Yesterday was “We Day” in Toronto, an annual event that encourages young people to engage with their communities and be good ‘global citizens’. While there is an all-year educational component to it, the annual rally that is held at the Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto gets a lot of press. It looks like a peculiar combination of a rock concert and an evangelistic rally – which, as I see it, is precisely what it is. There is entertainment, and there is a strongly hyped message encouraging young people to change the world.
In its comparatively short existence, We Day has had a profound impact. This year, the rally drew over twenty thousand students. I suppose some of that figure is bolstered by the promise of free entertainment and time out of the classroom, but any event that can fill a hockey arena with teens is worthy, at least, of our attention.
In fact, as God’s people, we should be inspired by We Day; we should be inspired to do more and do better, if for no other reason than that the church has an even better reason to encourage young people to engage with their communities and be good global citizens. It’s one thing to “be good for goodness’ sake,” as the old Christmas song puts it, but that has only a limited impact. (In the case of the song, it’s for the purpose of raking in more Christmas presents.) It’s quite another thing to enrich the world for the glory of God and the sake of God’s Kingdom.
To make the world a better place by encouraging young people to engage with their communities and be good global citizens for the sake of humanity is commendable, but it has no eternal impact. To make the world a better place by encouraging young people to engage with their communities and be good global citizens for the glory of God and the sake of God’s Kingdom has an eternal impact.
As I’ve often said about environmentalism, the church should be at the forefront of caring for the world, because while others merely want to preserve the earth for future generations, the church should do so because the earth is the Lord’s (Psalm 24)! Helping youth to engage more deeply and contribute positively to society should be a key task of the church, in order that they may be disciples of Jesus, formed in his image and living out his will in the world, and in preparation for eternity.
Praise God, there are some churches that are reaching young people and making disciples and changing the world through their ministries. But this shouldn’t be the task of some churches. It should be the task of all churches. It is not easy, by any means; we have an uphill climb merely to regain a winsome standing with the youth of our society. Some think that needs to happen by lowering standards and tossing the Bible out the window, but the churches that are succeeding at engaging youth would tell you that, if anything, they have raised their standards and taken (and taught) the Bible very seriously.
In order to make this happen, churches need to love the Lord more than they love tradition, and they need to love young people more than they love their own preferences. It is congregations that adopt a “whatever it takes” attitude, under the faithful guidance of the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture, that will be able to bring the fervour and positive message of We Day to the place where it belongs.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12.2, NIV).