His name is Charley, an 82-year-old seat-mate I had the pleasure of meeting on my flight home from a very profitable meeting at one of our universities. We struck up a conversation as soon as I sat down. Before I had even buckled up, he asked, “How will we find world peace?” I simply responded, “When Jesus comes.” I wondered if it was too trite an answer for a man I had just met. Thereafter, I learned that Charley has a PhD in History and, while Caucasian, he had served many years as a history teacher and school administrator at an Historically Black College (HBCU). Twenty-three years of his life had been devoted to serving on the executive committee, search committees and college board of that institution. Hence, as an icebreaker, I shared with him that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has one of the largest school systems globally, but what I enjoyed sharing with him most was Jesus. More about Charley later.
As a young adult, I learned the power of engagement first hand as the Seventh-day Adventist Church gave me many opportunities to develop as a young Christian servant-leader. I was privileged to participate in many plays and skits, went door to door to ingather, pass out tracts and sell books. I was given opportunity to serve as Sabbath school teacher, deacon, elder, evangelistic speaker, and trained by a Bible worker so I could lead a group Bible study on lunch breaks at the office where I worked. Put simply, because of my level of engagement, church life was exciting to me! It wasn’t entertaining as much as it was challenging!
The author of Growing an Engaged Church asserts that the engaged Christian can’t imagine a world without their church. That’s how I feel to this very day! Church life is still very challenging yet very rewarding. However, of great concern to me is that the growth in our church plateaued many years ago and, if we not careful, will soon be in decline. I speak to this issue to most boards on which I am privileged to serve, sharing that most of the problems we face would be resolved, if we could just get growing again. I probably was a bit too abrupt with Charley, but my church trained me to speak up by virtue of the fact that it afforded me many opportunities to serve and lead, and each activity has taught me confidence, the ability to reason from cause to effect, and to understand our day-to-day world with a long-range view toward the eternal.
Charley thought if we could just get rid of all the world’s dictators, we would have world peace. I shared with him that Jesus taught love and that His love breaks down the walls of all “isms.” For instance, in regard to sexism, everywhere the gospel has gone, women have been elevated to a higher stature in society. And yet, much more progress is yet to be made as is the case in many areas.
I told Charley that biblical principle teaches that in Christ there is neither bond nor free, male nor female. I remonstrated that while Jesus didn’t take on the economy of slavery in his day, the outgrowth of His love and teachings eventually destroys slavery. The Christian who anticipates the Kingdom of Christ where the government will be on His shoulders is not neglectful of the present problems this world endures. Yet it anticipates with bated breath a new day yet to come — a day when Justice is finally meted out against sin and its instigator.
The apostle Peter speaks of living each day of life with eternity in view. He states, Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Peter 3:11–14 KJV).
Additionally, Peter warns of losing our eternal perspective stating, But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off . . . (2 Peter 1:9 KJV).
Confidence in Jesus, and yes, confidence in expressing truth in these last days is what we’ve all been called to do. Breaking out of the Adventist comfort zone, I want to do better at being outgoing for Jesus — never running from a question or shrinking from a challenge is the call of the last day church to whom has been entrusted the timely message of the Three Angels of Revelation who see those hurting or simply questioning around us, and speak to their pain. Yet, we have a mind toward a better place and a better day; therefore, we also herald that a new and better world order is coming. Better yet, it’s coming soon!
As a young adult, I made many mistakes (and still do, although less much less than before). As I observe our young adults and the ministries they courageously lead, I am reminded of my youthful vim and vigor. They are cognizant of the suffering in this world and want to make a difference today. They go out in faith to distant places to which I was never courageous enough to go. Our young adults have a vision to change society that far exceeds mine. I wanted to change my city, so I was on the local evening news and visited the mayor’s office to address the needs of the underserved. But our young adults want to change their world, so they risk life and limb going to distant and dangerous lands, far beyond the reach of stable governments and law-abiding or law-maintaining agencies. At times, I simply stand in awe of their courage.
They, too, will make many mistakes, just like you and I, which is even more reason why they need our ardent encouragement and support to grow as leaders for years to come. Even as God gave Adam the task of naming the animals, we must be willing to give our young adults as many opportunities to engage in ministry as we can possibly imagine. God bore with Adam’s choices because God wanted him to own it, that this is the world over which He said you will have dominion, then He backed it up with this very first responsibility. But He didn’t just want Adam and Eve to own it. He wanted both to feel valued and appreciated. Can you think of new ways to help young adults feel valued and appreciated in your congregation?
It wasn’t long until Charley and I were in the normal routine of “tray tables and seat backs up” announcements, at which time Charley resumed the conversation as though we had never stopped. He shared with me something that let me know, maybe I hadn’t been too trite or direct with my response to his initial question. Instead of postulating political answers as he had done when we barreled down the runway, he said, “I believe this world will never really experience true world peace until Jesus comes,” He then shared that he was a P.K. (Preacher’s Kid).
I think what Charley was saying was, “You unearthed something buried deep in my heart that I hadn’t given much thought or consideration for a long, long time.” He then stated three times that he wished that he had met me many years ago. As I made my way to the door, Charley called out loud enough so several rows could hear him, “God bless you!” As I pressed toward the door, I responded, “God bless you, too, Charley!”
Maybe those of us who are older than we care to admit can’t change the whole world. But, we can name the animals. What do I mean? We can make a difference one person at a time. If 12 men could turn the world upside down, what can God do with the 86,000 members of the Lake Union Conference? God can use us working together, each bringing something special which God can use to fill up His church. But let’s support our young adults ardently, knowing that, the more opportunity afforded them, the better fitted they will be to lead our church into a grand and glorious future for which we cannot afford to be blind. With their energy and dedication, confidence and courage, as we share the dominion of responsibility, they can grow our church much faster than we could ever imagine.