Last evening (26/6/18) I had dinner with two outstanding young men. They take their call to follow Christ seriously. They take the stewardship of their own lives seriously. They were seeking to make sense of the unfolding circumstances of their lives, but in the context of wanting to grow and to be clearer as to what the Lord would have them do with their lives.
I guess that is why they wanted to spend some time with an older person. They honoured me with the privilege of hearing key parts of their story and were perhaps hoping someone who had lived longer may be of help to figure out some of the things they were growing through. I said that I definitely fulfilled one criterion — I am old. One of them said that I wasn’t that old. I told them my age and he said: yea, you are old.
I had fulfilled one of their criteria, but am never sure if I would be able to help anyone make sense of their lives. One thing I have learnt after all that I have gone through is that each life is unique, and you are not an expert on anyone’s life, not even your own. But I believe that it is the Lord who provides the answers and who changes lives, and so what I can do is to listen and to ask questions and to tentatively share some thoughts when I think it might help.
But one thing I am committed to doing at this chapter of my life is to help younger adults fulfil their potential in Christ. I really believe in this generation of young adults, sometimes called the millennial generation. I think of them as the generation who are free of the spiritual baggage of the Boomers generation, my generation. No stupid dichotomies between social action and evangelism, between Word and Spirit, between the sacred and the secular. And no militant denominationalism that made you compete with those from other faith traditions.
While not discarding our key convictions, I find the young much more willing to listen to, learn from, and work with those from outside their immediate faith communities. Bernice and I once led a mentoring group for three couples. One couple was from Church of our Saviour, one from Lighthouse Evangelism and one from Mount Carmel Bible-Presbyterian Church. But they seemed to have more in common with each other than with older leaders from their own churches. We rejoiced at seeing them become friends and humbly learning from each other.
So, as many have come to believe, this emerging generation of young adults is a key generation, with the potential of living out a mature balanced Christianity. But every generation also has to face the three main spiritual enemies — Satan, the world and the flesh. Among other things, this is an interconnected generation, online all the time. Therefore, this can also be a very distracted generation. While this generation has potential, there is no guarantee that it will fulfil that potential. As David P. Setran & Chris A. Kiesling remind us:
. . . emerging adulthood is a formative stage in which beliefs are solidified, life patterns are shaped, and key decisions are made regarding spirituality, identity, church participation, vocation, morality, sexuality, and mentoring. Each area offers the prospect of spiritual growth and transformation, but each also provides space for pain, compromise, and alienation. Emerging adulthood can become a gateway to a vibrant and mature adult faith, but its potential can also be blunted through sin, self absorption, and a failure to grasp hold of a strong Christian vision and identity. (David P. Setran & Chris A. Kiesling, Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013], 231.)
A key need for young people in this transition phase is mentoring. The loving involvement of a caring mentor at this critical stage of life could mean all the difference in helping a young person actualise his or her potential. In the words of Dunn and Sundene:
Emerging adults need spiritual caregivers who will prayerfully engage the disciple’s maturation steering them away from navigating these life-shaping years based on their own personal or experiential truth. To reach full maturity and maximise potential impact the emerging adult needs to be challenged and supported as they are awakened to the way, the truth and the life offered by the Father, discovered in the Son and imparted through the Spirit. (Richard R. Dunn & Jana L. Sundene, Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012], 41.)
Our goal is to help every generation grow into its full potential for Christ. Indeed, we believe that each generation has unique gifts to bring to the body of Christ and our goal for the church must be intergenerational. But we do live in a time of significant cultural change and we must make sure that this promising young generation receives the help it needs to be all it is meant to be in Christ. I was tired but glad that I had significant time with two significant young people. It gave me great joy to remind them that this is their time and pledge myself to support them in their journeys.