With Guest Blogger, Chad Richards
My name is Chad Richards and I’m the Youth Director at Canyon Springs. Since, Jack has been speaking and blogging lately about the value statements that we cling to here at Canyon Springs, he thought it would be fitting if I wrote about one about a value statement that is particularly important to me: investing in the next generation. In fact, I will go so far as to say that I believe that if we fail to invest in our youth then the church, the whole church body, not just Canyon Springs Church, will be foreclosed on. Not by God, but it will close of its own volition because of a lack of raising up new leaders.
Here’s a picture of me when I was a young church member. I’m the one in the Danzig shirt. Yes, that’s right; I was the kid at church wearing the satanic rock group shirt. That picture was taken when I had just started attending church because my neighbor invited me to go with him. My parents didn’t go to church; my mom was a non-observational Jew and my dad was a Mormon drop out. At church I met my own youth pastors, Josh and Neely McQueen, who showed me that church could be fun and that following Jesus wasn’t boring at all. This was life changing for me but unfortunately when Josh and Neely left after two years for other opportunities, I was crushed. I had put my faith in them and not in Jesus and so when they left, I left. At school, I started hanging out with another crowd and by the time I was a freshman in college, I was addicted to pain killers and ended up becoming an addict which led me to many dark places: broken relationships with my family, time spent incarcerated, and desperate isolation.
Hope in Jesus
Fortunately, I am one of a very low statistic that got pulled out of the opiate drug0-induced lifestyle and into the arms of Jesus who brought me back to a community of faith, hope, and love. It is crazy to look back and see how God had been pursuing me the whole time, even during my addiction and he has been working in my life ever since. When I got out of my addiction, I found out that three other guys who I used to use with had gotten clean as well. We used together and then went our separate ways and after five years of no contact, happened to all got sober around the same time and we all found Jesus within a year of each other! We started a Bible Study together and tried to support each other, but one of the guys continued to struggle and then on April 5th 2012, I got the call that I’ll never forget, that Joey had overdosed in his room and had passed away. I am sharing this because I want you to know that even though I got out of a bad lifestyle by God’s grace, not everyone gets out scratch free. I want to make sure that you understand that you can’t expect to mess with this stuff when you are young and then accept God down the line at some point and get a do-over. Joey didn’t get a do-over; his family didn’t get a do-over; and I didn’t get a do-over to be his friend for life. Sure your child may never get addicted to drugs. But there are many, many other dangers that lie in wait for today’s young people:
- What about Internet pornography addiction that your 12 year-old has?
- What about the gossip and trash talk that takes place at our schools?
- What about promiscuity, pregnancy, and venereal diseases among teenagers?
This generation, the younger generation is not the church of the future; they are the church now. And what happens now is incredibly important. Investing in the next generation is not something we get to choose to do; it is something we must do and the fact is, we are all already doing it whether we realize it or not. Our kids are watching us, they see us and they are learning from us whether we want them to or not. The question is, what is the investment that we are leaving them? What are they learning from us?
Hopefully, now you know why we should invest in our youth; the next question I want to answer is how. But before I talk about how, I would be remiss in my job as youth pastor if I didn’t refer to at least one Bible verse. In fact, I’d like to look at one of the most famous verses in all of Jeremiah, in fact it’s one of the most popular verses in all of the Bible, which is:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to
prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a
future.” Jeremiah 29:11
We, as Christians, love this verse! We put it everywhere: on coffee cups, on bumper stickers, on our kids’ foreheads. It is the perfect verse! And what we do with this verse is we pull it out of the Bible and we place it into our lives because it feels good and we want to know that God has a plan but what would you say, if I told you that this verse is not about that? There are tons of scriptures that talk about God having a plan, but this one is not one of them. In fact, in this verse, God is talking about something completely different.
To understand what God is talking about we must first have a little lesson in Bible history (complete with visual aids):
- The Israelites are God’s chosen people. God said so, so it’s true.
- God told them “DO NOT worship idols, whatever you do.”
- As the nation grew they looked around and they wanted a king because everyone else had a king (they forgot that God was their king).
- So they found the tallest guy and said “You are our king”
- The Israelites had lots of kings over the years, some good and some not so good. But all of these kings led the
- Israelites to worship idols; the one thing they were not supposed to do.
- So God intervened and the Israelites are taken into captivity
Important Side Note
Why did God do that? The simple answer is because sometimes what we perceive as evil is not evil at all because it is done for the greater good. It may rain you out on the golf course but that same rain is bringing crop production to a farmer who may need it.
History Lesson, Part 2
And that is what God did to the Israelites. He allowed them to be taken into captivity in Babylon….for 70 years! And as we all know, Babylon is not a good place; in fact, it is a horrible place! The Lord is not trying to hurt them here; he will prosper them. He has a plan for them but first they need to stay in Babylon and pray for their city…for 70 years!! That is the part that blows my mind. 70 years of exile means a majority of them will die in Babylon. Israel was God’s promised land, filled with milk and honey. This was the land that was God’s prized possession. This land was the foundation of the Israelite culture. This land was the most important thing for these people and it was the thing that God used to make them a nation. The only thing they want is to get back and now, the only people who have ever seen it and lived there, are all going to die in Babylon.
Back to the Future
I know what you’re thinking. You are thinking: “Chad, what on earth does a bunch of people getting old and dying have to do with investing in the next generation???” I know I lost you, but stick with me here:
If there are people who are going to die in exile, there are also children who are going to be born there. Kids who have never seen Israel, but yet they are supposed to be in Israel. Their parents know that they are going to die in Babylon (God told them so; 70 years, remember?), but they want their kids to end up back in Israel. They know that Israel is the place where their children are supposed to be. So how are they going to get their kids to know that? To know it and to believe it as much as they do? Well, they are going to have to tell the story of Israel so well that it makes their children want to go back to a place they have never seen. And they are going to have to tell it, over and over, again because if they don’t, the Israelite kids growing up in Babylon will think that Babylon is where they are supposed to be.
Does that sound familiar? Does that sound at all like the predicament we are in with our children? We are exiled here, on Earth, and our job is to tell the story of God’s kingdom so well that it makes our children want to be a part of a place that they can never see; a spiritual realm that goes beyond the senses. So, how do we invest into the next generation? We tell them the story of God so well and we share our passion for Jesus so much that it makes them want to be a part of a story that not everyone can see.
Here are some practical ways we can do this:
1) Sell Jesus Through Your Actions
Hopefully the use of the word “sell” doesn’t throw you off. Here’s what I mean by that:
Its like going to the Apple Store. Have you been to the Apple Store? If you have, you know how great it is. The Microsoft Store? Not so much. When you go into the Microsoft store you’ll notice that no one that works there is that excited to be there. When I go in there it seems like all they are talking about is when their lunch break is. There is no passion in the Microsoft store. But if you want to see passion just walk into the Apple Store! As soon as you go in, you just feel great. You can tell that the Apple genius’ truly believe what they are selling. The people that work at Apple genuinely believe that they have the best product in the world and all they want is for you to have it. What they are selling has totally taken over their life and it has become a part of them. They wear the watch, they have the Ipad; It’s who they are.
If you want to invest into the younger generation, ask yourself this question: does my child believe what I am selling because it is so much apart of who I am? We have the best product in the world; it is the only product in the world that can change a person’s heart from the inside out. It is the only product that can restore broken families and set people free from their hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
2) Investing Starts at Home.
If you want to invest into the next generation, start inside your own home. Invest into your kids and be sure to put Jesus at the top of the list of the most important investment that you make. If you want your kids to have a deep faith in Christ then you must go to those deep places as well because you cannot lead your child to a place you have never been.
I know that not all of you are great at doing the whole family devotional thing; my wife and I have tried some of the marriage ones and we just can’t do those together. They are way too cheesy. But here’s one thing you can do with your family to show them that God matters in your life: Once a week ask your family at the dinner table or whenever you have time together, “How did you see God this week?” What would your family look like if you could help your kids identify where God is working in the world?
Lastly, and of course, saved the best for last. If you get one thing out of this message it is this: If you want to invest into the next generation:
3) Reveal the Father’s Heart to the Next Generation
Show the next generation what it is like to know your heavenly Father. Stay close to Jesus and let that closeness shape who you are. I think that’s what this generation needs more than anything. They don’t need people telling them who to vote for or what stance to take. They need genuine, authentic, caring adults, showing them what it is like to know their Father. They need to see adults that love Jesus. My prayer is that I bleed Jesus through my actions and that I can play a small part in revealing the fathers heart to the next generation. If I could burn one verse on your heart today it would be this:
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9