Posted by: Brian Musser | July 12, 2016

A Safe Place to Ask Questions

Presented at LifeSong Christian Church on May 22,2016

As the Baptist Campus Minister at Drexel University I have the unique privilege to work with individuals who are in a very specific time of their lives. I work with young adults. Early adulthood is significantly different than any other life stage. What does it mean to be a young adult? How are young adults distinct from any other age group? Hopefully, a better understanding of who young adults are will allow us as the church to reach into their lives and minister to them. The question I am most interested in is: what type of place does the church need to be to connect with young adults? Although, I work mostly with college students I am intentionally discussing young adults on broader terms. This includes college students but is true for those who have chosen not to attend college and have gone straight into the work force, signed-up for the military or are on a different journey than university life.

To begin let’s look at two ages that we definitively know are not young adults: an eight year old and a forty year old.

⦁ What does an eight year old girl think about boys?
⦁ What does a forty year old woman think about men?
⦁ When you ask an eight year old boy about what they are going to do with their life, what kind of answers do you expect?
⦁ What kind of answers would you get from a forty year old man?
⦁ When an eight year old girl is somewhere they do not want to be how do they handle the situation?
⦁ When a forty year old woman does not like her surroundings what does she do?
⦁ How does an eight year old boy decide to spend his allowance?
⦁ How does a forty year old man make a financial decision?
⦁ How does an eight year old girl figure out what is true?
⦁ How about a forty year old woman?

The answers to those questions should be different. If they are not, that would be a sign that something is wrong. There is a maturing process that happens over time in our lives. In childhood we are childish. That is the way it should be. We act like children. When we are adults we tend to be more mature. If everything in the growing up process happens well we act like grown-ups. That is also the way it should be.

Part of this growing up process is being a young adult. Some scholars have referred to it as “developing adulthood” or “emerging adulthood.” I would define it as the time in life when a person is in the process of answering several key questions in their life that will determine their path for the foreseeable future. Young adulthood is defined by the questions. In some of us it can begin as early as 16. In others it can linger until we are well into our 30’s. Some individuals stagnate in this process and may never fully emerge as full adults. Others may feel trapped in the process and sense that they have not successfully answered the questions. And then there are some that will cruise through the questions without difficulty arriving at a sense of being grown-up well in advance of their peers. Finally, some may avoid the necessary questions all together and remain childish.
Let’s look at one specific passage that will show Jesus at work answering and asking questions in community to disciple young adults.

Matthew 19:16 – 30 (NIV)
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
In the parallel passage in Luke this person is identified as a ruler. Later in this passage we learn that he is rich and young. Jesus has created an atmosphere where this man asks this question.
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
Jesus responds with a probing question that was designed to take the conversation deeper. I’m not sure the young man noticed this question. In a specific answer to the man’s question Jesus gives a very common and mundane answer.
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Jesus again gives a common answer quoting the Old Testament giving the second half of the 10 commandments and summing them up with love your neighbor as yourself.
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
I find the combination of religious conceit and uncertainty fascinating in this statement. He is both conceited in his religiosity but also desperate in his need. If we take this rich young ruler at face value, we would consider him a good church kid. Think about that. Even the young adults who grew up in church and are still hanging out in our services are going through the same questioning phase that all young adults do.
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Being a young adult is about the questions.

⦁ Who do I really want to become?
⦁ How do I navigate personal and professional life?
⦁ How do I work toward undefined goals?
⦁ Will someone love me?
⦁ Can I be more than one type of person at the same time?
⦁ Who will be there for me?
⦁ Why is the world so screwed up?
⦁ What do I have to do to fit into my culture? Do I want to try that hard?
⦁ What about sex?
⦁ Do my actions really make a difference?
⦁ Do I need friends?
⦁ Do I want to be married? Why? To whom?
⦁ What responsibilities do I have to my community?
⦁ Is God asking anything of me? Do I have to answer?
⦁ What is the meaning of money? How much is enough?
⦁ Is there a master plan?
⦁ What should I do for work?
⦁ How have I been hurt? Will I ever really heal?
⦁ What do I want the future to look like—for me, for others, for my planet?
⦁ What is my religion? Do I need one?
⦁ What are my real talents, preferences, skills, and longings? How do they all work together?
⦁ When do I feel most alive?
⦁ Where can I be creative?
⦁ What am I vulnerable to?
⦁ What are my fears?
⦁ Am I being unjust?
⦁ Am I responsible to help solve the world’s problems?
⦁ Will I always be stereotyped?
⦁ What do I really want to learn?
⦁ Do I want to bring children into the world?
⦁ How do I discern what is trustworthy?
⦁ How do I know what I know?
⦁ Where do I want to put my stake in the ground?
⦁ Where do I want to invest my life?

Tim Elmore in Leveraging Your Influence: Impacting College Students for Christ says that there are five categories of questions that young adults are figuring out as they navigate maturity. These categories are:
1) TRUTH – What is true? Who should I trust? Religion, worldview, authority, certainty
2) LOVE – Who do I love? Who is going to love me? Relationships, family, friends, society
3) HOME – Where am I comfortable? What do I need? Location, roots, adventure
4) PURPOSE – Where should I invest my limited resources? What should I be doing? Career, education, achievement, ambition
5) Value – How should I live my life? What is the “Good Life?” Morals, lifestyle, satisfaction

So now if young adulthood is about asking and answering questions what type of place must the church be in order to connect to young adults?

It must be a place where it is safe to ask questions. It must be a place where questions are encouraged. It must be a place where thoughtful answers are able to be developed. And if we not only want to connect with young adults but we want to be ahead of the curve it must be the place where we engage young adults with the questions that they need to be asking. What would this kind of place look like?

I think scripture gives us a clear picture of such a place.

⦁ Luke 11:1 (NIV) One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
⦁ Matthew 13:10 (NIV) The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
⦁ Acts 1:6 (NIV) Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
⦁ John 9:2 (NIV) His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
⦁ Matthew 17:18-19 (NIV) Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
⦁ Matthew 18:1 (NIV) At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
⦁ Matthew 18:21 (NIV) Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus’ disciples asked him all sorts of questions. They felt safe to do so. They had an idea that they were going to get an answer. Sometimes it wasn’t the answer they expected. Their questions prompted some of the best recorded learning times in Scripture. Jesus accepted and answered their questions. He taught them through the questions they were already asking.

Are you a person that has developed relationships with others and especially with young adults that creates space for them to ask you important questions? Is this a church that has intentionally created space for people to ask questions? Do you give good answers to the important questions? If our goal as Christians is to be like Christ and Christ taught the disciples, who were young adults, through the questions they asked him, is doing the same part of being like Christ?

Mentor young adults through their questions.  

Allow me to ask a couple of questions that I want you to think about for the rest of the morning.
⦁ How many of you have close friendships with people who are 10 years older or younger than you?
⦁ Why do we only typically form relationships with those around our same age?

I would challenge you to purposely seek out a relationship with a young adult where you can mentor them through the questions they are already asking. As a church, I would challenge you to develop some sort of process that connects adult mentors with young adult mentees. It does not need to be a formal program with tons of numbers but those young adults that have been entrusted to you by God should be mentored. If there are none then pray toward that end.

In America there exists a gap between generations. We have many social scientists working hard to identify and name these generations. Some have entitled them builder, boomer, gen X, millennials, civil rights, power generation, hip hop, iY and the list goes on. Our culture is built to create and cater to different generations. In our education system we are segregated via age and conditioned to be most comfortable relating mostly to those in our same age bracket. Our education system has prioritized age in a way that is unique throughout the history of humanity. Throughout our school years we are quarantined into groups strictly based on our ages and conditioned to relate to and converse with only those who are in the same age bracket as us. We are trained to be most comfortable when we are with folks that were all born in the same year. Establishing connections across generations is not a skill that our culture has prepared us to do.

In our media and arts we have entire channels that are dedicated to specific ages. Can you name a television show where the cast is not mostly within the same generation? Most of our American institutions are perfectly fine with the way we separate ourselves according to age. We are now in a culture that this has always been the norm. Every one of us has gone through our state mandated education process which was established in 1920’s. Every one of us is part of a specifically identified generation that is distinct from the others.

But then we turn to Scripture. In Deuteronomy 6:4 – 7 we see families responsible for passing on the faith to the following generations. From Proverbs 22:6 we are encouraged to train our children. Through Titus 2 and 1 Timothy 5 we see that the church is supposed to have multiple generations within it. Scripture assumes that the Christian faith will cause us to relate across generations. Scripture even implores us to relate across generations. I would suggest that the church is the only major institution in American culture that has an imperative to be multi-generational. This creates a problem. Our culture is generationally isolated. The church must reach across generations. Young folks must relate to their elders. And the older folks must relate to the younger. This means that as the church tries to do this it will be doing something that is counter-cultural. Counter-cultural things tend to be hard, awkward unnatural, weird. In order to do them we must be intentional. It will not happen naturally. We must be willing to learn. We will not be good at it in the beginning. We must willing to step outside of our cultural comfort zone.

However; Jesus wasn’t just reactionary in how He taught through questions. At times those around Him weren’t asking questions or weren’t asking the right questions.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Then turning to his disciples he makes a couple statements that force a question. In the Jewish worldview material blessings always meant God’s favor. If you had stuff it was because God blessed you. Since God blessed you it was safe to assume that you were right with God. Since you had stuff and were right with God it was right to assume you would be in the kingdom of God. Jesus does not let His disciples remain comfortable in these assumptions.
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Which of Elmore’s categories are included in the disciples’ questions and Jesus’ answer?

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[c] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

In Scripture Jesus asks more questions than He was asked.

⦁ Matthew 6:27 (NIV) Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
⦁ Matthew 15:3 (NIV) Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?”
⦁ Matthew 16:13-15 (NIV) When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” … “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
⦁ Luke 6:46 (NIV) “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
⦁ Luke 10:36 (NIV) “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
⦁ John 5:44 (NIV) How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
⦁ John 21:16a (NIV) Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He wanted to make others think through what they believed and how they lived. He not only answered questions. Jesus forced his followers to deal with questions. The church needs to be the place that encourages young adults to ask the questions that really matter. We need to be the place that actively engages young adults with important issues making it so that they cannot ignore them.
Challenge young adults to ask the right questions.
If we look at Jesus’ ministry on earth most of his time is spent discipling his followers and especially investing in the lives of the twelve. Those twelve disciples were young adults. They were young adults by age. Their questions were young adult questions. Jesus engaged them through their questions and forced them to deal with even deeper ones. They were thinking through the same categories that young adults think through. Jesus’ method of discipling the twelve was to create a place where questions were allowed, encourage these questions and force questions. This is how Jesus did ministry on earth.
To do ministry like Christ it is important to minister to young adults through their questions.
Can you imagine a place like this where young adults come together in community and process the questions that they are working through? Can you imagine if this group of young adults was being taught and mentored by individual adult church folk and/or the entire congregation? Can you imagine if this group was not only finding good answers to questions that society was making them ask but were forced to deal with the questions that Scripture raises? Can you imagine if the church was the place that was producing the most mature and well-developed adults because we were intentionally investing in the questioning process that young adults go through? Can you imagine if we were so good at it that the world noticed?

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  1. […] Preached at LifeSong Christian Church in Elkton, MD:  A Safe Place to Ask Questions.  Jesus created a safe place for young adults, including his disciples, to ask and answer the big […]


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