A quick survey of our current culture in America today would demonstrate that the truth is not a high value for many, if not most people. Constant stories bombard the news of high-level leaders who have cheated, stolen, or lied. In many workplaces, these same practices seem to be the law of the land and can even be celebrated. For some, these practices contribute to career advancement. Similar stories have plagued churches and ministries as well, causing many to question if there is any difference at all between the Church and the world.
In light of this current cultural reality and the high value of truth described throughout the Bible, I believe one thing that our young adult ministries need as much or more than anything else is a culture of wise honesty and vulnerability. It’s been said that today’s young adults long for a place to be honest and where people are authentic. But, when we unpack why that’s needed, I believe we come back to a true understanding of something that every generation needs. And we begin to discover what a healthy culture of honesty and vulnerability actually looks like.
Here are three reasons why young adults need a culture of honesty.
1. Truth is hard to find.
Think about the amount of communication you engaged in over the past 24 hours. Unless you are in the middle of a technology or social media fast, the chances are high that you did the majority of your communication through some technological device. Texts, emails, messages, and maybe even some phone calls. The impersonal nature of today’s communication lends itself to far greater opportunity for communicating falsely. It’s much easier to bend the truth with your fingers than your mouth. Additionally, truth-telling is rarely celebrated, rarely practiced, and rarely required in workplaces, homes, friendships, and even churches.
Young adults have grown up in this environment and it is all they know. Think about the unspoken rules of their generational culture—don’t snitch, use a filter to make it look better than it is, do whatever it takes to achieve your dreams, and what they don’t know won’t hurt them. These generational norms among young adults make the truth hard to find in today’s culture. May it not be true of our churches and ministries that truth and honesty are hard to find.
2. Truth is what we need.
One of the reasons it has been said that Millennials are looking for authenticity is because they are so highly aware of and sensitive to the amount of dishonesty around them. Young adults are longing for a place not just to be honest about themselves, but I believe they’re also looking for a place where truth can be found. Every person on the planet longs to find people who will hear their story and still choose to love them. No one has a flawless story except for Jesus, but for some reason we try to make our story sound perfect because we’re afraid to be unliked, unfollowed, or unwanted. Young adults need a place where they can be vulnerable and still be loved.
Young adults also need a place where truth can be found. Our ministries need leaders that are truth-tellers and truth-proclaimers in order to cultivate young adults who are the same. Whether statisticians and researchers agree or not, every generation needs Bible truth communicated to them in helpful ways. Along the way, this will involve listening and sharing. Sometimes, we get the first part of this right, but not the second and hear people out but never direct them to help. Sometimes, we get the second part right and not the first and shout Bible at people while never giving them a chance to share their stories. We need ministry spaces laced with honesty and truth.
3. God is Truth.
The Bible clearly teaches us that God is Truth. He is the source of and the standard of Truth. In order for us to truly live according to His plan for our lives, we must be people of Truth. One of the most tangible ways for us to assess our faithfulness to God’s design is our willingness to be honest. Honesty is a demonstration of our confidence in God and obedience to His Word.
One last point to this—keep in mind that being wise and being honest should never conflict with one another. Speaking freely is one thing; speaking wisely is another. There is a place where vulnerability and wisdom meet that is important for us to discover. Build a culture that cultivates wisdom, community, and growth and you’ll help raise up a generation with the same qualities. There is enough bending of the truth in our world today, let’s combat that by developing ministries with a strong culture of honesty.
Steven Ackley, his wife Emily, and their four kids live out their love for anything sports and Cookout milkshakes in Murfreesboro, TN where Steven serves as the NextGen and College Pastor at LifePoint Church. Steven holds a D.Min. and an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can connect with him on Twitter.