Festivity is driven by young people. That’s one of the points I made when I spoke last Sunday to the evening congregations at The Belfrey. We were considering the story found in 2 Samuel 6 of the Ark being brought into Jerusalem. The very first thing we’re told, which sets the context for this amazing story of celebration is that ‘David again brought together all the able young men of Israel’ (v1). I find that fascinating.
Older people were no doubt there as well, but the ones encouraging and pressing into the festivity were the young. David didn’t do this by accident. He did it on purpose. He did it because young people love to celebrate and party. They love to sing. To dance. To make music. And they have energy for it – something I’m beginning to lose in my mid-40s! So if you want to really rejoice and be festive, gather everyone – especially the young!
Over the last year at The Belfrey we’ve been having a stronger push on encouraging the young. We’re seeing more clearly the biblical mandate to particularly call young people, which it’s easy to miss. That’s what Jesus did when he called his first disciples. They were young. That’s what Paul did when gathering his mission teams. They were predominantly young. That doesn’t mean we exclude those who are older (see yesterday’s blog – Called to Flourish). We are a church for all ages. But it’s the young who should be driving our celebrations. Go to places where the Spirit of God is being poured out and where cutting-edge mission is happening and the role of young people is crucial. What happens to churches that forget this and allow older people to decide how church celebrations happen? Normally within two or three generations, they’ve ceased to exist. They’ve died.
To survive and indeed to thrive requires mission be restored to it’s rightful place at the heart of the church and for young people to be raised up and lead our celebrations. All this is even more important in the UK today, where 50% of churches have no young people at all and many of these churches are in the North of England. That’s why we need more churches to be on the forefront of calling the young to Jesus Christ.
This is no excuse for the young to disregard or disrespect those who are older. Neither does it mean that older people have no place in celebrations. But it it does mean that older people have to make space for the young to serve and lead. And the result for me – as someone who is no longer young – will be that the style and flavour is unlikely to be my preference. The music might feel a little too loud. The language too contemporary. The dress-code too relaxed. And there’ll be more energy and enthusiasm than I can bring. And all this is fine and good. In fact it’s how it’s supposed to be. Because festivity is meant to be driven by the young.