I have been thinking about a quote I read recently. My context is of course the Church of England.
"Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living"
I have been wondering how many Bishops and Priest's in the C of E have ever been to visit Soul Survivor, which has now been running for nineteen years. That's not a criticism it's simply a question. A recent survey of my Diocese told me that its churches have less than 1% of people aged 17-18 in its congregations. Sadly, we also recently rationalised the post entitled 'Diocesan youth advisor'. The average age in our churches nationally is over 60. How many of our churches are prioritising reaching young people in their mission? Do I prioritise it is currently a pressing question for me. And if I am going to what is that going to look like?
I have to say that spending the week with our 25 teenagers in the mud and rain is my favourite week of the year. It really is. It fuels me for the other 364. Just thinking of all God has done in the past few days moves me to tears. Not least, thinking of the hundreds of kids stirred by the Spirit to follow Jesus. Hundreds. Now were they all genuine salvations? Only He knows that. But if we ever tire of seeing young people saved we are in the wrong game. Go get another job. Really. Do something else.
Here's an idea. If you lead a church or have a heart for young people hop in your car next week for the day and visit Shepton Mallet. Go to a few seminars, talk to youth leaders, worship with 12k young people and witness the Holy Spirit powerfully at work in teenagers.
We are called in the BCP to 'declare the faith afresh in each generation'. We need a fresh look at what 'afresh' means. It's urgent. I still passionately believe the local church is the hope of the world and in the face of the riots if you are part of any church you might like to do the following:
1. Watch the footage again
2. Gather your church to pray.
3. Gather as a PCC/ Eldership/Leadership Team and critically evaluate your mission to young people. Don't have any other item on your agenda. What's working, what's not. How much of your resource do you allocate to children? When was the last time you saw a teenager saved? Imagine what a 17 year old thinks of the service you put on. Ask them. Do you have a youth worker or children's worker and if not why not? (just for once don't say we haven't got any money and let God worry about that). Who speaks for teenagers on your PCC?
4. Ask the question 'What could we do?' Open questions are good and allow you to be creative and dream some "what-ifs". Write down all the "what-ifs" on a flip chart.
5. Maybe contact Kick London or YFC or YWAM or The Church Army or HTB Youth or Oasis or Tear Fund Youth or Fusion or UCCF or Open Doors Youth or Soul Action or The Message Trust or XLP and see what they are up to and see how they might help.
5. Turn all your ideas into some sort of plan. Call it the 'We must do something' plan.
6. Ask the church to give of time and money and gifts to resource it.
7. Pray some more and then expect the kingdom to come as you live out the plan by faith.
Now is the time folks. Now is the time.