There is no doubt, the issues surrounding my generation is as old as humanity. However, the issues facing “the young” in the 21st Century are far much different from issues of youths in the yester centuries. The teens/youths in the 21st Century Church, of course, are not exempted from this dilemma.
The dangerous phenomena that characterise this generation are far numerous: Globalization, overpopulation, abortion, gay rights, poverty, disease, war and terrorism, drinking/smoking, waywardness, global warming, power in international relations, increasing popularity of digital formats for entertainment media such as movies and music and the advancement of technology are the major issues that characterise this 21st Century .
However, to say the affected category of people is mostly the youths is never a gainsaying. The African Youth Charter defines “youth” as “every person between the ages of 15 and 35 years”. Every Christian youth needs to keep him or herself abreast of the current issues in the world and learn how to tackle these using the Holy Bible as the standard. This is because these forces and factors impinge upon, affect and shape the lives of young people in every sphere of life. Nowadays it’s like a wave of carnality is sweeping the youths off their feet across the globe. Many young people are without hope, discouraged and depressed to the point where they are suicidal. Even within the church there is discontentment, disappointment and loneliness, they look at the world around them, and they see no hope for the future. There is unrest and war throughout the world. Unemployment is a real problem among the youths.
As an information scientist, i did a little literature review and found out that in 2011, the National Bureau of Statistics estimates that Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose to 23.9% compared with 21.1% in 2010. When the Nigerian youths come out of Secondary school, College or complete their one year compulsory National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), there is no guarantee for a job or career. They seem to have no goal to work to in life, many turn to drinking, gambling, drugs, partying, prostitution and other ungodly acts. In many parts of the world, young people are still suffering from hunger, lack of access to education, health services and job opportunities, and are exposed to insecurity and violence.
The relationship between the Church and young people have been, and probably will always be, a catalyst for disagreement and tension unless some quite dramatic changes take place. There is no doubt that the church is facing serious challenges on a number of fronts in this generation, negative and defensive reaction will only serve to underline the status quo and push this “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own special people…” (1 Peter 2:9 NKJV) .
There is need for a positive willingness to face realities, re- order priorities and implement change that will restore the glory of the church, as we are the salt of the earth and light of the world.
The church is actually in its last days as Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV). The 21st Century Church and her youths have been experiencing these phenomena at an alarming rate like never before. The world has changed. Time has changed – the pace at which we live life has accelerated terrifically.
We now have interactive teaching and learning, more stimulations than ever before, more things to do, to read, to watch, to experience. These days young people are more often found quoting a pick up line from Hollywood, Nollywood, Bollywood actors and actresses than a bible verse. It is not going to change. I could imagine myself in my younger years, at age eleven/ twelve,what I would be doing after my school hours if not my lunch, school homework, thereafter, my apportioned domestic chores, and on Mondays , my step mum drags me to BSF (bible study foundation), which wasn’t much fun cos we would trek for miles just to get to st. Pirans all the way from Rikkos new layout for that bible study, i would be as tired as a rag. The world is different now: twelve year olds today earn cash in their spare time, hang out with friends, play computer games, surf the internet, go to the movies, the mall, and play Sony Playstation games.
On the other hand, why should one spend time memorising, when Androids, Tablets, Ipad and other hand held computers contain easy-reference word-search Bible concordances in a multitude of versions. Why memorise when its online? Young people in this generation know more and have access to vastly greater quantities of information than ever before. We have lots more information at our finger tips than those teaching us, Which means we are less likely to accept authoritative and definitive answers. No longer will “Because I say so” suffice – especially when the “I” is an older person who can’t search Encyclopaedia Britannica online; isn’t a member of three email forums, doesn’t read nine daily newspapers from around the globe and doesn’t subscribe to six of the latest scientific and theological journals from universities as far afield as Boston and London. Let us face it, how many of the older generation- can do that already?
The youths have had a jump start – while anyone currently over thirty is still playing catch up when it comes to Information Technology. What do young people expect from the church as far as assuming any leadership roles? My little experience in church affairs clearly reveals that many churches are generally reluctant to seriously consider leadership potential amongst the young or to develop ways of enabling youthful leadership to emerge. It is impossible, and dangerous, to consider the spiritual in the lives of young people and at the same time ignore what is happening to them in terms of their development in other spheres of life (most especially their gainful employment). King Solomon, the richest, wealthiest and wisest man that ever lived challenged the Israelite nation to “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it”- (Proverbs 22:6). It is not only the responsibility of parents to give such discipline and training, but also the church.
The church must educate, train and prepare the young generation to carry on the burden of leadership and management of nations and resources of the world. There can be no doubt, then, that young people need Christ. They need His example, they need His guidance, and they need His salvation. Solomon exhorted the young to “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” (Ecc. 12: 1). There can be a tendency to put off our obedience to Christ, but Solomon points out the time when we need to proclaim and carry out our allegiance to God – in our youth, not years later when our ability to serve Christ and the amount we can achieve for him have been diminished by the wasted years (Ecc. 12).
How then can the church encourage its young people to stay close to God and make a life-long commitment to Him by rendering obedience to the Gospel and staying faithful in this decayed world? The church, parents/guardians, older ones, schools, must ensure that we, the youths receive a steady diet of “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20: 27). We should eschew the tendency seen so often in the world of “soft-pedalling” on sin, and instead point out the many ways in which the lifestyle being promoted to teenagers is in contradiction to God’s Word. Solomon warned of the danger of youth following its own desires with little regard to the consequences: “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thine heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgement” (Ecc. 11: 9). Youth must be explicitly admonished of the consequences of sin. While the presentation of God’s Word needs to be done so as to hold their interest, this is no excuse for ignoring the realities of sin and judgement. Indeed, as young people approach and pass accountability, they need more than ever to know that God will hold them accountable for their thoughts, words and deeds.
Conclusively, there is no doubt that it can be a difficult thing for any young person to live godly in my generation, its a struggle, but the life of a young person who has devoted himself/herself to God is a beautiful thing with great reward in this contemporary time. The older generation in the church should bear in mind, however, that in a very real sense the youths are the church of today. They should also understand that the youths are the future of the church and they must be taken care of. Without their youthful strength and energy the church would rapidly stagnate and grow old. They form a vital and essential part of the Lord’s body, and we must ensure that in this 21st Century they have every opportunity to remember God and fashion their lives after His Son Jesus .
The Church should value the input the youths have into the church community, celebrate their achievements, cherish their open and trusting hearts, and help to guide them in their walk in Christ, not judge them and despise them, each young person can take heed to Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity (I Tim. 4: 12). The people of God must encourage the young amongst them to strive to do this, and they must hold out their hands to support them as they do so.
Thanks for taking out time to read the message God has given me to state, about my generation.