This past weekend I read a scandalous story. It’s a story of cheating, being taken advantage of, and losing everything. But it’s one of the most wonderful stories ever told.
My daily Bible reading took me to the Old Testament prophet Hosea and his story of marrying a girl named Gomer who was promiscuous in almost every way imaginable. But Hosea loved Gomer, even when Gomer didn’t return that love. Hosea bought her back even though she was technically already his. He gave it all. She was unfaithful. He was faithful. Even in today’s terms, it’s a pretty scandalous story.
Also this weekend, I watched three individuals be baptized at our church. It was a beautiful representation of crossing over from death to life. Someone had to give everything He had in order for that to happen.
In the same service, we observed the Lord’s Supper. The elements of the bread and the cup – representing the body and the blood – were made so vivid for me. He gave everything He had. Even though I was a cheater, a liar, and I took advantage of Him, Jesus really did give it all. The story is pretty scandalous. Colossians 1:13 tells us He “rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves.” It’s the story of Good News. It’s the gospel!
Young adults are one of the most unchurched and unreached age demographics in our country and in the world. As Christ-followers, we have a hope in Christ that’s truly good news for all. Does it always make sense? I’ll be the first to tell you that it doesn’t. However, I do know that my life has been transformed because of Jesus, and I want to know Him more – more of His hope and forgiveness.
So what would it look like if the church gave everything we have, as followers of Jesus, to reach young adults? Honestly, it would look scandalous in many ways. Here are three ways it might look scandalous for the church to be intentional about reaching young adults in our American culture.
1. Being intentional about reaching young adults might take the church places where they’ve never been before.
For many years, the church has embraced a “y’all come” mentality. We build buildings, get the programs just right, and play the hippest kind of music. But if we’re going to be serious about reaching young adults, we must get comfortable being in spaces where young adults are doing life together. Where are young adults gathering in your community? Only you can answer that for your context, but it’s a critical question to ask.
Jesus was intentional about being with the crowds. I’m pretty sure He talked with the people He interacted with outside of the temple. He probably laughed with them. He knew their kids’ names. He took the time to get to know them. And He loved them. I would venture to say that they knew something was different about Him.
For the “religious” folks, it was scandalous that He would be among those people!
Will it take you to some places that could make you a little uncomfortable? It may. Hosea was probably not comfortable walking through the red-light district looking for his wife. But he loved her and was willing to do whatever it took to show Gomer his love was different.
If we’re going to be intentional about reaching young adults with the gospel, we must be willing to go to the places where the love of Christ in us is transparent and real – and it looks different.
2. The church that has a pursuing mentality will begin to make an impact in the young adult community.
There are some things we should never give up on. Pursuing young adults must be a primary focus for the church. There are individuals in our communities who need to hear about the difference a genuine relationship with Christ makes. Pursue the people who need to hear that message. It really is Good News!
A church that’s intentional will be a pursuing church. They will be making the first move to be a part of the local college campus. They will be the first to offer outreach to single moms. They will be the first to find ways to connect with servers in restaurants in the community. They could be accused of pursuing because of their love and compassion.
Hosea probably woke up many nights to find Gomer missing. He would get up, get dressed, and go out and find her. He had a pursuing mentality for the one he loved.
Don’t forget, as Christ-followers, we were pursued. How can we be intentional about pursuing young adults in our community and point them toward the message of Christ?
3. Don’t be something you’re not when pursuing young adults.
If there’s anything that young adults value, it’s authenticity. One of the primary problems young adults have with the church is that they say the church is hypocritical. If we design a ministry with and for young adults that has all the outside coverings of the latest and greatest, but it isn’t genuine, that ministry will quickly falter. Your church has a personality. Be who you are. Individuals who interact with young adults must present a genuine approach to life that shows authenticity and care. Allowing young adults through the back door of our lives will give them a picture of who we really are – scars and all.
It’s the entire reason people were drawn to Jesus. He was real with them. He genuinely showed them that they mattered to His life. And I venture to say that it was more than a once-a-week approach. Jesus genuinely showed them He was the real deal.
Hosea had an authentic approach in his forever pursuit of Gomer. He consistently lived out his words, but with a love that gave everything that he had.
Ministry to young adults won’t always be easy. It will have it’s ups and downs. It will be messy. There will be heartache. But young adults are worth pursuing with all we have.
If we get serious about reaching young adults, it may even look scandalous.
Mark Whitt is the Collegiate and Young Adult Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources. Before joining Lifeway, he spent many years on the campus of Murray State University as a campus minister. Connect with Mark via Twitter.