Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Church-Based Hope for Adultolescents

John Piper wrote a great piece in Bethlehem's newsletter last week. It is entitled, "A Church-Based Hope for Adultescents" and can be accessed HERE.

Following on the heals of Alex and Brett Harris, Al Mohler, and others, Piper hits the nail squarely on the head in decrying the rise of the young adult who refuses to grow up. He then adds concrete, useful thoughts on the response of the church.

You can read the text here if you don't want to use the link above: 

A Church-Based Hope for “Adultolescents”

By John PiperNovember 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

© Desiring God

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Romans 1 and Poll Results

I was listening recently to a sermon by Tim Conway regarding the decision of how to educate your child (click HERE for the link)... public, private, or home. He does a very nice job articulating Scripture and the principles therein as he encourages his listeners to apply the Bible in this area.

One of the principles he brings out is directly out of Romans 1. God has given man no excuse for not knowing him, yet man refuses. They do not honor Him or give thanks to Him. Instead they became futile in their thinking and although claiming to be wise, were in reality fools. This is a perfect example of what is going on in the public school system and in many private schools as well. While they may not explicitly challenge God, they simply ignore Him. Note what God says of His judgment upon such people (beginning in verse 26): they are given up to dishonorable passions, to debased minds to do what ought not to be done.  

Shortly after listening to this sermon, I read in our local papers about a comprehensive survey of the students of all the public colleges in Minnesota. One fact in particular stood out. The students were asked if they had had sexual relations in the past. Then they were asked if they had had sexual relations in the past twelve months. The results were frightening. The percentage answering "yes" to the first question was slightly more than 78%! That's almost four in five of all students in the college! The percentage answering "yes" to the second question was not much better... 72%! So almost three in four college students have been involved in fornication in the past twelve months alone! 

Is there any question that these students and their professors have been given over to the dishonorable passions of a debased mind? Is there any question God has brought his judgment upon these schools based upon Romans 1? And is there any question the public secondary schools aren't very far behind. As long as God is ignored in these institutions, He will bring His judgment upon them. 

As those entrusted with the lives of precious children created in the image of God, do we honestly do our best to care for their souls by sending them to places where God's judgment is so readily apparent? 

I think not....

Friday, November 09, 2007

Michael Billings...the Day After

The earthly remains of Michael Billings were laid to rest yesterday. I did not know him, but I had the pleasure of seeing him work during several Vision Forum events. Like all of the interns of the time, he was a remarkable young man.

Doug Phillips has posted many tributes and remembrances to Michael, all from men of Godly stature. Please take some time and read them, both to honor Michael, but also to consider what would be written about you or about your own son if the Lord were to call today. If you don't like what comes to mind, then make the change. Do the hard things. Follow Jesus with all your heart, conforming your life to His Word.

HERE'S the link to Doug's blog. It is the generic link, so depending on when you click on it, you won't necessarily go straight to the tributes to Michael. They are dated November 9, 2007 and earlier.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Young Man...

Sometimes it's hard to get a picture of what we want as an end result for our parenting. Sure, we have glimpses here and there and may have some parts in focus. But what kind of young person do we really hope to launch into the world...and for this post, what kind of young MAN do we as parents wish to launch?

Here is an example to follow. This young man at age 18 is more mature than most 30-year-olds, and knows what really matters in life. Those with daughters should dream of this type of young man for future sons-in-law.

His name is Michael Billings...and he is now in the presence of his Savior as the result of a car accident last Sunday evening.

Please take a moment to click over to Doug Phillips' blog and read Doug's tribute to this remarkable young man. Be sure to take the 7-8 minutes to hear Michael's sermon to his fellow interns...Doug has it available at the end of his tribute. When you recognize this sermon was delivered by a young man who was 17 at the time, it makes you tremble at the state of most of the young men in our country, and yet have hope because there ARE such men as Michael out there.

May he be resting in the bosom of his Savior, and may that same Savior, Jesus Christ, bring comfort and peace to his family and friends during their time of loss.

HERE'S the link to the tribute.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Strength, Wisdom...and Pride

I was blessed enough to be able to attend a retreat this last weekend where Gregg Harris was the keynote speaker. In one of his presentations, he discussed the concept of a "Rebelutionary" household. Of course, this is based on his twin sons' ministry to young adults, "The Rebelution." While Alex and Brett are calling their generation to rebel against low expectations, Gregg is calling on the parents of that generation...and Dad in create a household that enables this rebellion for the glory of God!

Gregg pointed out that Scripture often refers to young adults as having strength. It also often refers to older adults as having wisdom. It never combines the two; young adults are not commended for their wisdom nor are older adults commended for their strength. This is one of the causes of the social pathologies of today. Young men are full of strength with no wisdom available to tell them how to use it!

Gregg suggests a partnership: Young adults with their strength partnering with older adults with their wisdom. Together, they can do amazing things. I find that concept quite exciting.

But there's a problem.

In today's world, our children are being bombarded on all sides with "self-esteem." As a result, we have a generation that thinks quite highly of themselves, and believes they are already the repository of all wisdom. They have no clue that "foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child." I am reading another book by J.C. Ryle on the topic of thoughts for young men. Ryle lived in the mid-1800s...but his admonitions are every bit as applicable today as they were over a century ago. His first admonition is against the sin of pride, and he specifically targets the pride of a young man that says he knows more than his elders, and therefore has nothing to learn or gain from them. This is obviously folly...and it's obviously still true today, if not more so. As a result, this generation of young adults doesn't believe they need the wisdom of older adults. Pride condemns any hope of a partnership with parents.

How then, do we then implement this partnership?

It will require efforts and grace on both sides. First... the parents must create an environment where life with them is an adventure, specifically an adventure in Christian love and service. They must have a stated vision, a goal...and the children and young adults must be major players in that vision. Secondly... the young adult must humble himself to the point of understanding he does NOT have the wisdom necessary to be effective in our world, and that his parents do! If he will humble himself and place himself under the authority of his parents as Scripture admonishes him to do, and the parents are actively seeking to partner with him and his strength... great things will happen! The Kingdom will be advanced. The young adult will grow in wisdom and knowledge and character. He will be launched off the shoulders of his parents and will then be in a place to launch the next generation off of his shoulders to points far higher than anyone in the parents' generation could have imagined.

This is a great vision. This is a great thing to apply to your family. This draws families close, while placing their focus on loving their neighbor in the name of the Lord. This will be Christianity applied! But it requires vision and humbleness...both of which God will give if you ask.

May God receive the glory.