At Thanksgiving dinner I had the privilege of reconnecting with cousins and other family. During our dinner conversation, we began talking about this emerging generation of youth and how to interact with them as it relates to the gospel. Heavy subject matter considering it's Thanksgiving (in Canada), but because of the passion my family shares for following Christ and considering what I do for a living as a pastor, these tangents often happen.
We began sharing about a youth rally that took place in our city this past summer. We spoke about the grandeur and wonder of this event, and then allowed our conversation to continue towards the subject matter of discipleship. I shared a thought that I wanted to expand upon in this blog because of the interesting reaction that I received regarding my comments. Keep in mind that the context for our conversation was discipleship of youth. I simply mentioned that youth are interested in first answering the how question before the why question when it comes to discipleship. One of the younger teenage members of our family gathering piped up and quickly agreed with my comment. It then struck me that this is totally the sort of reaction that Jesus' disciples may have had when they responded to his invitation to follow Him.
I've shared the thought in earlier blogs that youth are more drawn to the demonstration facet of the gospel rather than the proclamation portion. This uniqueness must not only inform how and why we teach, but it must also inform how and why we disciple. If we take yet another page out of Jesus' playbook, I wonder if we'd be more concerned about the journey that is spiritual formation than the road signs themselves. What I mean by saying this is simply this: When we overlook the simplicity of the gospel, we journey past it's original intent and design. At its' core, the gospel is the way, the truth and the life. When you think about discipleship using these terms, we're talking more about the questions of how and why. Let me be clear on what I am saying. I am NOT advocating that we emphasize behavioral modification in our ministry philosophy and strategy. What I am saying is that youth will be drawn to the gospel by what they see. This same desire will fuel their quest to answer the question of how they can journey with Jesus, while continuing to expand upon the question of why one should journey with Jesus.
This is the process of spiritual transformation; a journey that is an ever-evolving continuum based upon the simple foundation of the gospel as the way, the truth and the life. Using these definitive terms may help us to not only communicate what the gospel is through words, but also through deeds. If youth are looking for answers to the how & why questions, we must respond in the manner that Jesus did when confronted with these same questions. When asked to teach his disciples how to pray, Jesus demonstrated what a fruitful prayer life is all about. He referred back to this teaching when the disciples failed to cast out a demon from an individual that was suffering from possession. Jesus reminded his friends that prayer and fasting are key components in the exorcism process, and by his answer, he helped to connect the dots between the questions how and why for the disciples within the framework of a hands-on learning experience.
Jesus embodied what it meant to be the way, the truth and the life. As followers of Him, we are not asked to be the way, the truth and the life, but to believe that Jesus is in fact who He says He is, and visibly demonstrate to the rest of the world (including this emerging generation of youth) what living according to the way, the truth and the life actually looks like. It's in this journey of spiritual transformation that the questions of how & why blend together.