There’s this scene in the movie Sling Blade where the camera moves through the day room in a mental hospital, passing by various patients on its way to Karl, played by Billy Bob Thornton, who is quietly sitting in a chair looking out a window.
The audience is offered brief glimpses of many of the patients, and their common features all seem to be lots of slack jaws and staring eyes.
I was thinking about my high school Sunday school class the other day and that image occurred to me.
It has been no walk in the park to try and get those kids interested and participating. I’ve been observing the other teachers and taking lots of notes, and hopefully my next lesson will go a little better.
Certainly, part of the problem must lay with the students having difficulty relating to someone so much older than they are. Also that it’s likely they are not in class by choice, but because their parents make them go.
But I think the problem is larger than that. It’s more than my teaching style and that the students may be tired from a long evening of playing Call of Duty or instant messaging their “bestie” on their smart phones.
I think we’ve raised a generation of kids that has forgotten about the passion of Jesus. By that I do not mean his long walk down the Via Dolorosa, but his zeal for his father, and his Father’s house.
It’s my job to find a way to reawaken that in them. It’s not just about Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, though he does.
It’s about reminding these kids that Jesus is relevant to them, and is not simply a set of ideals passed down from their parents like a set of holiday china. This is the same Jesus that wept over a city. The same Jesus that calmly made a whip from leather cords and then cleared the temple.
But how do you instill passion and zeal in a generation that seems to care for very little other than what’s before them at that moment?
That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I feel a sense of urgency about it because now is when these kids are going to learn the things that will stay with them. The urgency comes from the knowledge that if things about the world that so desperately need changing are ever going to be changed, it will be these kids that do it.
I think of movements like Jesus Culture, who get so much right. I think it will take some kind of revival to wake this kids up, and that it starts with us. It starts with parents, teachers, and pastors.
We need to find a way to not only make Jesus relevant and real to them, but also to help them realize that while Jesus is the hope of nations, they are, too.
Until (and unless) Jesus returns, they have the unique opportunity to shape their own futures.
How do we do this?
I believe there are several things we need to do.
1. Awaken in them a hunger and a thirst for righteousness. There seems to be an almost choking apathy amongst young people today–the “whatever” generation.
2. Inspire them to act for the kingdom. Retreats and conference highs are great, but we need to be there when they come off it and the real work begins. Inspiration is not a one time thing. We lead from the front and we kick them in the pants when they need it. We need to do this for them:
3. Pray for them. Lift them up. Let them know they can do anything, with effort, with God, and with accountability.
4. Teach them it will not be easy to change the world. It will be tough. Teach them that changing the world starts with their own world. Search their lives and their hearts and identify the areas lacking and bring God to those places. Invite healing.
5. Walk with them. Let them know they aren’t alone and never were. We might be out of touch with their reality in respect to our own, but if we show them consistency and back our pledges to be there for them and pray for them with the actuality of doing those things, then we can change that part, too.
I am not writing this because I think I have all the answers. Certainly the opposite is true. The conviction I’ve been feeling lately is my own, based on my own experiences and my own prayers. It could even be that the huge pile of words I’ve just expelled is solely for my own edification. But on the off chance there’s even 1 other person out there who shares my struggles and convictions, I’m going to put both this and myself out there.
And I’m going to pray.