Recently I picked up the copy of “Jesus>Religion” by Jefferson Bethke that a good friend gave to me a few years ago. The subtitle explains the entire theme of the book: “Why He is so much better than trying harder, doing more, and being good enough.” This young man (in his 20’s when the book was written) was on a role; his YouTube video, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus,” went viral as his peer generation connected with his honest and transparent desire to be personally introduced to God.
A number of things he shared really struck me but the following quote has direct relevance to my pastoral ministry:
[reflecting on his life before Jesus] “Inside I was just a scared little boy who had been deeply insecure his whole life and lived in hopes that others would tell me I was good enough.”
“Of course, none of us would admit to it so plainly, and for nineteen years of my life, I wouldn’t have either, but isn’t it true? Why else do we do most of the things we do? My generation is the most fatherless and insecure generation that’s ever lived, and we are willing to sacrifice everything if we just can be told we are loved.”
“If only we knew just how loved we really are.”
Two quick thoughts (actually, the first one is a rant):
First, although neither the author nor I have statistics to cite, I totally agree (by experience) that this is the most fatherless and insecure generation that’s ever lived. And the impact of the selfish, self-centered abandonment of marriage and children is yet to be seen as the values and examples of the parent’s are replicated in future generations. I am so deeply saddened when couples, particularly Christians, tell me as they are getting divorced, “We just want to do what is best for the children.” Really? No, really?! Well then, get right with Jesus and don’t contribute to the most fatherless and insecure generation that has ever lived.
Second, I will always be thankful for Pastor Rudy Gervais. When I came to him in 1999, I was broken, burned out, incredibly angry and hopelessly insecure. He could have gone totally “pastoral” on me – after all, I had come to him asking for answers and most pastors would probably have felt responsible to provide answers (and I am sure it would have sounded like, “try harder, do more, be good enough”). But Rudy led me somewhere I had never been before when he simply prayed, “Lord Jesus, what would You want to reveal to Jim about the things he believes?” No religious process, no churchy platitudes, not even a list of scriptures to memorize. Instead, Rudy took me directly to Jesus – and Jesus let me know in no uncertain terms just how loved I was – and it has made all the difference.
So let me encourage you not to invite people to church – the place is full of people. Instead, invite people to Jesus – and when they discover how loved they really are, the people at church will not be a big deal.