I was at Starbucks the other day giving a friend advice on how to start a non-profit when an older gentleman overheard us. Intrigued, he asked us a series of questions about our lives and passions. Long story short, he was a pastor who was extremely encouraged to see young Christians following Jesus and trying to make a difference in the world. On our way out, he said, “Oh yeah! Last thing, what do you want to do with your life?” To which I replied, “I am going to change the world.” He chuckled, and looked at me like a father who looks at his six-year-old son after saying, “Daddy, I’m going to be an astronaut!” He wanted the best for me, but clearly thought I was being unrealistic. Seeing that I was unfazed by his evident doubt, he amused me with a follow up question, “So how do you plan on doing that?” I said, “I’m going to make disciples of all the nations.” He paused, contemplated for a second, and finished, “You know what? That’s a good answer.”
My issue with this pastor’s response is not that he personally doubts my ability to change the world. But he second guessed my mandate as a Christian according to Matthew 28. By changing the world, I don’t mean me leading the charge. I mean working together with an army of disciples, the church, who have an unswerving devotion to follow out the great commission. There will never be another one-man show like Jesus. That’s why it’s critical that the church as a whole is confident about our place and purpose in the world.
My generation is looking for older men and women that have the audacity to change the world and the guts to gamble on young Christians to join in the mission.
Changing the world is not a dream. It’s a command. It’s not a good intentioned fantasy young Christians have that fizzles out as they mature. It’s the vision and mission Jesus commanded as his final words to all who follow Him. I know there are staggering numbers on how the youth is abandoning the church, but I think the elders are abandoning the mission.
Why would a pastor chuckle at the mission of the church? Since when did changing the world become something that sounded great in theory, but unrealistic in practice? Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” Young Christians think they can change the world, and they’re right. Older Christians think we can’t, and they’re right. If we can’t even fathom the idea, we’re not ever going to do it. You never set out to do a half marathon and luckily do a full. Jesus confidently trusted 11 disciples to change the world. We don’t even trust millions of Christians to do the same. That’s just bad math. The church needs to adopt God-sized dreams, not man-sized hopes.
Two years ago I got to see Francis Chan preach on this topic. I invited my mom and later found out she captured this incredible snippet from the sermon. It was a total paradigm shift for me. Until then, I had never heard an older Christian talk so boldly about giving it all for Christ, regardless of age.
In my opinion, these are six of the most influential Christian men above 45 that my generation looks up to. If you’re familiar with them, you know they are all fairly different in their own ways, yet young Christians love these men. Why is this?
1. It’s all about Jesus for these guys.
2. Cool is a byproduct of Christ for them. Young Christians value cool, but not at the expense of Christ.
3. They are unconcerned with the status quo. They are unashamedly who God made them.
4. They have the audacity to think they can actually change the world.
5. They believe in the mission of the church.
6. They value the younger generation, not as a reliable teammate on the bench, when the time comes, but as a key player in the game, right now.
That 6th point is vital for us. What makes the men above a little different is that they recognize the younger generation. Young people are often disengaged in the church, but I humbly want to say, maybe it’s because the church won’t actually let them engage. We are told the direction the church is going, but rarely are we at the table making the decisions. Or even hearing them. Why are more young Christians serving in non-profits than their own local church? Because the non-profits will actually let them play in the game. At our age, the country trusts us with a gun in the army, a non-profit trusts us with an orphanage in Africa, but the church will only trust us with handing out pamphlets on Sunday. Young Christians are not the answer, but they want to be a part of the solution. Rudy was by no means the most athletic player for Notre Dame, but when he was given a chance, he gave his all. Church, please gamble on us. Let us fail. Let us learn. And let us play.
Recently, some friends and I had the privilege to get lunch with Bob Goff and he said something we will never forget. Let me preface by saying Bob is a husband, a father, a national best-selling author, a speaker, the director of Restore International, a lawyer, a professor, and the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Uganda. Might I add, he’s 54-years-old. Baffled by his life, I asked, “Bob, how are you able to do so much? It’s inspiring, but I don’t get how you do it all at your age.” He immediately responded, “I don’t sleep.” We all laughed and he interrupted, “No. Really. I don’t sleep. Last night I slept for three hours and got my first call from Uganda at 5 in the morning.” He then gave his reason why, “I want to die exhausted. We have eternity to rest. Until then, let’s do things.”
That statement was so incredibly simple yet so incredibly profound for us. To this day, my friends and I will repeat that to each other whenever we feel too tired, things are too difficult, or our dreams seem too unrealistic. It wasn’t inspiring because he didn’t sleep. It was inspiring because he’s a 54-year-old man who would dare to sacrifice his sleep and comfort for a greater cause. I have never in my life heard an older Christian in my church say anything remotely close to, “I want to die exhausted” for the gospel’s sake. A statement like that is seen as irresponsible and audacious. But I think the church needs to redeem the word “audacity.” Sometimes, what the world calls audacity, God calls childlike faith. When Christians have outlandish, outrageous faith it makes cultural Christianity look boring. That kind of faith is contagious. And when it’s coming from an older Christian, it’s inspiring.
Steven Furtick said, “If the size of the vision you have for your life and ministry isn’t intimidating to you, there’s a good chance it’s insulting to God.” I promise you, my generation desperately desires to be discipled by older men and women that want to die exhausted because they know they have eternity to rest. So until then, let’s do things.