Monday, November 19, 2007

What do we do with "Adultolescents?"

I recently received an e-mail from our church's website from a young lady, in her twenties...looking for a "youth group" that she could connect with while attending college in St. Louis. Her request was for a group of people who like to "hang out" and have many activities. Hmmm...sadly, I think that this is the mindset of so many people that think of what church "ought to be." It seems as if there is a never-ending resounding of voices saying "when I was in the 'youth group' we did...", etc.

I am afraid that congregations all over America are continuing to follow the trend of society. We keep babysitting adults, prolonging childhood, and "entertaining goats rather than feeding sheep". (Yes, that quote was from Charles Spurgeon).

What do we say in response to this? How do we instruct young people today regarding things such as marriage, discipleship, financial responsibility, etc.? I was reading a recent article by John Piper, and thought that it was worth I have pasted it below. Feel free to comment!

A Church-Based Hope for “Adultolescents”
By John Piper November 13, 2007

Christian Smith, professor of sociology at Notre Dame, wrote in the most recent Books and Culture a review of six books that deal with the new phenomenon of “adultolescence”—that is, the postponement of adulthood into the thirties. I want to relate this phenomenon to the church. But first here is a summary from Smith’s article of what it is and how it came about.
What Is Adultolescence?
Smith writes,

“Teenager” and “adolescence” as representing a distinct stage of life were very much 20th-century inventions, brought into being by changes in mass education, child labor laws, urbanization and suburbanization, mass consumerism, and the media. Similarly, a new, distinct, and important stage in life, situated between the teenage years and full-fledged adulthood, has emerged in our culture in recent decades—reshaping the meaning of self, youth, relationships, and life commitments as well as a variety of behaviors and dispositions among the young.

What has emerged from this new situation has been variously labeled “extended adolescence,” “youthhood,” “adultolescence,” “young adulthood,” the “twenty-somethings,” and “emerging adulthood.”

One way of describing this group is to highlight the tendency to delay adulthood or stay in the
youth mindset longer than we used to. Smith suggests the following causes for this delay in arriving at mature, responsible adulthood.

First is the growth of higher education. The GI Bill, changes in the American economy, and government subsidizing of community colleges and state universities led in the second half of the last century to a dramatic rise in the number of high school graduates going on to college and university. More recently, many feel pressured—in pursuit of the American dream—to add years of graduate school education on top of their bachelor’s degree. As a result, a huge proportion of American youth are no longer stopping school and beginning stable careers at age 18 but are extending their formal schooling well into their twenties. And those who are aiming to join America's professional and knowledge classes—those who most powerfully shape our culture and society—are continuing in graduate and professional school programs often up until their thirties.

A second and related social change crucial to the rise of emerging adulthood is the delay of marriage by American youth over the last decades. Between 1950 and 2000, the median age of first marriage for women rose from 20 to 25 years old. For men during that same time the median age rose from 22 to 27 years old. The sharpest increase for both took place after 1970. Half a century ago, many young people were anxious to get out of high school, marry, settle down, have children, and start a long-term career. But many youth today, especially but not exclusively men, face almost a decade between high school graduation and marriage to spend exploring life's many options in unprecedented freedom.

A third major social transformation contributing to the rise of emerging adulthood as a distinct life phase concerns changes in the American and global economy that undermine stable, lifelong careers and replace them instead with careers of lower security, more frequent job changes, and an ongoing need for new training and education. Most young people today know they need to approach their careers with a variety of skills, maximal flexibility, and readiness to re tool as needed. That itself pushes youth toward extended schooling, delay of marriage, and, arguably, a general psychological orientation of maximizing options and postponing commitments.

Finally, and in part as a response to all of the above, parents of today’s youth, aware of the resources often required to succeed, seem increasingly willing to extend financial and other support to their children, well into their twenties and even into their early thirties.

The characteristics of the 18-30 year-olds that these four factors produce include:
(1) identity exploration, (2) instability, (3) focus on self, (4) feeling in limbo, in transition, in-between, and (5) sense of possibilities, opportunities, and unparalleled hope. These, of course, are also often accompanied by big doses of transience, confusion, anxiety, self-obsession, melodrama, conflict, and disappointment.

How Should the Church Respond?
How might the church respond to this phenomenon in our culture? Here are my suggestions.

1. The church will encourage maturity, not the opposite. “Do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 4:20).

2. The church will press the fact that maturity is not a function of being out of school but is possible to develop while in school.

3. While celebrating the call to life long singleness, the church will not encourage those who don’t have the cal to wait till late in their twenties or thirties to marry, even if it means marrying while in school.

4. The church will foster flexibility in life through living by faith and resist the notion that learning to be professionally flexible must happen through a decade of experimentation.

5. The church will help parents prepare their youth for independent financial living by age 22 or sooner, where disabilities do not prevent.

6. The church will provide a stability and steadiness in life for young adults who find a significant identity there.

7. The church will provide inspiring, worldview-forming teaching week in and week out that will deepen the mature mind.

8. The church will provide a web of serious, maturing relationships.

9. The church will be a corporate communion of believers with God in his word and his ordinances that provide a regular experience of universal significance.

10. The church will be a beacon of truth that helps young adults keep their bearings in the uncertainties of cultural fog and riptides.

11. The church will regularly sound the trumpet for young adults that Christ is Lord of their lives and that they are not dependent on mom and dad for ultimate guidance.

12. The church will provide leadership and service roles that call for the responsibility of maturity in the young adults who fill them.

13. The church will continually clarify and encourage a God-centered perspective on college and grad school and career development.

14. The church will lift up the incentives and values of chaste and holy singleness, as well as faithful and holy marriage.

15. The church will relentlessly extol the maturing and strengthening effects of the only infallible life charter for young adults, the Bible.

In these ways, I pray that the Lord Jesus, through his church, will nurture a provocative and compelling cultural alternative among our “emerging adults.” This counter-cultural band will have more stability, clearer identity, deeper wisdom, Christ-dependent flexibility, an orientation on the good of others not just themselves, a readiness to bear responsibility and not just demand rights, an expectation that they will suffer without returning evil for evil, an awareness that life is short and after that comes judgment, and a bent to defer gratification till heaven if necessary so as to do maximum good and not forfeit final joy in God.

Seeking to serve the next generation,

Pastor John

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Salvation comes to Centenario

I am typing this from the United States in Harlingen, Texas. We are looking forward to returning this evening sometime. Thank you dear for updating everyone while we were gone.

We finished our last day in Centenario by attending a church service at Iglesia Bautista del Buen Pastor in a nearby city, San Juan. This is also the congregation that Steve and Robyn Henry as well as Chris Berger attends. This is a very small congregation, but the service was great and we enjoyed worshiping with them. Edgar, one of the boys from the village, on the left, went with us. When we returned, he told us that he was interested in knowing Christ, we discussed this with him further as well as prayed with him. At the end of the day we had further discussion with him and told him that when we return, we would like for him to come to us the first day and we would like to teach him more about what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Rachel is correct in what she reported about Carmen. Our team felt it necessary to follow up with her again before we left. I shared with her from Matthew 13:44 and Christ the treasure of our lives. It was great to have a large field close by to illustrate the message of this verse. I asked her again to share with us in her words what she believed happened the other day when we visited her. In summary, she told us that though she understands that she does not have a job, her husband has a hard time finding work to do, they don't own their own home, she has been trusting in the ability to be able to "hold things together financially." She has been trusting in the tradition of Catholicism, and the saint that was around her neck. She told us that many groups had been in the area before, and there are several Mormon groups as well as Seventh Day Adventist. She also told us that she had heard the message that we shared with her before, however for the first time, she said that she believes and that Christ is her Lord, Savior, and King. Praise the Lord!!! We ended our time with her praying and rejoicing and telling her that when we return, our primary goal is going to be to disciple her and teach her from the scriptures.

There is more that I am going to write about our visit to Centenario, however there are others waiting for the computer I must go. John, I want to thank you for your generosity. I am looking forward to future ministry opportunities together! For those who do not know, pray for another avenue of ministry that we pray that the Lord will develop. We are praying the Lord will expand this ministry to assisting and teaching Pastors and church leaders who do not have access to sound teaching and instruction.
In all things...Christ Preeminent!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Latest Word

Well, I spoke with Aaron briefly today. Things are still going well.

A few matters of prayer:

First, that they would manage their time wisely on Sunday, and make the most of the last full day that they will be there. To my understanding, they are taking a few of the teenage/young men to a church a little ways away. I'm not sure what the plan will be after that.

Sencond, Carmen, who is the lady that always does the cooking for our group, has made a profession of faith. After hearing the gospel, she said "I want this to be my testimony that I believe in Jesus, and nobody else...", and then she ripped the "saint" from around her neck and asked them to get rid of it. Aaron said that the necklace appeared to have been fairly expensive. It represented her dead ancestors and was the virgin holding a baby. Idolatry of this type is very serious to them, and this was a great testimony. Carmen is very sick, and her health is declining quickly. Please pray that the Lord would use her in the lives of her family members, that they too might be saved.

Third, for a few window A/C units. The school is apparently trying to get their hands on a few window units for two rooms. Aaron asked that we make this a matter of prayer.

Fourth, one of the boys, Daniel, who was very inquisitive over the summer, and who Aaron had come to be friends with, has seemed a little stand offish. Aaron was hoping to meet with him this evening, but I never received further report on that. Pray that the Lord would open his eyes that he might be saved.

Well, I guess that's all for now. I don't have any pictures to post yet...Aaron tried to send them, but I think the signal would not hold long enough for them to go through.

Night Night!
Rachel S.

First Report

Hello's me, Rachel. It is late, so I hope that I remember everything I am supposed to report!

First of all, Aaron, Rick, and Robby were supposed to have a layover in Houston for 3 hours...however, they were able to catch an earlier flight at no additional cost. They were only at the Houston airport for about 30 min if I understand correctly.

Then, they got to the car rental joint....Advantage in Harlingen, TX, if you need a good van rental into Mexico...anyway, there was supposed to be an upcharge of $26 per day for taking the van into Mexico. Advantage decided not to charge them the extra, Praise the Lord! That saved them over $100.

For those of you who don't know, Connie Reinhold was able to send a large amount of medical supplies with our team. The hospital that she works in provided them as a donation. THANK YOU CONNIE! I spoke to Aaron this evening, and they had stopped in La Posa to drop off the medical supplies to the nurse. There is always a great need for vitamins. It just so happened that Robin, the nurse, had run out, and of course, there were lots and lots of vitamins in the goodies that Connie was able to send! I'm sure you can imagine the excitement (and drama) in Aaron's voice rejoicing in how the Lord provided!

The last time I heard from Aaron, it was about 10:00 pm. They had just gotten done setting up camp, & meeting with the boys that were awaiting their arrival. Aaron said that once again, it seems that the Lord has gone before them in each step of the way thus far. Duh!

Anyhow, I'm sure that I'm forgetting something, but you'll have to forgive me!

Oh yes, and Pastor Ruben Moreno, who had been feeling ill, and said he would definitely not be able to make the trip.....he met up with them this morning...and is in Mexico!

Thank you Lord!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mission to Centenario this Weekend

We are just a few hours from boarding the plane that will take us to southern Texas to spend the night and enter Mexico on Friday morning. I am going to include some specific areas where you can be praying for us in the next few days.

Our trip over the summer ended with the discussion of why we do not believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe. We also had a closing time with the people and shared with the community why we labor in making frequent trips to their village. The message was plain and simple, "that they may believe in Christ, and by believing in Him, have life in His Name."

Therefore, our primary goal with this small group is to follow up on the question, "If we do not believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe, then who do we believe?" This is going to be accomplished by small group discussions and individual conversations.

I would ask that you please pray about these details. Should their be people saved, our focus will immediately be discipleship and future missions would be to encourage these new believers, teaching them and walking with them as the Lord builds a community of believers. (I am getting chills just thinking about this!)

We are also going to have a storage facility available in southern Texas , and this will be a huge blessing. It will be great to have the ability to have people send supplies to a direct address in Texas and we will also be able to store items that cause problems for us to transport by airplane (tents, storage containers, etc.)

I ask you to please set aside some family time this weekend to be praying for us. Pray about the Lord's work in these areas and for wisdom as how to continue. Pray for the groups that are forming for next summer. We need people that are gifted in the areas of hospitality, evangelism, teaching, light construction (if necessary), recreation, and many other areas. We specifically could use those of you who are older than 30 years old!!!

Thank you so much for supporting these missions in the past and for your current support. We looking forward to giving report to the congregation upon our return. We will be sharing some of the information during our Spanish service at 8:00am on November 18th

Rachel is going to help keep everyone updated by keeping in touch with us while in Mexico. We will be sending more specific prayer requests, pictures, and testimony.

Finally, pray for permanent missionaries to this area. Pray for the people at To Every Tribe. I am specifically praying that Lord would supply their needs, and that He might provide laborers to go to the field to harvest! To God be the Glory!!!

In Christ,