In doing research for my recent book, A Letter to the Church and the Next Generation: Spiritual Growth through the Witness of James, I stumbled across a question young adults are asking: “What does the church have that I can’t get anywhere else?”
That is the question. Here is the answer: Renewal.
I’m serious. I know you might be thinking to yourself, “What do you mean the church is the only place for renewal? I just renewed my COSTCO membership card.” Trust me, our understanding of renewal goes a bit deeper than renewing a membership card, or all the other annual renewal dues we pay. Think renewal of life — life, life not just ordinary life but our life with God — that is the renewal the church is talking about.
Young people today often set renewal within the same context of reinventing oneself. Think about that for one second. What does reinvent yourself mean? For some it has to do with a New Year’s resolutions such as, during the month of January going through a program of sugar detox and being cleansed. It feels so renewing.
What I am saying is to those who want to reinvent themselves, at the end of the day when all is said and done, when the calendar page flips to February, and we reinvent ourself, don’t you see, we are still left with our … self.
A truth embedded in the church is the story of creation and the words, “Let there be light.” And in John’s gospel we are made aware of the interrelationship between Jesus, the light of the world, and the new Creation, that is, the renewal of Life.
“Let light perpetual shine upon them” exclaims the burial liturgy. Life with God is never-ending. Again, John writes: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” You will only hear this in church. In fact, this revelation of renewed life is an Epiphany. Get it? This is the church calendar and a wonderful time for Epiphany.
Remember that great theologian Hank Williams, the country music singer: “I wandered so aimless, life filled with sin; I wouldn’t let my dear savior in. Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night Praise the Lord, I see the light.” That’s what I am talking about. That’s Epiphany. This is Gospel music. Good News. Church.
Jesus is the real deal, the light of the world. And Jesus is what the church is all about. Renewal begins by placing our confidence in Jesus as Lord of life. By placing our confidence in Jesus, we move from a self-centered existence to a centered life in Christ. It’s a new life—a renewed life—in Christ. We worship.
As we engage the next generation, please assure them as well, it is not about the church simply having renewal — it’s about the church celebrating renewal — like nobody else!