Ok, so maybe that title is a little cheesy. Maybe the election did not teach us as much as it reminded us of a few things we need to be cognizant of as we lead our ministries.
In many of our churches we have been told that we must be respectful of our senior adults because, after all, they are the ones who finance the ministries of the church and to offend them would be wrong because they might either take their money elsewhere, or just stop giving to the church. Yes, we should be respectful of our senior saints, but we should be respectful of all people, not because of the size of their financial contribution, but because they are human beings for whom Christ died on the cross so that atonement could be made for their transgressions against a Holy God! This election did something that we should have learned after the last one, and maybe some of us did. Young adults (and students due to their proximity in age) are a force with which to be reckoned. The reality is that older adults are entering into eternity at a more rapid rate than younger adults and students, therefore it is imperative that students be engaged with the Gospel so that the excitement, passion, and energy they possess may engage the world from a life and worldview that has been transformed by the Gospel’s power. No longer can we simply expect those who “control the money” to control the direction of elections or our churches (yes, I am aware that the incumbent had a larger financial base than his challenger, but I am also aware that young people were a HUGE force in his reelection). The time has come for us to become even more intentional and passionate in our efforts to engage students with the Gospel.
Often when someone reads something like the above, it is seen as a generational war. Such could not be less true of my intent. With 7 out 10 American students not living with the biological mother and father that brought them into the world, students today are craving meaningful relationships with adults. Rather than see a generational crisis, as ministry leaders, we would be wise to activate our older adults (who are some of the most faithful believers we know) to come alongside and invest in our students. This may not always be easy as there are some differences in perspectives, but the great thing is that Gospel can transcend those differences and lead to great relationships.
Another issue that was interesting in the most recent election was the role that social issues played. I thought through that and one thought kept coming back to mind over and over again: you cannot legislate morality because morality is not a legal issue, but rather it is a heart issue. I am a conservative Christian with conservative Christian values, but I fear we made a mistake several years ago. Many of us in the conservative camp became entangled to an overly great degree (my opinion) with groups such as Moral Majority. As a result we abdicated some of our responsibility as believers to the role of government. Immorality is not a new thing. It has been around for a LONG time. Just look at Genesis. In our efforts to elect conservatives to government, we expected them to protect biblical values. Unfortunately, that led many of us to hold a defensive mentality rather than offensive. Think about the western frontier. Military outposts were set up so that in the event of an attack, those in the community could retreat to the fort and be “safe.” Christians were never called to be safe! We expected for far too long the government to initiate a heart change that only the Gospel can cause! If anything, this election should have reminded us that we are no longer in a safe fort, protected from attacks. It should have shown us that our students are engaged on all sides by social issues that the prevailing winds of the culture have dictated to them, and those prevailing winds are blowing in non-biblical directions.
When we think about the task that awaits those of us in student ministry, it is easy to get overwhelmed. However, we must remember that the Gospel still changes lives. The Gospel still transcends the prevailing winds of culture. The Gospel still answers the questions and provides the change that government cannot. In our student ministries, it is absolutely imperative that if we want to produce more than merely a crowd at our weekly gatherings or large events, we must make the proclamation of the Gospel central to all that we do!
Finally, the election reminded me of another thing we must consider in our student ministries. We must be people of objectivity and integrity. The first time I said the word objectivity in a group of student workers, I offended a gentleman who later told me that we needed less objectivity in our ministries because objectivity allows for alternate answers. I understood his concern. What he was saying is this: What if our students present an issue for which the Gospel does not provide an answer, or what if they ask a question that destroys the credibility of the Bible. Friends, all we have to do is open the Bible and let it speak for itself. It is like a lion; it needs no defense! It can (and has answered) answer every criticism that comes its way!
I was asked by a student why it seemed as though Christian leaders were supporting a man who many of those same leaders would have said is a member of a cult. Talk about a gut check! Our students live in an academic world that encourages them to question everything. This should not cause us to fear, but rather to be excited. We have an opportunity to lead them to be like the Bereans whom Paul commended for their willingness to examine what he taught.
On the Wednesday following the election, I was asked by yet another student if I really believed in the power of the Gospel. Intrigued, I played along. After I replied that I absolutely believe in the power of the Gospel, this student asked me why so many Christians acted like it was the end of the world since the candidate many of them had voted for did not win. What the student was asking is this: if Christians really believe in the Gospel, then why are they sending a double message after the election? Do they believe in the power of the Gospel or the power of the government?
Friends, I love students and I love student ministry for a wide variety of reasons. Their inquisitiveness and willingness to ask the hard questions are part of the reason why. If we are going to be successful in engaging and reaching this generation of students with the Gospel, it is imperative that we are objective and have integrity with not only the information we present, but also with the ways in which we present said information. Our students ARE asking the questions, and it is our responsibility to answer them correctly, objectively, and with integrity. The statement has been made in the past that students can see through a phony a mile away. That statement has never been more true that it is now.
Regardless of where you stand politically, my hope is that as work with students, you will recall what this election taught us:
1. Students and young adults are a generation that MUST be taken into account because they are definitely capable of accomplishing great things. It is imperative that we engage them with the Gospel to activate them to their fullest capacity.
2. Morality is not a government issue, but a heart issue that only the Gospel can resolve.
3. As we minister to our students, we must do so with objectivity and integrity. We cannot damage the work of the Gospel by our lack of either.