What are we calling students into?

Newsleak_1What is Jesus calling students “into”? When the Kingdom of God invades a student’s life, what should that look like? What are you, as a Christ-follower supposed to embrace? If you love students or you “work in ministry” with students, what is the anticipated net result of your ministry strategy? Experience and observation tell me that most people are interested in what a young person “believes”. As long as the student has a “personal relationship with Jesus”, we are satisfied. Unfortunately, studies have demonstrated again and again that for a vast majority of students “right doctrine” or even a heart-felt response to the invitation of the gospel is NOT enough to sustain a student through the most tumultuous years of their lives. Studies tell us that close to 85% of students who leave high school, even with a “personal relationship with Jesus” fall off the track of faith by the time they are 25 years of age. That statistic alone motivates many of us who are committed to Kingdom work with high school students to wonder how we can help young people bridge that gap. Personally, I believe that SOME of the reason may lie in what we are calling students into through our local ministries. In many ways, we have either sold the Kingdom of God short or we have done a “bait and switch”…we’ve told students about Jesus as Savior (to get them to heaven) without sharing the implications of what it means to follow Jesus as Lord.

Here’s what I suspect – far too many people who claim to be people of Jesus talk a good line…they believe the right things but they don’t LIVE THE LIFE of the Kingdom. In the Youth Leadership Institute (YLI), “orthopraxis is just as important, if not more important, than orthodoxy”. Jesus doesn’t call us to a set of faith statements. He calls us to follow Him and to live a lifestyle that has as its prime example, the life of Him who we claim to love. As a result of struggling with the reality of the huge loss to the Kingdom of students emerging from high school into young adult life and as a result of attempting to take Kingdom living more seriously, we at YLI have created something we call, “The Missional Order of Revolutionaries”. The Missional Order is YLI’s attempt at clarifying a lifestyle and calling students into a flow of a historically based movement that provides a framework from which to actualize this goal of Kingdom Living.

Here are a few thoughts that contributed to the establishment of this “order”. First of all, it has to do with history. In my experience, history communicates two distinct truths: firstly, that contemporary human experience is being lived in the context of a broader story. It is a story that has been occurring for centuries and has a profound impact on our current lives. Without understanding the story, we live our daily lives with no perspective and often with a sense of extreme arrogance. The story of history provides the framework from which we do all that we do especially in ministry and living the challenge of making contemporary the realities of the Kingdom of God. Without the story of history, we are bankrupt and irrelevant. I cringe to think of what would occur in the world if ALL we had were the present-day experience of the Church. Without the lessons and blessings of Christian history, the prevailing Church would be dead in the water. In truth history is truly “His-story”. The narrative of scripture begins and ends with the presence and power of God. Through this narrative, God reveals, acts, dreams, relates, works, weeps, laughs, regrets, redeems, sacrifices, speaks, empowers, redeems, and creates. History is the story of God interacting with our story. Genesis 2, reminds us that God says, “it is not good to be alone”. The stories that make up history are the stories of relationship…there is a relational fabric to the universe. These stories intricately and intimately involve the human species. This is a relationship that is created in the mind and through the action of God. His-story would not be complete without our-story. That is what makes the study of history so compelling. It is fascinating to observe how God revealed Himself in various times and in specific relationships throughout history. It is also extremely captivating to attempt to understand our role in his plan. As God attempted to transform human lives through His various activities, history records whether humans “got it” or “didn’t get it”. The pages of history relate the story of a God who is constantly acting and anxious to relate, but whose actions are often ignored and spurned by the very ones with whom He desires to connect.

In the midst of political oppression and theological compromise a movement of teachers and students arose, dedicated not only to “living the text” but also to a revolutionary lifestyle. It was from this milieu that a young, itinerant teacher from Nazareth adopted a methodology of training and lifestyle shaping to mold the lives and hearts of those who would be called his “disciples”. Our present establishment of a contemporary Missional Order of Revolutionaries is mined and refined from this story of God’s relationship with His people, not only while Jesus walked the earth, but also during the early centuries of the Common Era (A.D. or C.E.).

Medieval history, a time fraught with tragedy, mystery, ecclesiastical misstep and apostasy became fertile ground for the moving of the Holy Spirit. Out of the struggle for church identity emerged a movement of young people pursuing faithfulness to God and taking a prophetic challenge exemplified in word and deed to the prevailing culture. Both movements changed the world, as we know it. But both movements also involved people who were often regarded as ones who had not measured up to the fullness of their potential as human beings. They were young, impressionable, and still not seen by many in their time as having what it takes to be influential or important. These young people were still on a growth curve, emerging, questioning, and having as much potential of experiencing failure as they had in faithfulness. Even so, these movements heavily contributed to the work of God in their time and, in essence, were a significant aspect of the story of history that impacts our lives today.

Much has been learned from the early church, the dessert fathers, as well as the monastic history that was nourished during this Medievel period of time often regarded as the “Dark Ages.” Modern-day expressions of communal faithfulness to the incarnational call of God also add their voices to what is being created in this order.

As the Youth Leadership Institute community pondered its ministry strategy, we realized that we were missing something. We were committed to leadership development and dedicated to enabling and equipping an emerging generation for missional and incarnational leadership in a postmodern world. We were committed and passionate about developing paradigms for surfacing and encouraging the call of a new generation of difference-makers for the Kingdom of God to the glory of God. We had been living the process of building a movement of “Kingdom Subversives”…young people dedicated to assertive Kingdom living. However, we had not articulated a clear “picture” or vision of what students were being called to become. Thus, the creation of a Missional Order became a pressing need.

Historically, new spiritual movements have emerged at critical points in the Church’s life to meet the challenges of their times (contextualize missiology). These movements have often come in the form of Orders (Benedict in the 5th century; the Celts from the 6th century; the Franciscans in the 13th). In more recent times we have witnessed the development of Societies such as the Pietists and Moravians in Germany and the Wesleyans of 18th century England. In the last century Dietrich Bonhoeffer sought to form an order, a community committed to life together. 

 Today, like these bygone eras, there is a huge need for a fresh engagement of missional orders. The language of mission expresses a climate of change that presents massive challenges to the witness of local faith communities as God’s pilgrim people. Growing numbers of people are expressing the conviction of the need to form missional communities around an ordered life of practices. My question has become, “why not start with young people?” Below is a brief outline of what we have envisioned. You can discover more by visiting: http://mo.yliapu.org/

To provide relational accountability, resources, and support as we discern ways to practice the life giving narrative of Jesus and live out the emerging shapes of the Kingdom living across North America. We desire to:
•Incarnate the presence of God as sign, witness and foretaste of the kingdom.
•Invite men and women to become participants in the movement of Jesus for the sake of the world.
•Promote mutual accountability around practices and learning.
•Engage Scripture as the transforming center of common life.
•Practice the vocation of the church as a demonstration of the Kingdom.
•Participate in the worldwide mission of the Church.

The Order is a voluntary, self-perpetuating organization consisting of a community of emerging Christ-followers who choose, for themselves, to live missionally and incarnationally through a commitment to the Vows, Principles and Practices of the Order. The Order is established through the context of the mission of the Youth Leadership Institute. The Order calls its adherents to enter the following engagements (oblations) as a way of life:
oGod-centered life (from self to a theocentric life).
oA community of relationships which recognize the church as the living and organic body of Christ rather than a gathering of individuals or an institution.
oLiving incarnationally in and for the neighborhoods, communities, campuses, networks and world in which they live.
oTo orient oneself around the promise of spiritual formation and development
oThose choosing to join the Order agree to live out of the Vows, Principles and Practices of the Order

Members covenant to live out these practices:

oParticipate regularly with the members of the order for encouragement through YLI events and interactive community (www.yliapu.org). Members recognize that the Order does not replace focused commitment and involvement in one’s own local spiritual community.
oWorship within a fellowship of believers on a regular basis.
oEmbrace and renew one’s vows semi-annually.
oUse his/her stage of life/vocation as an instrument of the kingdom.
oPrayer ordered around the direction of the “Prayer Closet” of the YLI website.
oMonthly fasting for one day (dawn to dusk).
oDevelop incarnational relationships with others, practicing hospitality to the stranger and inviting others to enter the kingdom as disciples of Jesus.
oLive in the vows and practices of the Order and be guided by the YLI leadership in fulfilling the vows of the Order.

Vows of The Order – Those desiring “membership” are invited to make five vows:

* Love Jesus with all your heart, mind, soul, body, and strength
* Love People as you would love yourself
* Live the Gospel of the Kingdom of God
* Enter into a formation process that seeks to live life Simply, Purely, and Obediently
* Form a relationship with a Anamchara (a “soul friend”)

One thought on “What are we calling students into?

  1. I guess I do not find the statistic of 85% of “Christian” young adults falling away startling or alarming. How can such a statistic startle us when people somehow think in America that becoming a Christian is like choosing to join a fraternity, club, or social fellowship? People are not proclaiming Jesus Christ of Nazareth incarnate, crucified, and resurrected to these young adults, they are proclaiming some sort of quick trick “salvation” and moral living.

    How can young adults see Jesus Christ crucified if they never are confronted with the reality of sin, with the reality of God’s law, with the reality of God’s wrath? How can young adults see Jesus Christ crucified if they are not humbled, broken, and shattered before the living and active Word of God that stands AGAINST them? How can young adults be drawn to Jesus Christ crucified if they never see that they are slaves to sin or even in need of a Savior at all?

    Christianity is not about “me”, and conversion is not praying some “sinner’s prayer” and making a “choice” to “allow” Jesus into my heart. False teachings about “Christianity” lead to false “Christians.” It is a simple equation that makes perfect sense and shouldn’t startle us at all. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).


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