Young Adults: Learning to live as Disciples

The sudden influx of mutant dandelions in our otherwise modest backyard, remind me that once again, summer is just around the corner. While most institutions and study groups are gearing down for the (hopefully) sunny season, I feel that the Young Adults group is really just starting to gear up.
After a few weeks of DVD studies, and individual bible studies at the start of the year, we are now kicking things up a notch, as we dive into the big question of ‘How do we live kingdom first?’ and then going forth, and doing just that.
WEEK ONE:  What is a disciple? ( Coincidentally, a day or two before this lesson, I asked myself this very question) The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as : ‘one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another. We added a few descriptions of our own; a follower of Christ, teacher, leader, servant, one who is changed, one who makes more disciples, etc. 
We spent some time in Matthew 4:18-20: “18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”[a] 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
From there, we broke it down into three themes, or steps:
1) Follow: A conscious decision, that requires us to let Jesus sit in the throne of our hearts, instead of ourselves.
John 12:26 – 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
2) I will Make You – The transformation of the heart, as a result of time spent with Jesus.
3) Fishers of Men – The invitation to join the mission of Christ; to
seek and save the lost, as well as take care of other followers.

WEEK TWO: Why do we serve?
Because Jesus did.
How are we to serve?
Get on the field! ( Running with the sports analogy here…)
Society might sometimes try to coax us into staying in the stands, ( Perhaps where it is warmer, where there are snacks; where we can kick up our feet, sit back and relax ) but we are called to greatness!
With this in mind, we are also reminded that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:7-8 ~ He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
In beginning our pursuit of where and how we are to serve, we were encouraged to keep in mind these questions:
1) Does it glorify God?
2) Does it edify others?

WEEK THREE: Switching gears a bit, we begin to make the shift from Young Adults nights, to Young Adults Ministry. In this venture, we learned that God is about transformation.
Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.[d]”
God desires us to build our life upon him; to build our life upon the rock. ‘The Message’ paraphrase of Matt.7:24-27 helps to put that in perspective:
24-25 “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
26-27 “But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.”

WEEK FOUR:
Dipping our toes into the water, as we stepped into one of the following ministry roles:  YA Noticing Ministry; Planning Team; Host/Snack Team; Prayer Team; Helping Hands; Outreach; Teaching.
Later into the evening, we each shared our experiences regarding our particular roles. I felt blessed and encouraged to see how the Spirit was at work in people’s lives through these experiences.
My husband and I have hosted Young Adults for about two years now. ( Wow, time flies!) I feel the Lord has great things ahead for the young men and women of this group, and I look forward to continuing this journey with them!


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Blessings and Lessons

In recently becoming aware of my joy in writing, I was asked if I would consider writing a piece for our church’s monthly newsletter called “The Chronicle”, highlighting a few things we, as Young Adults, have been studying and learning these past few weeks. Of course, I happily agreed to this, and here is what I came up with!

Blessings and Lessons: My Young Adult Journey So Far

I’ve been blessed and challenged throughout the past few years, while attending the Young Adults group.  The past year – now going onto year two – my husband and I have had the pleasure of hosting the group at our home. Besides the occasional frantic cleanup before 7pm, ( How did the girl on ‘Big Comfy Couch’ do this in 10 seconds??) we really enjoy being able to serve in this way. Bake some goodies, meet new people, but best of all, have a time of prayer and fellowship.
Anyone who has attended Church of Christ more than – say, twice – would have perhaps noticed some emphasis on ‘kingdom-first living’; A way of living that I had thought about previously in its general concept, but never at any length until recent years, when I finally heard it put in to words.
Kingdom-first living? What does that look like? How do I know I’m on the right path?
And as I asked big questions, I expected to find big answers.
This past summer, I felt I was ready to do something bigger. Something grande. Maybe I could change lives! I started praying and seeking out new opportunities to serve.  I don’t know why I suddenly felt I was the judge on what was “more important” or “bigger” when it came to serving, but after a few months, I started to see that I was thinking about it all wrong. The things I thought I should be diving into and trying out, were not necessarily areas in which God had gifted me.
The young adults group has played an important role in my walk with Christ. It reminds me that kingdom-first living is a daily process, and really comes to a blossom, out of the little seeds we sow each day. Each week, I feel encouraged and challenged to continue seeking and growing.
We have already in these past few weeks, covered quite the range of subjects in such a short time. I will attempt to give a quick summary of each week thus far!

Week 1: ‘Top reasons why Young Adults leave the Church’. Though we came up with quite a list; from relevance, to judgement, to lack of scripture knowledge, etc; the top reason – to my surprise – was that the church was viewed as too overprotective. A Barna group survey said that many Young adults’ experiences of Christianity felt stifling. In the survey, about 23% expressed that “Christians demonize everything outside the church”; another 22% felt that “church (ignores) the problems of the real world”.
Young adult or not; would you agree or disagree?

Week 2: ‘So many religions, can they all be right?’ We watched a short DVD clip, where several young people shared a little bit about what they believed in. The young man leading the discussion, ( Unfortunately I cannot recall his name) pointed out some similarities, but also differences that directly contradicted each other. For example, how one belief may claim there to be no God; another, many gods; and still another, only One true God. I was reminded how important it is to really know what exactly it is we believe in, but to also take a little time to understand other religions. Perhaps so that, when we speak truth, it does not come across as arrogant or close-minded.

Week 3: ‘Whose name do you wear?’ This was a time of study and prayer. Anxious? Stressed? Jesus reminds us in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Week 4: ‘Simply Enough’; we watched a DVD discussion between Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne. Are we living the life Jesus wants us to live?
Tony brought up 1 John 3:16-18 ~
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” ( NIV)

I was challenged by this topic. I am a penny-pincher. I have trouble spending money, and am not ashamed to use coupons at the grocery store. But I have come to notice that such habits have also influenced how I give. I am capable of being so much more generous than I am, and hopefully will learn this in time. I am grateful for a husband who has a naturally generous heart. Perhaps I can learn from him!
On the last sunday of October, ( After some heavy snowfall postponed our original plan for a service night) we took some time for prayer and worship. I think it is in these moments I become most aware of God’s presence. It is in these moments, my heart becomes light and vulnerable. There is one verse that pops up repeatedly in my head, from the song “Jesus all for Jesus”;
“All of my / ambitions, hopes and plans… I surrender these / into your hands…”
Do I?
Do You?
As I continue on this walk, I look forward to learning more about who God is, and how he might use this Young Adults group to bless my husband and I, as well our fellow group attendees.~


Is the Church Too Overprotective?

My husband and I host young adults’ bible study at our home every week. During the most recent gathering, the young adults’ pastor asked us what we think may be the main reasons Young Adults ( Roughly age 18-30) leave the church. Answers varied from relevance, judgement, pressure, lack of knowledge of scripture, etc.
Based on a Barna Group research project, studies show Reason #1 to be that the church is too overprotective.
(For complete article, you can go to this link: http://www.barna.org/teens-next-gen-articles/528-six-reasons-young-christians-leave-church )
Too overprotective? What exactly does that mean?
Roughly a quarter of young adults felt that “Christians demonize everything outside of the church”. Others expressed Christianity as “stifling, fear-based and risk-averse”. And still others expressed, “my church is too concerned that movies, music, and video games are harmful”.
Perhaps some churches are too overprotective.
Is this a bad thing?
Sometimes the word ‘overprotective’ can draw up negative connotations. Like, association with what one is not permitted to do. Is this how the church has come to portray itself? The center of dos and don’ts?
The word “overprotective” conjures up  in my mind an image of the fretting parent, hand-sanitizing the kids after everything they touch, dragging them to the doctor after every sneeze, twitching with each minute that passes after curfew, etc.
The thing about being overprotective, is that I believe the intention behind it, is based on love and concern. However, I think being super overprotective can sometimes portray a lack of faith. God is so much bigger, yet still we try to control anything and everything, just to limit exposure to all that may deteriorate that upright, good, Christian armour we’ve worked so hard to maintain.
We try…
Limit exposure…
We’ve worked…
Not leaving much room for the Spirit to work, are we?

Young Adults leave Church because they feel it is too overprotective.
I don’t feel there is fault in protecting our hearts and each other. Except if it comes to the point where protecting becomes condemning and judging instead of loving. Obviously, over the years, some Young Adults have unfortunately encountered this.
We are the church. Sometimes we are broken. Sometimes we are scared. But we are learning what it looks like to completely trust in the Lord.
Perhaps some churches are too overprotective.
If this is the case, what should, or could we do, to figure this out?

Do You think the Church is Too Overprotective?