ince I took this position, I’ve learned that the job of executive director of the CRC has many facets. They range from scooping ice cream at staff socials to speaking one-on-one with some of the most influential people in our society.
Most of my work falls somewhere in between. Like pastors and other ministry leaders, a good part of what I do is simply routine.
But recently I was part of a routine-breaking meeting that provided a lot of food for thought. I had the privilege of listening to a group of 20-somethings talk about church.
Much of what I heard did not surprise me. The group had varied thoughts about worship styles, programs, and approaches to ministry. Some preferred reflective, contemplative worship, while others looked for a more contemporary style. But as I listened, one theme stood out above all others: authenticity.
More than anything else, these young women and men are looking for a church that is real—a church where people live what they believe. They long for a church where people not only know about God, not only know God personally, but where what is preached on Sunday is practiced every day. They were looking to be challenged.
The faith of their dreams is a faith that is lived out in real, tangible ways. They envision a faith that is lived on the edge—a faith that engages a broken and dangerous world with the hope of Jesus Christ.
James taught that faith without action is dead. It has no value until it encounters the needs of a broken culture. That kind of faith is not safe, nor is it comfortable. When C.S. Lewis wrote the story of Aslan, the lion, in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he included a wonderful line:
“‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver. . . . ‘Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe, but he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’”
That King is our King. He is not safe, and living our faith in him is not safe.
One young woman in the group put it this way, “The church we want to be a part of is not insular. It helps you live out your faith; it shapes and forms you.”
From what I heard at that meeting, I concluded that the church must find more ways to engage our culture. It must learn to take risks and to step out in faith. This is the church that our children and grandchildren desire. They are risk-takers. They are looking for more than the everyday safe experiences of a comfortable church.
This church is a church on the edge. It is passionate about justice. It engages and enfolds those who can find no hope and no future. It is a church that is willing to speak with a prophet’s voice to the culture around it. It is willing to be the voice of the voiceless. It is prepared to come alongside the widow and the fatherless.
In this church people do not simply discuss poverty; they engage the poor. In this church people are the hands and feet of Jesus.
The authentic church does not simply provide programs; it provides opportunities to put faith into action in ways that make a difference.
I don’t know what ultimate impact the Internet, Facebook, cell phones, and other media will have on younger generations. I leave that to the experts. What I do know is that when I met with a dozen of the brightest and best our church has to offer, I heard a generation that seeks authentic, passionate life rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ. I saw men and women who want a church that challenges them to live lives on the edge, fully devoted to Jesus Christ.
My prayer is that we will hear and respond. It is the desire of my heart that our children and their children will see in us a living, authentic faith that will inspire them to take the church to places about which I can only dream.
About the Author
Jerry Dykstra served as the executive director of the Christian
Reformed Church in North America from 2006-2011.