to try and convince Christians that the people God wants to use to change the world are incapable of doing it. What if I could convince the Church that those with the most passion, the most energy, the most zeal, can’t be the ones who God wants to use?
This would be a great plan if I was the devil. I would figure out who God had chosen and make sure they are never given the opportunity to be who they truly are. I would convince everyone, including themselves, they are incapable and useless.
It’s just a thought, as I am not really the devil, but some people have fallen for this lie. Much of the present state of many churches rests on the fact they we have fallen for this deceit. It is obvious many churches don’t have a lot of young people attending, but in most cases there are only older people serving in those churches as well.
You have likely seen a picture of the last supper. The night before Jesus was crucified he spent time with those closest to Him. Of course we don’t have an actual picture of that night, but we do have many artist’s renditions of what they think the last supper may have looked like. So now there are paintings hanging in homes and churches all over the world of this occasion.
I’m slightly annoyed each time I see one. Not because it is painted poorly, or is hung crooked on the wall. No, it is because there are specific things wrong with it. This may be a good time for you to look up a picture of it. They may not be obvious at first but keep looking.
First, if this was your last supper you would think there would be more food. It is looking pretty sparse if this will be Jesus’ last meal until we all eat together again in Heaven. Second, for a bunch of Jewish guys they all sure look strangely European. But often when I share this picture no one sees the major thing that is wrong and inaccurate. What is it? The people in the picture all seem to be between thirty-five and seventy.
In all honesty, it is painted this way because this is how a person imagined them to be from what they had been taught or read. We likely think of them this way too. But the picture is wrong and so are our thoughts about the disciples. The disciples were possibly all between the ages of fourteen to twenty-one when Jesus called them to follow him.
Can you imagine any modern day minister, church, or denomination giving the leadership of their movement to a bunch of teenagers? Could you imagine the response of anyone saying, “I just prayed and God told me to choose these twelve kids to lead this whole thing?” Almost all of us would think this is foolishness, or at best, have some major reservations.
Yet, this is actually what Jesus did. He chose a group of young men to invest in, spend time with, impart wisdom and teach. He sent these young people out to do ministry in His name. They messed up, argued who would be greatest, and ran away when trouble came. They stood up and spoke to thousands, dedicated themselves to following Jesus, gave their all to be with Him, and made incredible statements such as, ‘You are the Christ’. They seemed a little unstable, prone to make rash decisions, doubted, and didn’t understand a lot of what Jesus was telling them. You put all that together and you have a pretty good description of what the life of a teenager or young adult looks like.
The decision to pick these young men was God’s will. This was the plan. It may not be ours, but it worked. I would even go as far to say He was right and we’re wrong when we exclude youth from ministry. I encourage you to reread the gospels, not in your own preconceived contexts, but knowing now that these disciples were in fact young people. This opens up a whole new view of these books of the Bible. It also leads to the question, ‘If this is what Jesus did, what does this mean for me?’
I don’t think this means the Church should only be led by young people. The disciples did not stay young and they still were leaders. It means young people are needed and should have equal representation. Most important, we have to know Jesus believed they could lead and were worth His investment.
Of course some people will say the culture was different – which is true and needs to be taken into consideration. At thirteen you were considered a man. By eighteen you could have been the master of your craft or occupation. Young people had responsibility. But you can’t have responsibility until you are trusted with it.
Keep this in mind: in most countries, even today, where Christianity is growing the fastest, youth are involved. They are leading. They are doing ministry. They have not believed, or fallen for, the lie that God can’t use youth, that God can’t use you.
Here is a short video that was used for the Canadian Youth Workers Tour this year but is taken from a section in the book ‘Before You Say Goodbye’.