Shades of the '60s. Lots of angry, discontented young people, occupying public places, trying to call attention to their cause. I think we've seen this before.
The '60s demonstrations were about a war, and they turned more violent. The 2011 crowds are occupying high-profile public areas - like Wall Street, for example - around the world. And with a different cause. They claim they're protesting about jobs, corporate greed, concentrated wealth and economic injustice. Only time will tell whether this will be a game-changer or a loud blip on the screen.
While the real goals and agenda of the "Occupy" demonstrators may be debatable, one thing isn't. Once again, the world is watching the power of young people fighting for a cause. We've seen it in passionate revolutions against dictators. And a lot of brokers and traders are seeing it every day on their way to work in the financial epicenters of the world.
But one day the world is going to be rocked by the greatest youth revolution in the history of the planet. But it won't be about bombs or billionaires. It will be about bringing back the King of all kings.
The Jewish prophet Joel said it first, then Simon Peter thought it was worth repeating at Pentecost - the day the Church was born. "'In the last days,' God says, 'I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams'" (Acts 2:17).
The most powerful Jesus-movement in history will happen just before He comes back. And apparently, young people will be the point of the spear! Their fervent young passions will be poured into the greatest Cause there is - saturating this planet with the Good News of Jesus Christ. They will help birth and lead a bold vision that will touch "all people." A young army, backed by older people who share the dream, committed to taking back what the enemy has stolen.
That may seem far-fetched if you're used to seeing church kids who are bored, apathetic and unengaged. But that's unnatural for young people. They're instinctively fired up, full of energy, restless to change things. So maybe some - or most - of this counterintuitive complacency is our fault. Maybe they're just rising to the level of our expectations. And we haven't expected much.
Today's Christian young people are overentertained and underchallenged. We give them bread and circuses instead of mobilizing them to make a difference. If you've known me for long, you know what I told my kids every day when they left for school. I challenged them to "Go MAD!" - Go Make A Difference. That's what being salt and light is all about. What do salt and light have in common? Not much - except for one thing. They both change their environment!
That's what our young people can be doing! Not just going to one youth event after another where we try to keep them entertained and interested. Not just parroting the same old four or five "can't go wrong" answers to every spiritual question. Not just more pizza and parties and playdates.
They need a mission. Something to do with all that Christian stuff they know. There are senior citizens whose lives could be illuminated by a teenager who listens to their stories and shows them love. There are kids who struggle in school who could be given a future by a young person who would take time to tutor and nurture them. There's that rescue mission downtown...those homeless people...those children in your own church who look up to a teenager and who need one who will show them Jesus. There's the Christian drama team or band or choir they could put together to move out into the community. Above all, there's a whole generation in your town who will go to hell unless someone figures out a way to attract them to Jesus. Their best hope? People just like them - except with Christ in their heart.
Have you ever seen what happens to a church young person on a missions trip? The guy who never prays is suddenly praying. The ones who never read their Bible are out on a rock every morning with their Bible open. The yawners who seem forever bored are suddenly asking questions. Why? Because they're doing something, not just learning something. Suddenly, they need what they know. Because it's not all about "me" anymore. It's all about some people who need me. Who need my Jesus. So a truly life-changing youth ministry won't just be meetings to go to - it will be a year-round missions trip! To meet needs all around us in our own area.
So before the wake-up call reaches our young people, we have to wake up first. To how we've failed to challenge them, to believe in them, to show them what God sees when He looks at them. "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12).
And who knows - we just might be recruiting warriors for that young army who will one day bring back the King.