We spent a weekend tucked away with a cabin full of young adults. It was a weekend retreat at the edge of Cades Coves National Park. A weekend to build up, pour into and say thank you to the point leaders of the Young Adult Ministry of our church.
We sat circled around the cedar wood of a rustic living room – sunken into brown leather couches, wrapped in blankets, feet tucked under. The future leadership of Fellowship Church stared back at us – their eyes tired from a work week full of proving themselves in the great big world of post graduation.
For two years now my husband has served as the Young Adult pastor of our church. We see much has changed since our cap and gown walk across the stage at the University of Tennessee in 1999. For post-grads now, the stakes are higher. The competition is steeper. And computers are faster.
When I graduated, I seriously thought email was a fad.
I blame these high stakes and this new intensity on social media. We watch it all from behind the screen …. Young adults must now be better than him and work harder than her and look better than them and get the best job right away, because everyone else has their dream job, right!?
According to their Facebook profile, anyway.
Dang, it is hard to be 26.
But this night, this Friday night at sunset, with our bellies full of trail mix and Starbucks, Brent and I, as well as two other pastors from our church, took a moment to speak a word of encouragement to this next generation.
It was a Moses and Joshua moment. A Deuteronomy 31 moment. A meaningful moment to call forth the future generation and tell them… You are the one.
Then Moses called Joshua and as all Israel watched, he said to him, “Be strong and courageous! For you will lead these people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors he would give them. You are the one who will divide it among them as their grants of land. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:7-8
“I know you all are constantly up against approval – constantly under the microscope at your job and continually asking yourself, ‘Do I have what it takes?’ Well tonight, we wanted to pull you all away to tell you, ‘YES. You do.’ In God’s Kingdom, you are the future of our church. In this room may sit future elders, future women’s ministry directors, future pastors. You are the next generation. You are gifted, competent and set apart. You are the one. Whatever it is. Wherever you are going….it’s you.”
I spoke these words and they were received with nods of agreement and tender eyes brimmed with tears. They needed to hear it. Even more, they need to believe it.
And while I spoke these words to a room full of twenty-somethings, there are days I need to remember them for myself. It doesn’t matter if you are 36 or 26 or 66…
This is an area of our lives we need constant refresher….
WE are the ONES.
Jesus says, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore [YOU] go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this, I am with you even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Pair this with Moses’ instruction to Joshua:
YOU will lead these people. YOU are the ONE. YOU go. YOU make disciples. YOU baptize them. YOU teach.
I am with YOU.
You may not see yourself as a future elder. Or a future ministry leader. And honestly, you may not be. But YOU just might be the only Jesus your co-worker will ever know. Or that clerk at Trader Joe’s. YOU might be the only Jesus that waitress will meet. YOU might be the only one who can love on that little boy two doors down. Mommy, YOU are the hands and feet of Jesus to your toddler. You.
YOU ARE THE ONE.
Today, look in the mirror and hear the words of Moses. Remember the instruction of Jesus.
The torch has been passed. It is in your hand.
Do not be discouraged. Or dismayed. God will not abandon you. Or fail you.