Age should not be a barrier when it comes to building Christ’s kingdom....
The Church, the Mission, the Youth
Tweeting, posting, preaching the message
By Pako Mokgwane
Growing up in the village of Serowe, Botswana, taught me the beauty and importance of social relations. Human beings are naturally social. We all exist in community. In this context God gives each of us a mandate: to herald His love and the second advent. Every believer has been apportioned a role to play. Men and women, young and old, lay and clergy have been called to play their personal roles: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations. . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:19, 20, NIV).
Clearly, “God did not call His people to make them spectators.”1 Moreover, our involvement is not just for the sake of those to whom we witness. Our labor protects our own souls: “Strength to resist evil is best gained by aggressive service.”2
Every member invited to participate in this aggressive service is enabled to perform their task through their spiritual gifts. What an awesome privilege! God in His grace affords sinners the privilege to labor for the redemption of others in an inimitable way uniquely designed for every individual.
The Holy Spirit gives each believer a special endowment and ability to witness (1 Cor. 12:4, 8-10; Eph. 4:7-11). Each believer has at least one spiritual gift, though some possess more. And all are critical to the synergy and concord of the gospel work. No office is more important than the other. The various offices work like the body, with all its harmonized parts and systems. The eye cannot walk; neither can bones talk. Each part must do its rightful part, since the various systems need each other.
And the metaphor of different parts of the body (eyes, bones, etc.) may be applied just as reasonably to different groups within the church—kids and seniors, juniors, and young adults. For God’s work to be finished, and for all to be saved, all parts must work together with each other.
Social circles present a superb opportunity for the space and activity of mission. God, who has invited all of us to serve, equips us all and gives us all the space and ground we need to follow His directives. Relationships are a natural context for carrying out our gospel mission. Social interaction can be digital and/or physical.
And though electronic communication may seem like something radically new and different, Julia Roy has observed that “social media is the same today as it was yesterday. It’s just now reached a critical mass; it’s just too hard to ignore. You don’t want to be ‘that guy’ or ‘that brand’ who refuses to adapt to change and loses touch with reality.”3 Not everyone will agree with the claim that social media is not new. Some may want to find out the age of Julia Roy.
Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the reality of social media. Rather, we must harness its potential for the supreme cause of evangelism. This means engaging the youth of today with the high-tech savvy that is the natural inheritance of being born in this era characterized by the dynamism of social media. And whereas it has been said that youth aged 16-30 constitute the majority of the church membership, the church is well poised, by engaging their talents, to catalyze our mission work as they lay hold of the legacy of preceding generations.
The Youth Department has made its own specific application of the General Conference initiative Total Member Involvement, labeling it as Total Youth Involvement.
During the General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, General Conference Secretariat reported that the church loses half the number of believers it baptizes. General Conference secretary G. T. Ng also spoke of an alarming rise in youth attrition. One way to stop this hemorrhage, he said, is to “give young people the keys [to the church].” This initiative of the General Conference responds to the challenge of membership attrition at all levels, particularly among our youth.
It challenges the church at all levels to empower its youth by entrusting them with keys of leadership and mission. It allows Adventist youth to understand better that both their heavenly Father and their earthly church family value their service and ministry. It allows them to feel more fully than ever before that they belong to God’s family and own its mission. With such an understanding, it will not be hard to convince them to realize their God-given purpose.
A Task for All
Saving our church’s youth and fulfilling our church’s mission are not distinct and separate undertakings. Ellen White has spoken of the power of our youth to complete the task God has given us: “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Savior might be carried to the whole world!”4
We call on our youth to avail themselves for service in that gospel army. Also, we thank God for every local leader, elder, pastor, and member who diligently plays a role in intentionally setting up their local youth for leadership and mission.
As we resolved at our recent World Youth Advisory: “The local church must become the primary target of global youth ministry. Our core function is to resource and build up youth ministry in the local church. Youth ministry is effective only when it is a response to local needs, guided by local convictions in the hands of local people.” The answers to those local needs as provided by local churches will demonstrate to local communities all over the world that the good news of salvation in Jesus is the answer that individuals are seeking for their uniquely personal questions.
We may tweet or text or post those answers to our contacts, and share them through a million apps in the world of social media. Or we may share by means that existed long before Facebook or WhatsApp. The good news of the kingdom will be preached by creative Adventist millennials and by seasoned baby boomers; on phones, laptops, or tablets; on porches or across fences or across the electronic world; in living rooms or chat rooms, sunrooms and dining rooms; in parks and ball fields, swimming pools and community centers, for a witness to all our loved ones, friends, and neighbors. Then the end will come.
Pako Mokgwane is an associate director of Youth Ministries for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
1 K. Kenaope, Grassroots Mobilization (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Tribute Books, 2008), p. 21.
2 Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 105.
3 Julia Roy, in P. R. Scott and J. M. Jacka, Auditing Social Media: A Governance Risk and Guide (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2011), p. 85.
4 Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903), p. 271.