We’ve often heard the old adage, “The church is only one generation away from extinction.” This is usually given as an emphatic reason for the discipleship of our young church attenders so that they are capable of taking up the burden of continuing the institutions of the church. And so we teach them bible stories, help them memorize Scripture, train them up to take the offering, serve in the nursery, teach Sunday school, and assume their place in a variety of church functions and offices.
If we’re slightly more theologically minded, we also want them to be Christians capable of withstanding culture’s inundations. So we teach them how to use apologetics to win arguments with atheists, share books on finding the right spouse, and warn them over and over again about the dangers of sinful living in their college years. But what do we teach them about their workplace? How do we prepare them to be the men and women who bring and do Christ’s work through their daily work?
What if the adage ‒ the church is only one generation away ‒ is actually not the right one? Look at Jesus’s words to his disciples in Matthew 5:13. Perhaps we need a different focus. If the church is the salt of the earth, then it’s possible that the earth, the world, and the culture around us is only one generation away from extinction. What if the church fails to train the young to work as Christians? What if that causes business and factories and retail outlets to devolve into immoral communities producing sub-quality products that poison our environment, poison the children in our neighborhoods, and keep families from quality goods that could have increased their flourishing as human beings? What if the culture is only one generation away from extinction and it’s us, the church, preserving it as salt preserves meat from rotting? What if in failing to teach our children what it means to do Kingdom work, we are actually failing the culture we were sent to influence and improve?
When I read Acts and see how Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla made tents together, I wonder if maybe they weren’t only learning and teaching the gospel, but were sharing the gospel through the actual work of making tents. After all, tents are what the people of Israel lived in when they wandered the wilderness with God. A tent is what God first lived in among his people. What if they made each tent as if it was to be lived in by God? How might that have changed not only the spiritual lives of their neighbors, but their physical lives as well? What if buying a tent from Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla was buying a tent made by Christians who believed that everything should be done as for The Lord? What difference might it make in our communities if instead of simply preparing our children to fulfill church-centered functions, or fight the battles that the culture might bring their way, we prepare them to work with God to preserve the culture through their daily employment?
Might not the gospel look like a tent, a hamburger, a vehicle, a computer, a mobile device, or an app that was created, built, or prepared by someone who did it as unto the Lord?
- As a church leader, how are you inviting your congregation to think about training the young as it relates to their work?
- How does your church currently mentor youth? Are there congregants who are able to bring youth into their workplaces to exemplify Christian work?
- As you invite pastorally inclined youth into apprenticeship, do you do the same for youth interested in other vocations?
- How is your congregation learning to see its daily work as faithful stewardship for the Kingdom of God?
Christian Ricker is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Chenoa in Chenoa, Ill.