Fellow Faith Leaders Have to Address the Issues Facing Young People Today•
It takes courage to think beyond tradition and just as much bravery to stand behind ones’ principles. Two faith leaders have done both and have highlighted some of their thoughts on the status of many youth in crisis, while also sharing their commitment to support young people and foster change. Read more about the responsibility they believe fellow faith leaders have to address the issues facing young people today.
Morning Star Baptist Church, Boston, MA
Faith Beyond the Walls
America’s youth, of today, ‘march to the beat of a different drum’. Hopelessly, they face society: confused about who they are as an individual, they struggle with issues of sexual orientation, broken self-esteem and an overall lack of confidence in society. Morals and traditions that once produced noteworthy children are waning. Youth are screaming “HELP ME!” And it appears that the response has not been loud enough to at least balance out those cries.
“How does the pain go away? What do we do now? Who will restore our hope?”
America’s conscience – the church universal – has a moral and spiritual obligation to take faith beyond the walls. The church is charged to meet youth in their present conditions, to encourage, to edify and to engage. Not every youth will graduate high school – some will receive a G.E.D; not every youth will graduate from college – some will graduate from a vocational school; and not every youth will inherit a family company – some will struggle to become entrepreneurs. The church must unveil its appreciation for diversity in multiple respects to gain their attention. This versatility must exist in order to take calculated unorthodox approaches to reach them and build trust and engage youth towards mutual collaboration.
Ultimately, the church has a responsibility to educate youth to see beyond the circumstance lying before them. Youth question the relativity of the Holy Bible in their lives. In turn, the church must illustrate the hidden treasures in the Word that speak life into their affairs and will re-introduce a moral code and structure that will enhance life. Leaders must be authentic and meet the youth at their level. The youth seek a radical church willing to hear and fight off the opposing views society forces on them and instead communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ; an eradicating message of love and liberty.
Lastly, youth of America and the nation need to be richly engaged. Their talents need to be acknowledged, cultivated and utilized to keep them in the movement for spiritual success. Once gained, they will live through life seeking opportunities to bolster their gifts with the understanding that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Afterwards, self-confidence will exude in all areas of life – chains will be broken, mental health matters healed and prosperity will emerge in places never expected.
The Church universally is obligated to pull America’s youth out of the fiery furnace of despair and teach Faith Beyond the Walls!
Rev. Harold J. Eichelberger,
Haven United Methodist Church, Hot Springs, AR
Speaking loudly and honestly. I call that swag. Being bold in my faith and reaching others, I call that swag. Spreading the love of God, and working tirelessly to improve someone else’s life, well that is swag too. I stay swagging. As a pastor, and spiritual leader, I am part of the swag generation. But for my colleagues and contemporaries, what others call swag, we call faith for change.
One of my favorite biblical passages come from James 2:14-26. It reads:
14-17 Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
That is swag.
One can have faith, but if one does not work to enact change in society, then their faith is meaningless, and they are swagless. As a spiritual leader and leaders, it is up to us to teach change, and to spread change. Moreover, this must start with middle school and high school students. I was part of that generation that was almost overlooked and whisked over. But there were very important people in my life who made sure I was endowed with faith and the faith to create change. These very people were within my local church. Instead of being a student who failed, my faith community encouraged me to live my life by a code of principles that promoted success over failure, and ideals that stressed education as the main tool.
If any church fails to meet or teach any of these concepts, then it truly is not a church at all. It is a building with hollow walls and hollow halls. One of the core responsibilities of our churches is to equip our youth, and also provide support for our local schools and school systems. Our work begins and ends with a partnership, and the mission of Jesus Christ speaks to community and togetherness. That is swag. The church is often looked to for the answer to every social concern of our time. And if we don’t speak, we keep silent the future of others.