I sure hope we do better than Eli did. In fact, I’m quite sure that we can do better, and I trust that we will.
Eli was the high priest of Shiloh. He had done a poor job of raising his own sons (1 Samuel 2:12ff), but had been given another chance with a child not his own, Samuel, the son born miraculously to Hannah. How did he do? Not so well, actually. God calls out to Samuel in the night but Samuel doesn’t recognize him because he “did not yet know the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:7). Had Eli done a poor job of teaching him? Samuel ran to Eli when he heard God’s voice, but it took Eli three times to figure out what was going on. Finally, the old man Eli listened to young Samuel, and only then was he able to guide him in responding to God’s call (1 Samuel 3:8,9).
I shared with you last month some of the exciting “differences” that I see in today’s young adult Christians who are considering God’s call to commissioned living. Because of those differences they bring something “more” to the future of global mission. That future, however, might require something more from us, too. I asked a few of these young believers what they need from those of us who are older in order to pursue and fulfill God’s mission calling for them. Interestingly, each of them said that they need us to listen to them.
Friends, let’s listen more to the Samuels among us! These young adults want us to hear their stories and thoughts and take them seriously. “We don’t think we know it all,” one told me, “but we want to be accepted with what we do know.” I did my best to listen, and the following are things I heard from them.
Young Christians considering God’s call in their lives need us to mentor them more. They are eager to have “older and wiser” believers in their lives. They’re looking for those they can “bounce ideas off of,” and who will help them generate still more ideas from another perspective. They want us to help them explore the possibilities and equip them with tools for pursuing them.
Seeking out their own purpose and call in the midst of “difficult times,” the young adults I spoke with want us to be praying for them. Certainly, that we can do! But they’re hoping for something more. They need commitment from us. They are looking for older Christians who will “walk” with them in a way that is more than casual or occasional.
“We need you to be like anchors for us,” one said. Consistent, deliberate, ongoing, and frequent are words they used to describe the relationships and conversations they desire to have with us.
These bright and inquisitive young Christians want us to read and study more with them! While they greatly value the wisdom and insights held by those with “more experience,” they envision benefiting from those things not so much by learning from us as learning with us. They imagined reading books with us, or studying scripture with us, and then talking together about their application.
The young adults who are considering the Lord’s direction in their lives are concerned not only for their futures, but for the future of the church and its mission. While they value our leadership, they very much want us to empower them more. They want us to invite them into shared leadership, so that they, too, might have “a seat at the table.” “We don’t need you doing it for us,” they told me. “We want you to trust us and have confidence” in what we can contribute.
Finally, our young “Samuels” and “Samanthas” simply want us to be more “real” with them. They want to find in us a “safe place,” where they can be transparent and vulnerable about their lives, their hopes, and their struggles. They want to “break down barriers,” develop relationships, and “go deep” with us. I take from this that they long to see reflected in their relationships with us the kind ofintimacy, honesty and grace that we all ideally have with God. Personally, I can’t imagine a better way to accompany and assist them as they consider the Lord’s commission and calling and their response to the same.
What could this look like for the fellowship and work of the World Mission Prayer League? In what ways can we envision being this kind of an organization, and better yet, this kind of a community, for young mission-focused Christians? How can we provide for them the relationships, resources and setting that God’s Spirit would use to clarify his call on their lives and equip them for the same? How will God use their perspectives, their callings, and their needs to fashion the sequel to WMPL? Some of that is beginning to take shape, while other parts remain unclear. What we need to do is keep listening. To the Lord. And to the Samuels.