There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.”
And I would say that the best time to have told your friends and neighbours about Jesus was 20 years ago. The second nest time is now.
When I was first saved and born again there was a move of the Holy Spirit that was setting people and churches on fire for God. Back then (late 1970’s) you would hear things like this:
- “Be on fire for Jesus!”
- “Invite all your friends to Church!”
- “Tell everyone you know about Jesus!”
- “Change your school with the gospel!”
- “Make Him know on and off the playing field!”
- “Be a cry on the hill, different than others!”
- “Be salt and light in your community!”
Fast forward a few years and you don’t hear those kinds of comments any more. The Great Commission to go into al the world and make disciples” is seldom taught on and few ever hear about it from the pulpit and church classrooms. Today you’ll be hard-pressed to find people in the pews who are sharing the gospel with their neighbours (if they even know them), who are changing their workplace for Christ, and who are using their talents to impact the city.
It seems that the older we get and the longer we have known Jesus, the safer we live. But Jesus never called us to live safe, secure, and comfortable lives. Safe faith isn’t biblical faith! It seems the longer we have known Jesus the less likely we are to tell our neighbours and friends about Him.
Now, let’s comment on the fact that young people are leaving the Church. Those who are in the age group called the Millennials are leaving the Church in substantial numbers. Stay with me as these two different streams of thought are really one. I will link them up in a minute.
Research has found that 70 percent of young adults leave the church at or about the age of nineteen. I am often asked “why has the younger generation abandoned the Church?” My answer is that I think the older generation has abandoned the mission of reaching the lost. So, the Millennials see a Church that has no purpose and no vision or goal and thus leave it because to them that means the Church is irrelevant.
Statistics also show that among Millennials the number of them sharing their faith on a regular basis is increasing. They no longer attend Church but they are still in love with Jesus and more determined than the Church to share Him with others.
These studies are basically saying there is a mass exodus of young people from the Church, but they are sharing their faith more than ever once they’re out. It’s as if they’re graduating from the Church but not necessarily abandoning the faith. It seems this younger generation see the need for this dark world to know Christ but does’t see the Church as a viable way to make that happen.
It seems that the young people share because they have nothing to lose. But the older we get the less we share Jesus because we have more to lose – reputation, position, income, wealth, authority, friendships.
It’s a lot safer to just be a believer and not be a disciple maker. Then you can agree but not do. There’s less risk involved when we just agree with Jesus. We abandon the mission because it costs us too much — our time, our resources, and especially our convenience.
Have you ever noticed that older people don’t usually have scabs? Think about it. Scabs are what you get when you’re young. You get them on the playground from running too fast, jumping too high, or playing too hard. But as you get older, you don’t attempt anything that could give you scabs. Because our bodies have more to lose if something goes wrong.
Again, it seems that the older you get the safer you live. It seems that this is true of our faith journey also. It seems we have restricted the fun and powerful glory days of our faith to our youth.
Francis Chan once spoke about his frustration with this notion. Both of his parents passed away in their forties, so it taught him to number his days. He talked about how he never knows if this is his last day before meeting Jesus. But instead of letting this sobering reality paralyze him, he’s allowed it to ignite his faith. He said, “It just doesn’t make sense to me. If you’re close to seeing God, why are we living such a safe life? And what the heck are we saving for? We go backward in the church, where we do crazy things when you’re eighteen, and then we start to live safer and safer every year.”
So, no matter what age you are, consider this: if today truly was your last day, what would you do with it?
I can guarantee that whatever you’d do, it wouldn’t be safe. It would involve meaningful risk. Whether it was restoring a broken relationship, telling that loved one about Jesus, or fulfilling an item on your bucket list, it wouldn’t be safe.
Time to plant a tree …