Thursday, June 18, 2009

The prophetic (young) voice

Tom Brackett has written has interesting post on his blog, Church Planting Central, entitled, What might you have done differently...?
While travelling in the UK for three weeks (Tom's from North Carolina) and talking to people involved with the Fresh Expressions movement, Tom asked the same question over and over:
“If you knew twenty years ago what you know today about the impact of secularization on the relationship of Culture to Church and vice versa, what might you have done differently to prepare the institution for those emerging realities, back then?”

The responses to this question pretty much came down to two:
We were actively pushing our young people out the doors of our churches and Dioceses. We didn’t mean to – it’s just that we wouldn’t make room for them in our activities; we didn’t include their voices in our public conversations; we didn’t ask them for stories of their encounters with the good news of God as known in Jesus Christ. As a result, we lost them.

The second relates to the first:
2. We forgot how to nurture the prophetic voice in our midst. We’ve forgotten how to foster new young leaders in nurturing and mutually-shaping communities. Today, we are working on bringing new young leaders into our churches but that’s not the same as nurturing the prophetic voice in community – training new leaders to cultivate community with a hoe instead of directing with the Verger’s mace. That takes time to develop! It’s an art of “being in community” that very few have ever experienced, nonetheless mastered.

Tom doesn't leave things there. Here's what people suggested should be the response now in respect of what was missed:

Invite faith-filled young leaders into your communities. Listen. Try on new ideas. Experiment. Be willing to fail – often and early. “Fail away” until patterns of meaning start to emerge from your communities in discernment. Listen for the Fresh Expressions of the Spirit in their sometimes awkward and clumsy offerings. Especially listen and observe the way they use ritual and music to make sense of the insanity of our lives.

This reminds me of Peter's words in Acts 2:
God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. I checked out this verse online briefly, and came across a sermon by John Piper from 1989. At the beginning of the sermon (called Old and Young Shall Dream Together) he notes: In the last two messages I have spoken to the older saints and to the younger saints. I tried to show from Leviticus 19:32 and Psalm 71:18 that older people are to be prized, mobilized and evangelized. Then from Jeremiah 1 I tried to show that the fears and hesitancies of youth should be overcome by the sovereignty of God (in choosing us and forming us and consecrating us before we were born), the authority of God (in his word and his sending), and the promise of God (to be with us).

I particularly took note, as you might expect, of the bit about 'older saints are to be prized, mobilized and evangelized.'

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