Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
1 Peter 2:2-3
This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.
These verses are familiar. We quote them casually in church and to those who are a part of our circle of fellow believers. But, knowing a little Greek becomes helpful when looking at the bold words above. The first word, grow, is translated from a Greek word that means to mature or increase in ability. The idea is that of someone learning and working toward a complete experience of wholeness in Jesus, or as Methodists say, full salvation. The second verse uses a powerful word that gets a good workout in the New Testament. Repent comes from a word in Greek that means change of heart or change of direction. It implies moving toward one thing but realizing that you need to be going toward another. Both words are powerful in that when we take them seriously and recognize the lifelong goals of living into them, we have found a crucial element to our walk with God.
They also speak of change. Not just a turning once or a quick burst run but a slow, steady, lifelong practice of changing, orienting, reorienting, for the sake of learning, understanding, and presenting the message of Jesus to the world. We will always carry the basic message of Jesus life, ministry, death, and resurrection to others, but we will always need to change and update that presentation for new generations as they come into being.
I have been asked several times what do we do about the young people, where did the young people go, how do we get the young people to come back? I have also heard people say several times that they need to go somewhere that they can be fed spiritually (of course implying they feel like they are not being fed spiritually). Whether you realize it or not, when you make these two statements together, you answer your own question. Young people are not going to church, especially mainline churches, because they are not finding anything to feed them, to nourish their souls. I also have heard people say that if they just come and get involved, it will fix everything. But the truth is that won’t work. Even if they do come, without having a point of connection, a way of finding expression that draws them into the presence of God, they will still be spiritually dry and hungry. It’s one thing to go and serve¾and we all should¾but starving while serving is a good way to spiritually burnout and give up; just ask any of the thousands of pastors that have left the ministry over the past quarter century.
At this point in the conversation, some people are getting very nervous. Does this mean I have to give up what I believe? How I worship? My church as I know it? No. It doesn’t. If an expression of worship is directed at God, whether it is an act of worship in the church or an act of service outside the church, it is a valid expression of worship. There is no need to ‘get rid’ of any expression of worship.
What we need to do is make room for and encourage other expressions of worship in the church family. We need to be willing to open the doors to new ideas and new experiences that connect with people who are hungry for them within our congregation as well as those who are hungry outside our congregation. And this requires change, change that doesn’t take away but change that adds to.