Photo Credit: Gavin Drake / ACNS
[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said that he would love to see young people “being disciples of Jesus, being witnesses to Jesus and being servants of the Kingdom.” He made his comments in an editorial in the latest edition of the UK’s Premier Youthwork magazine, which is celebrating its 25 anniversary.
Archbishop Justin spoke of the “extraordinary changes” in the landscape and atmosphere of Christian youth work over the past 25 years; and said that if somebody had been asleep for that time they would “notice how many more youth workers had been trained and deployed in the Church, notice how the Church is the largest provider of youth work in many towns and cities, and you couldn’t help but notice some great practice and sacrifices.
“In the atmosphere you might be surprised to notice a whole positive subculture of music, initiatives, heroes and great examples of people working together. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be hard to see the unfortunate lack of any youth work in so many churches.”
He continued: “Imagine seeing hundreds of thousands of young people thriving as disciples, as whole lives are lived towards him. Across the Church it can be our tendency to offer experiences, good times or fulfilment. But Jesus calls us to follow him and there is no greater challenge. . .
“Imagine if our young people set the pace in following Jesus, with all their hearts and souls and minds and strength, rejecting the narcissism of the culture, the self-obsession which destroys so much of our contemporary life: rather than revolving lives around themselves they orientate their whole lives around Jesus Christ. To see this will take investment and sacrifice, it will mean making this our priority; in prayer, time and resources.”
He stressed the importance of youth evangelism, saying that the majority of people who profess faith do so before the age of 21. “Let’s set our sights higher than just trying to hold onto those born into Christian families and maybe reaching a couple of their friends (something youth work is great at).
“God has the eyes of his heart on every young person, and so should we. This is the task of the whole church. We are all called to be witnesses to Jesus Christ. The only way anyone ever gets to know about Jesus is because someone tells them and shows them.
“A friend recently told me how in a conversation with a 15-year-old girl about Jesus she turned and looked him full in the face. With tears running down her cheeks she asked, ‘Why has no one ever told me this before?’ Imagine in this next 25 years, millions of Christians ready, able and willing to bear witness to their faith.”
And he said that wanted to see young people “called to give their lives for the biggest vision possible: the hungry fed, the refugee given home, the broken healed, the imprisoned freed, the lost found.
“It is a global vision, a kingdom which reaches across nationalities and continents, a care for whole planet commitment. This is the kingdom of God. The vision of this must be set before young people. This is a kingdom worth giving everything for – because it is the only thing that will last forever. A church which is radically open and true, where lives are transformed by love.”
He acknowledged that his vision “might seem like a dream” but said it was worth trying to make it a reality.
- Click here to read Archbishop Welby's full article.