The Future Is Now
“Do not prophesy to young men
What their someday fame may be.”
The poet’s admonition underscores two of our most frequent errors when engaging Adventist youth and young adults in the mission of this end-time people.
First, we project their years of usefulness into the distant future, at which point, we seem to say, they will then have the skills or attitudes necessary to be productive disciples. The truth is, however, that discipleship is not—nor ever was—an adults-only experience. Describing God’s inclusive family, Ellen White once wrote: “Young though they may be, the youth may be members of the household of faith and have a most precious experience. . . . They may have their hearts drawn out in confidence and love for Jesus, and live for the Savior.1
In many regions of the world Adventism is overwhelmingly a faith of children, youth, and young adults. In some countries even the percentage of baptized members in these categories exceeds 60 percent. And though we have often been slow to both count and incorporate that reality, the urgency of the task given to this church requires that we not postpone for another decade—or another day—the opportunity to involve those under age 30 in every possible level of leadership and service.
Second, and perhaps more problematic, by telling gifted young adults that they are destined for supposedly “high” and important positions of leadership, we undermine the talent and the energy they should be investing in the work immediately before them. Here again, we ought to have been listening to that wise mother and grandmother, Ellen White: “While waiting for some great work in which they may exercise their supposedly great talents, and thus satisfy their ambitious longings, their life passes away. My dear young friends, do the work that lies nearest at hand. Turn your attention to some humble line of effort within your reach.”2
As you hear the voices of the talented young adults who so ably represented their church at the 2010 Atlanta General Conference session, commit yourself to encourage the church’s youth and young adults as the leaders of today. Help create the openings—even if that means stepping aside yourself—through which the gifts given them by the Spirit will dramatically increase the power of our witness.
— Bill Knott
1 Ellen G. White, Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 169.
2 Ellen G. White, Messages to Young People, pp. 148, 149.