“And he [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV (brackets and italics are mine)
In a brief guest post there isn’t time and space to fully exposit this passage. I simply desire to extrapolate a single but blatant point we see here. By God’s design for His people, you need the church and the church needs you. How much more obvious can the Scripture be that we don’t rightly mature or carry out the Christian mission alone? The Apostle Paul assumes that you won’t spiritually mature the way God desires in isolation. What’s more, the mission of the church is in fact to make disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ who learn to follow him faithfully by becoming a part of the body of Christ in which they too can mature and work with the team for multiplying disciples. That truth exposes my heart for you, the target generation of this blog. As challenging as the church can be, stay close to the life of the local church.
THE KEY IS HUMILITY
What will it take to keep you in the church? Humility. I’m thankful for The Heart of Teens, which sets an example of young people who are learning humble submission to God’s Word. But humility is not an easy character quality to let God develop in you. It doesn’t magically grow in us from cute phrases like, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less.” Not that that isn’t true. It’s just not helpful. What is both true and helpful is this: Humility is shaped in us by having a high view of God and Christ’s humility (Philippians 2:1-11), which means that you trust His goodness and do life His way. And His way is to trust and obey Him when He says that the only method for you to grow and advance the gospel properly is to do it through the difficult and untidy process of discipleship in a local assembly of believers.
THE WEAKNESS OF YOUTH IS PRIDE
So let me be honest with you about your youth. The weakness of youth is that we are prone toward pride. We tend to look at the failures of those going before us and choose one of two options. We might think, “What a poor excuse for Christians. I’m out.” Or we take another route: “These guys have botched this so badly that I’d rather not inherit their challenges. Let’s just start over doing it our way (which no doubt will have its flaws but will still be way better than this).” Listen, I’m not accusing you of something that I didn’t think and feel myself (nor am I claiming to have overcome the inclination of sinful pride in my own heart). But by God’s grace I was mentored in a local church under humble men of conviction who listened to me. God used their humble, consistent love for Him and His church to shape me into a younger spiritual leader who had visionary ideas but didn’t just assume any longer that I must be right. I became hesitant to readily believe that my way would undoubtedly yield greater faithfulness to God and more success in activating people for ministry. By the way, that’s still the goal, as it should be—growing faithfulness in our love relationship with God and sparking people to actively participate in the work of ministry.
THE STRENGTH OF YOUTH IS VITALITY
Of course, being young carries with it great strength as well. Youth brings bold energy, and localized representations of Christ’s body need that. Inject your fervor into the life of the church. Graciously warn the older from growing complacent. Keep mere opinions in check, but share convictions honestly that have maintained a steady boil. One day people will look to you to lead them in discernment and humility and consistency. And you’ll need their vibrant youth to challenge you to finish the race with all the God-fueled energy you have left. You’ll embrace the next generation with the prayerful expectation that God will graciously continue His mighty work through them.
GROW WITH US IN THE CHURCH
By all means, keep one another accountable and keep us accountable. We want to listen to you and will listen to you, especially as you display a growing humility. We know that you are the next generation of Christ’s Bride. Above all, pursue God with your whole heart. Be zealous for His mission. But humbly commit yourself to grow and serve His way—in the local body of Christ. If you long to be used of God by His grace and for His glory, you need the church and the church needs you.
Written by Jeff Griffis