How to Turn the Conversation from Dark to Light

The world is watching the UK as the fourth terror attack since March, and the fire in Grenfell Tower with current death toll near 80, have filled the headlines with darkness. As a foreigner in this country, I usually find out about these attacks and tragedies first from worried text messages from my mom in America, since she’s watched these events unfold as I’ve been asleep.

As a Christian working with young people in schools and churches, I begin to fear that the darkness of these events will cast a shadow on faith, and the children and teenagers will be haunted by the very real question of “Why would a loving God allow this to happen?”

This is an age-old question, and to be quite honest, it often unsettles me. I’ve wrestled with this question in multiple seasons of my faith journey, and it sometimes seems to serve as an anthem for anti-Christian views.

So how do we address this question, this fear, this search for hope that young people carry?

The good news is God addressed this question first–from the beginning of time in fact. Genesis chapter one, the first words in the Bible, tells us that where there was darkness, God breathed in light:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

God responds to darkness with light. He fills the empty, void places with brilliance and splendor. Dark places do not stay dark. This is His plan.

Genesis chapter one also says that God created man in his image. This brings forth the additional question, “Then why are men so evil?” But the root of this answer is simply the darkness that we as humans often choose—sin. Sin was never God’s hope or intent with mankind, but the love he lavishes on us means we get to make our own choices. So God responds even to the darkness of sin—He redeems.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
‭‭John‬ ‭1:1-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Jesus is this Word that John speaks about, and God intended from the beginning of time for Jesus to be the hope of mankind. He also serves as a clear example of what it is to be light in the grim circumstances of life, and commissioned people to follow his example.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬

With this simple look at what light is, what it really does, it’s simple to switch the conversation to the hope that shines in the darkness.

Mr. Rogers, the American children’s show host communicated how we can see the image of God reflected in people during dire circumstances. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

So how do we encourage young people in the midst of such darkness? Show them the light. Direct their gaze to the hope that blazes brighter than the hate. Tell them how they can be a helper—how they, too, can shine in the darkness.

Please join us in prayer as we, and countless other youth workers, share this message of hope with young people in the U.K.

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The Power of Investing in Few

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It is tempting to think that in order to make a major impact in our world, we have to reach as many people as quickly as possible. But in this mentality, I think we miss out on the opportunity to go deep in exchange for the chance that we might go wide.

OUR EXPERIENCE

Let me explain. Last term, our Pais team (a team of five young adults who do schools and church work in Southport) planned a day we called Kingdom Heroes Day, which was a day for young people to get a taster of a day in the life of a Christian. We originally hoped for as many young people as possible to show up, but in the end, we only had five young people come.

This was discouraging at first, but the further we got into the day, the more we saw that five was the perfect number. There was one young person per team member, and we got to specifically focus on each one individually.

We gave them biblical teaching on the Great Commission that Jesus gives all believers in Matthew:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
After that, we went into town to actually put the teaching into practice. Kyra, a girl in year 9, said, “I thought mission would be like being a spy, or being in an army and being commanded to do something. But today, I experienced going into town and giving out You are Loved cards with chocolates to share God’s love.”

Her younger sister Maisy had a similar experience in regards to worship. She said, “Before Kingdom Heroes Day, I thought worship was where you kneel, put your hands together, close your eyes, and say a prayer in your head. But I’ve experienced that there’s lots of ways to worship, by singing, by drawing, by listening.”
These young people came in with a variety of purposes, some desiring to learn more about Jesus, some to get a sense of Christian community with other believers their age, some just to have something to do for the day. The one common denominator, though, was that each young person who came already had a relationship with someone on our team. In order to spend a day investing deeply like we were able, the groundwork had to be done beforehand.

JESUS’S EXAMPLE

We see the example of a leader focusing on a small group demonstrated beautifully by Jesus in His time on Earth. He sought out those few who might follow Him, and with the simple yet beautiful words, Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people, He called them to Himself. Then at once, they dropped their nets to follow Him (Matthew 4:19-20).

It was after this that Jesus took these men, twelve in total, along with him during his ministry. They sat at his feet as he preached to masses the sermon on the mount. They stood beside him as he healed countless people. They saw him give time and attention to society’s outcasts. Their minds were blown as Jesus, the Son of God, washed their feet. Jesus took time to teach His disciples and take them on eye-opening experiences.

A CALL TO PRAY

Please pray that God provides for those who work with young people in Southport creativity, passion, and opportunities. Pray that God will show them ways to take young people beyond the normal church services and perhaps even beyond the church walls to experience mission and worship in new ways.

Pray also that we as a global Church won’t be stuck in a “religious rut,” so singularly-minded, that we’re unable to see the extraordinary experiences God allows us to have. God isn’t boring–he’s full of imagination, creativity, wonder, and adventure. It’s important that we help young people to see this aspect of God, because so many young people simply don’t see the point in Christianity.

As you pray for these things, consider asking God to show you people around you that you can take along on an experience, showing them the many facets of God.

 

Shelby Bland is a first year Pais Apprentice from Texas in the States, currently serving in Southport.