Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘sons of thunder’), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
73% of young adults raised in Christian homes in the UK have left church by the age of 35 (Barna, The Connected Generation). That’s a shocking and painful statistic. Because behind it there are real lives, real experiences, and real churches.
If we look at the reasons why people leave church, it’s not that they’ve suddenly rejected Christianity as untrue or stopped believing in God. It’s that they don’t see its relevance to their everyday lives and concerns.
I am increasingly convinced that we could be failing to capture the hearts of this generation not because our gospel is too radical, but because, all too often, it’s too safe, too shallow, and too small.
So, what’s the answer? It’s contained in the two passages from Mark’s Gospel above, where Jesus proclaims and embodies ‘good news’ that centres on the coming of God’s kingdom and prioritises disciplemaking.
In the first-century world of Jesus, people knew that their world wasn’t as it should be. They were restless and longed for something better. They knew that their God, who was the Creator God, had promised to sort it all out and put the world to rights (Isaiah 9). The good news that Jesus proclaims in Mark 1 is that God’s kingdom, God’s sovereign and saving rule, has begun. God’s long-awaited victory over evil and the rescue of his people is taking place in and through him. This is life-changing and world-changing news.
In the second passage (Mark 3:13–19), Jesus appoints and goes on to train 12 disciples to show the world what it looks like when God becomes king and new creation starts to kick in. Jesus spent three years teaching his disciples to do the things which he said to do. In the aftermath of his resurrection, he sent his Spirit upon his followers and told them to get on with the job of doing in the world what he had been doing among his own people.
It is quite literally nonsense to call Jesus ‘Lord,’ and not do what he said. The challenge of Jesus is to embrace the good news that he proclaims and embodies, centred on the coming of God’s kingdom, and focus on making 21st-century disciples who relate this gospel to every part of life. If we do this, we could not only reverse the departure of young adults from the church, but transform the world around us.
How might you communicate this truly good news, for the whole of life, to a young adult you love who has dropped out of the church? Join the conversation below.