Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Biblical Foundation for Reaching the Next Generation for Christ


A sermon written by Dr. Terry Dorsett based on Acts 20:7-12 and preached in various versions at the:
New Mexico Mission Leadership Conference, Albuquerque, NM on April 29, 2010Precision Valley Baptist Church, North Springfield, VT on May 16, 2010
Faith Community Church, Barre, VT on May 23, 2010

Introduction:
Many churches are struggling to reach the next generation. Such churches are rapidly aging and slowly declining. This trend must be reversed, not just for the survival of the church, but because the next generation needs the peace, hope, comfort and joy that faith in Christ brings. Churches seeking to reach the next generation must begin that search by looking into the scriptures and then build their methodology and programs off of that biblical foundation.

Verse 7 - On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he extended his message until midnight.
  • The church had gathered for fellowship, worship and to hear Paul preach.
  • After two thousand years, good fellowship, Spirit filled worship and powerful preaching are still important to a healthy church.
  • Paul knew that the end of his ministry was coming and this would most likely be his last time to see this particular group of believers.
  • Therefore, Paul preached with passion until midnight!
  • Paul's entire ministry was marked by passion.
  • If we want to reach the next generation, we must be passionate about our worship and preaching and about living out our faith.
  • The next generation is not going to sit through boring music and listen to a boring sermon with a bunch of senior adults.
  • We can hire all the youth pastors we want and build all the family life centers we want, but if our worship, fellowship and preaching lack passion, it won't do any good.
Verse 8 - There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were assembled.
  • The room they were in was filled with lots of little lamps that gave light so everyone could see.
  • Though each individual lamp was fairly small, when combined with the light from many other lamps, the light was enough to chase back the darkness.
  • Sometimes we think that only "super Christians" can shine bright for Jesus.
  • We think that some big name Christian musician or well known youth evangelist is what we need to reach the next generation for Christ. While those people might be helpful, once they get back on their bus and drive away, we are the ones that must do the hard work of being lights to a generation lost in darkness.
  • If we want to reach the next generation, each one of us will need to shine brightly for the Lord in our corner of the world.
  • We must stop thinking about how little our light is and start thinking about how bright Jesus is and then shine for Him!
Verse 9 - A young man named Eutychus was sitting on a window sill and sank into a deep sleep as Paul kept on speaking. When he was overcome by sleep he fell down from the third story, and was picked up dead.

  • Eutychus was sitting in a window sill during the worship service.
  • The room grew hot from the heat the lamps produced and the hour grew late as Paul preached until midnight.
  • Eutychus fell asleep and tumbled out of the third story window onto the ground below.
  • The passage says that he was "picked up dead." But the way the verse is constructed in the original language, it actually means that every outward appearance was that he was dead.
  • However, the next verse affirms that life was still in him.
  • Like Eutychus, many of our young people are "sitting on the window sill," already half way out of the church. They begin to be lulled by the things of the world in their teen years and by the time they reach young adulthood; it is easy for them to "fall away" because they are half gone anyway.
  • Like Eutychus, many of our young people are "asleep." This is a euphemism that means many of them have not yet been born again spiritually.
  • "Easy believes" has swept through the modern church. We have allowed too many of our young people to think that because they prayed a 30 second prayer they did not really understand when they were five or six years old in order to make a Sunday school teacher happy that now they are right with God even though there is no evidence of spiritual fruit in their lives.
  • We need to make sure our young people have actually repented of their sins and placed their faith in Jesus Christ. This can only be done by having honest heart to heart talks with them about the pain that sin causes and how turning from that sin help them live a better life.
  • We need to make sure they have done more than "prayed a prayer," we need to make sure they are living for Christ in their daily lives.
Verse 10 - But Paul went down, threw himself on him, embraced him, and said, "Don't be alarmed, for his life is in him!"
  • Paul understood the importance of engaging the next generation with the Gospel.
  • Though Paul could have given Eutychus a lecture for falling asleep during the sermon, instead Paul threw himself at the young man and embraced him.
  • Our mission will not be fulfilled by being judgmental of the next generation.
  • We must "throw" ourselves into reaching them.
  • That will sometimes be frustrating and most likely be costly, but if we are not willing to make the emotional and financial investment, we are unlikely to reach the next generation with the Gospel.
Verses 11-12 - After going upstairs, breaking the bread, and eating, he conversed a considerable time until dawn. They brought the boy home alive and were greatly comforted.

These two verses give us four additional practical things we can do to engage the next generation with the Gospel.

Offer Real Community
  • Verse 11 says they broke bread together. This means they fellowshipped together around a meal.
  • There is something about sharing a meal with someone that makes us feel accepted by whomever we are eating with. It is not so much the meal itself as the fellowship that takes place around the meal.
  • The next generation desperately wants to feel part of a loving community. Too many of their families are falling apart and they have often moved one or more times in their short lives and have few lifelong friends. They are lacking a sense of community and earnestly desire to have one.
  • Sharing meals is not the only way to create community, but it is a great way to start.
Learn to Listen

  • Verse 11 says they conversed a considerable time together.
  • A conversation is not a lecture where one person talks and the other person listens.
  • A conversation is when two or more people share their ideas and discuss something together as equals with everyone having a chance to talk and the others really listen.
  • We need to learn to listen to our young people. We will not always agree with what they say. They need our advice, but will seldom listen to it until we have first listened to them.
Welcome Young People Into Our Homes
  • Verse 12 says that they brought the boy home.
  • Just as sharing a meal with someone communicates a message to them; likewise inviting a person into our homes makes a powerful statement about how we feel about them.
  • If we want to reach young adults, we must invite them over to our houses to watch a ball game, play cards, bake cookies or just hang out.
  • We must make our homes "safe havens" for young people.
Offer Comfort Through Christ and Through our Faithful Friendship
  • Verse 12 says that they were greatly comforted.
  • Our young people are growing up in a very painful world.
  • 50% of them are living in broken homes without both parents.
  • 1 out 3 young ladies and 1 out 7 young men in America have been sexually abused.
  • This is the first generation in American history that will be less well off than their parents.
  • How would we like to grow up in a world like that!
  • Young people don't need our lectures, they need our comfort.
  • They need to know that Christ can help them change from being victims to becoming victors.
  • They need to know that we will be there for them even though others have let them down.
  • A church that LOVES the next generation will reach the next generation.
Conclusion:
We can reach the next generation with the Gospel if we will:
  • Be passionate about our worship, our preaching and our living out of the faith.
  • Let our spiritual light shine brightly instead of waiting for the "super Christians" to do it all.
  • Offer a sense of real community to young people seeking community.
  • Learn to listen to young people even when we don't agree with them.
  • Welcome young people into our homes.
  • Offer comfort through Christ and through our faithful friendship.

4 comments:

  1. good sermon today. had to laugh at the "tickling the belly button" comment. You are tooooo crazy!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jerry White, Miller's Creek Baptist Church, North CarolinaMay 23, 2010 at 9:16 PM

    Thanks Terry, I will use some of this.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jay Wolf, First Baptist Church, Montgomery, ALMay 25, 2010 at 9:37 AM

    A great message, Terry!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Looking for practical ways to put some of the principles in this blog post into action? Purchase my book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. The first part of the book explains why bivocational ministry is biblical, normal and missional. The second part of the book explains how to mobilize the laity to do high level ministry in a team setting with the pastor so that the church can be effective in reaching its community for Christ.
    The book is published by Crossbooks and you can buy the book directly from them at:

    http://www.crossbooks.com/BookStore/BookStoreBookDetails.aspx?bookid=58188

    The book is also available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobles.com and a many other online bookstores.
    If you live in Central Vermont, you can purchase a copy at the Faith Community Church in Barre, VT.

    ReplyDelete