The best and most dangerous thing Randel Everett has said

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As Randel Everett has traveled the state, he’s had the opportunity to visit with media members in cities across Texas. I’ve been with him for some of the interviews, and the questions have been interesting. Reporters want to know about the future of denominations. They want to know about the health of the convention.

Most of all, they’ve asked Randel about reaching out to those who are younger than 35. They note that this generation has not had the same allegiance to churches as previous generations. To me, Randel’s response has been the most encouraging and at the same time most dangerous thing he’s said since he’s been executive director of the BGCT.

From the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:

Two of the most frequent questions pastors ask the new executive director are, “What are our priorities (in the state convention)?” and “How do you reach those under 35?”

He tells the pastors that the under-35s will reach their own generation, advising them to trust younger leaders to come up with the methods.

For years Christians have lamented the loss of younger generations. We’ve bemoaned the lack of church interest from young people. No one seems to know what to do.

As an under-35 who spends most of his time with other under-35s, I’m not sure we have any magical answers either. But it seems to me that we would be the most culturally-appropriate group to share the hope of Christ with those in our age range. We hang out at the same places as non-believers our age. We share common jargon. We have the same life markers — Challenger explosion, the Gulf War, 9/11, the Iraq war. We network the same way.

It’s refreshing to hear someone who holds a position of influence such as Randel express a need to trust younger generations. Too many of my friends say they don’t have the freedom to grow where they are. They feel cramped, restricted, unable to express new perspectives or attempt new ways of doing things. Put simply, they’re unable to succeed or fail on their own.

As a generation, we have such potential. We seem willing to go to the ends of the earth if God calls us. We are networking in new ways, utilizing the technology that is before us. We care about hurting people close to us and on the other side of the world. We want to work together with other Christians.

But with the trust of others comes great responsibility. And that’s something as a generation that we haven’t lived up to well. We’re somewhat reticent to grab hold of the responsibilities previous generations already had grabbed by our age. Some criticize our generation for failing to grow up.

If we’re going to be entrusted with reaching our generation, we’re going to have to step up to the plate and deliver. We need to find effective ways of reaching out to those around us. We need to find ways to embrace the good of what has worked in the past and blend it with new ideas to create outreaches that work today.

We need to dialogue with people older than us in order to grow off what they know and avoid the mistakes they’ve made. At the same time, we need to travel our generational journey, redefining what may need to be refined.

The key to this process may be mentoring. Some of it will be formal, but much of it undoubtedly will be informal. Next week, Emily Prevost, a 20-something who works in the BGCT Congregational Leadership Team, will share her thoughts on effective mentoring. She’ll share what she sees that’s working and what’s not working. I look forward to reading it. I hope you’ll enjoy as well.

We hope it adds to the discussion of how younger people can grow, accept the trust Randel is encouraging and take hold of the responsibility of reaching a generation. For us, grabbing hold of all three of those notions is a must.

A generation may be counting on it.

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7 Responses to “The best and most dangerous thing Randel Everett has said”

  1. Tim Says:

    I grew up in Texas and was raised Baptist according to the Moderate traditions. Today I am 39, a college pastor of the crowd you that has been told to “trust younger leaders to come up with the methods”. Let me say that is not the way to reach the younger crowd. The reason these kids are being left alone to find their own leadership is because the leadership has lost touch with this generation. And not just in Texas, but all over the United States. Ed Stetzer said it himself, the centrality of Jesus is missing from the SBC, and the BGCT isn’t much better when it is willing to throw away an entire generation of people because they are not willing to do what it takes to learn what motivates these kids in the Kingdom of God. If ever you want help drop me a line. We can’t give up!

  2. David Says:

    An interesting study: who IS reaching the under-35’s, if anyone? Are the under-35’s who are Christians reaching other under-35’s who aren’t Christians–if so, how (and, if not, why not)?

    Every generation shares more common ground than uncommon ground with every other generation. We can’t let the fact that we have some differences which primarily relate to our ages (which may lead to different know-how and interests) keep us from dialoging with folks of other generations. Many of those under-35’s are OUR KIDS–if we can’t interact with them at ANY level, it doesn’t say much for our family relationships!

    The Bible says that love as its designed doesn’t have time for the fear it may experience for whatever the reason (“perfect love casts out fear”)–there are souls to make certain don’t go to Hell from any town in Texas or the U.S.! As long as God makes people as He ever has–to respond well to sincere expressions of love–every generation has a chance with every other generation. The deal is: JUST DO IT more than anything else, instead of only talking about it.

    My two cents.

  3. Brad Says:

    I applaud Randel’s empowerment and calling to under-35’s to seize their own day. Perhaps it’s good to remember that under-35’s are no more monolothic, though, than any other group. Rural under-35’s can have very different attitudes and preferences than urban under-35’s. First generation Hispanic under-35’s can lead different lives than third generation Hispanic under-35’s. “Married with kids” under-35’s and single under-35’s . . . well you get the picture. Each segment needs its creative drivers, advocates and innovators.

    That’s why over-35’s need to really “get” them in all their complexity, but relying on over-35’s judgement of what the next generation needs will always falls short. Denominational decline can become a great catalyst and opportunity for under-35’s to step up to the plate and for over-35’s to “baptize them with all power and authority” to make disciples, if only out of a desperate need to survive. But U35’s are different, think differently, live differently, organize differently, decide differently, experience God (gasp) differently.

    The Baptist Standard is currently conducting a research project for developing online communities and ministry resources. If you are under-35 or want to refer an under-35 to participate in an online survey, you can forward your/their name and email address to brussell@baptiststandard.com. We won’t spam you or abuse your name, but we greatly value your ideas.

  4. Lee Ann Says:

    I totally agree with Everett. The 20 and 30 somethings are the ones to reach the 35under group.

    But agree with you as well. WE do need to step it up, and reach out.

    “Some criticize our generation for failing to grow up.”

    I wouldn’t say we haven’t grown up. We just do it differently than others in the past.

  5. Erin Says:

    As a twenty-something on a university campus, I can tell you that young people benefit immensely from the spiritual leadership of older generations. Granted, by older, I guess I mean 30 and 40-somethings, but nonetheless older than ourselves.

    Many students lack spiritual leadership in their homes; others have grown up under the spiritual influence of their parents but desire relationships with other Christian mentors to further develop their faith (in many cases, to make it their own).

    Not that our peers are unable to provide this sort of spiritual community, but college students (not to mention, young singles emerging from the structure and comfort of college life) in general lack the direction and the capacity to organize and sustain ongoing avenues of spiritual growth. It’s not that we are incapable of self-sustenence (I have met many a God-fearing, mission-living young person) but often, we don’t have the resources to flesh out our own dreams and visions. It is the support, the encouragement and the admonishment of the older generation that spur us on toward the call of God on our lives.

    They challenge us. Walk alongside us. Pray with us. Encourage us. They share Life with us.

    Without these individuals, many of us would wander farther and farther from the church, seeking the sense of community which Christ intended the Body to provide.

    It’s not that we are not the Body to one another (living in community with other twenty-something Believers) but that having experienced this life-stage, having attained a certain degree of personal stability (and spiritual maturity), the older generation is in a much better place to serve and to disciple the young. They are in a much better place to pour out into us that which God has called us to pour out into the lost.

    It is in this way that older generation Believers make a renewable investment in the future of the Kingdom of God.

    For further reading on this topic, I encourage young and old to check out Sarah Cunningham’s “Dear Church: Letters from a Disillusioned Generation.”

  6. David Says:

    Side note:

    160 Texas teenagers and 30 adult sponsors are flying from DFW Airport to Tokyo, Japan tomorrow (July 21) with iWitness Ministries’ staff for 10 days of evangelism in that city. The team is attending orientation this weekend in preparation for culturally-relevant gospel-sharing among the Japanese of Tokyo. Daily updates of the team’s experiences will be posted here: http://flight963.org/texas-ss/.

    Your prayers for the Tokyo 2008 Mission team’s safe travels and success in planting/watering/harvesting are much appreciated by their parents and churches!

    More about iWitness Ministries here: http://www.igoglobal.org/.

  7. Tim Dahl Says:

    I have both a positive and negative reaction to what he said. I’ll think about it, and post later.

    Tim

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