By Christy Chermak
They’re small yet powerful words. Usually signifying the start of something new. The beginnings of an uncharted adventure. The vulnerable moment when we dare to dream of something that is yet to be.
Men and women who have gone before us pondered their own “what if” and the world has changed because of it. In the 1300s John Wycliffe and John Hus died for their “what if” as they were persecuted for translating the Bible so the common man could have access. Martin Luther nailed his paradigm-shifting “what if” to a large wooden door in 1517. And just 14 years ago 8 families asked “what if” as they dreamed of a church that could be something more. Because of these “what ifs," you and I are now a part of a church where Bibles are openly read, grace is freely declared, and we are exhorted to follow Christ rather than appease Him. Their “what if” dreams have since turned into our realities and you and I get to thank those who have gone before for daring to ask.
So now as 20- and 30-year-olds, it’s our turn. As we stand on the shoulders of thegiants who have gone before, poised to peer down the path just a little further, what will it be that our generation dares to ask? What “what if” will we champion?
Can we pull it off?
But before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s worth asking if we’re up to the challenge. The world has a lot to say about our age group andit isn’t always pretty. We’ve been deemed the social justice generation and in an odd twist, it’s now glamorous to serve, admirable to give, and trendy to leave it all behind and pursue “spirituality” in the third world. But at the same time we’re a generation criticized for entitlement, lack of follow-through, and failure to commit. It’s a dangerous combination; often resulting in easily-motivated crowds, but poorly-mobilized individuals. If our age group's actions matched our social media fervor, I’d dare to say our cities would look a whole lot different.
And if we are honest with ourselves, these shortcomings can be just as true of those of us called “the Church” as those who don’t know our Savior. Hosting and attending big events are right up our alley. But unfortunately, committing to long-term relational ministry is not.
And here’s where this blog post becomes personal, because we just spent an entire month planning and hosting big events with the intention of changing our city for the better. Was it in vain? I don’t believe so, or I wouldn’t have been a part of it. But a jam-packed April is not enough on its own to change a community. The reality is that if those group events are to carry any impact, we individuals must be committed to a long-term investment. So knowing how our generation tends to lean, how do we make sure that our big moments from April don’t just remain as big moments in April?
Lay it all down so we can rise up.
If it feels like I just rained all over our parade, it’s because I did. But not without reason; there’s good news for those of us who know Jesus. Yes, even as we dream of what our generation’s “what if” might be,the gospel is where we must start. You see, the great freedom of Christianity is that it’s ok to admit we have shortcomings. The great tragedy would be if we pretended we did not.
We have a Jesus who loves us despite our failures and a Holy Spirit who promises not to leave us where He found us. What a loss it would be if His Church, our generation specifically, bought into the lie that we could save the world on our own. What a missed opportunity it would be to ignore our shortcomings and tell our God He didn’t need to show up.
So it’s ok to admit our parade isn’t really all that impressive anyways. Because God isn’t asking for apuffed up social justice movement, He’s asking us to lay our lives down. He’s calling us to sacrifice our lives, not a Saturday. He’s inviting His people, who know Him by name, to humbly seek His face asHE (not we) changes a city.
I don’t know about you, but I believe He can do it. And I believe that despite our shortcomings He just might do it through us. But I also believe it’s going to be hard and require us to depend on Him greatly, just as our predecessors did. So as we commit to laying our lives down we must also ask for God to breathe new life into them, re-teaching us how to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
As our peers continue to search for worth in their ability to make an impact, may our identities be so rooted in Jesus that we arefree from that striving. May we be free to replace short-term service for long-term discipleship commitments. Free to serve our city even when Twitter isn’t looking. Free to continue loving when we don’t receive the gratitude we want. Free to listen to the needs of our neighbors rather than our own intuition. Free topersevere when our flesh tells us to give up, choose the easy route, or remain comfortable where we’re at.
So here’s the big “what if,” Church. What if we rise to the occasion? What if we set our sights higher than an event or two? What if we choose to let Him lead as we dare to actually do something? What if we find our identity in Him and step into the roles He created for us to fill? What if our generation reminds the world what His Church was meant to be?
_ What if it changes everything? _