I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. –Ephesians 4:1-6
We live among people defined by division. Political parties, sports teams, school rivalries, even restaurant chains; we live in a world gripped by division. Sin has left an unmistakable bitter taste on the intended sweet elixir of community. This isn’t new. This division starts in Genesis and runs through Revelation (most of it anyway). Abel died because of division. Stephen died because of division. Jesus died on the cross because of division.
The church has the opportunity to be different. Teenagers are looking for something different. Tumblr, Youtube, Snapchat; social media promotes a desire to see people live in peace. However, the world our teens live in capitalizes on false promises, broken premises, and foolish desires. The world around them continues to fall short of this desired peace. There are many ways that sinful flesh sees value in the world over the church. Our music may not compete with Ariana Grande. Our preaching may not engage like a Youtube star. Our social media may not captivate like a Kardashian. But the church can supply peace, unity, and love like no other group on earth. Our teenagers desire peace because we were created for peace. We were created to live in community devoted to the worship of our Lord. No amount of technology or school spirit or romantic butterflies stirring in a teenager’s gut can truly satisfy the emptiness of life lived outside of God’s people. The church has the opportunity to show our teens how to be different.
We must pay careful attention to the words of Paul. We are not just called to be in community within the walls of our local church. All believers, all worshippers, all followers of Jesus are part of One Body. While the world continues to separate, divide and attack, we have an opportunity to be different by the supernatural unity that the Spirit of God provides. As youth leaders we are uniquely positioned to both seek this unity among fellow leaders and teach this unity to our students. We can have an impact that reverberates for generations. We can seek to bring churches together in the name of Christ.
I am not suggesting that there are no real divisions to work through. I am calling upon each of us to work through them. Proverbs 27:17 , “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Iron sharpens iron through a process of banging, shaping, and forming. This does not happen by laying two dull swords next to each and waiting for them to sharpen by osmosis. This does not happen by each sword defining its own sharpness and ignoring the other. It takes effort, work, and interaction. Yet, often as leaders we get siloed into our own ministries and only remember other churches when we feel threatened by a sense of competition. This leads our students into a continued mindset of division and they (we) miss out on the process of sanctification that is experienced when we work to unify the church. As a result, we become even more entrenched in a cultural Christianity that defines “true religion” by “superior” religious practices. It does not have to be this way. We can choose to sharpen each other. I have personally gained wisdom, knowledge, and encouragement by meeting with leaders from different backgrounds. The experience was wonderful.
I encourage you to seek out relationships with leaders of other ethnicities, denominations, and locations.
Do you support missionaries as a church? Find one that is doing youth ministry that you can connect with.
Do you have a family member at a church in another state? Ask them to connect you with their youth pastor.
Do you meet regularly with other leaders in your area to pray? Connecting with one another will have an impact on your ministry and the ministry to your city.
While teenagers are looking for something different in this life, let’s show them the amazing ways the church is different. Let’s show them that while everyone else in the world is at odds with each other, the Gospel of Jesus has the power to unify.
A.C. is the Pastor of Students and Missions at Camelback Bible Church in Phoenix, AZ. He has served in youth ministries for ten years. Connect with him on twitter or instagram , @elsietevii.