This post is part of an ongoing blog series on Pomomusings entitled “(Re)Imagining Christianity.” To read about the series, as well as get a full schedule of participants, click here.
What is one belief, practice or element of Christianity that we must hold onto and live out more fully so that Christianity can move forward and truly impact the world in the next 100 years?
Good Discipleship to Youth: Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and 2 were legit movies. Let’s just put that out there. If you haven’t seen them – rent them tonight. Even though the story itself isn’t really a model example of Christian living (it’s all about revenge and killing people), there are some amazing dialogues and scenes that I frequently recall. The films follow a bride named Beatrix who wakes up from a coma to find the baby she was carrying before the coma gone. The rest of the story centers around her revenge on the assassin team that betrayed her and put her in that coma – a team she was once a part of.
As a part of her quest she goes to study with legendarily cruel Kung Fu master Pai Mei – known for plucking an eye out of one of his students for her sass. Pai Mei is the head priest of the White Lotus Clan and never once leads Beatrix to assume that his training will be anything less than grueling. He mocks every ability she has, makes her punch through solid wood until her knuckles look like meatloaf, and makes here eat rice with chopsticks (don’t laugh, that’s hard to do). In the end Beatrix learns the most dangerous and mythical attack known to man – the five-point exploding heart technique. In their first meeting together, however, Pai Mei lays it out on the line for Beattrix – the skilled and accomplished assassin:
“Your so-called Kung Fu is really quite pathetic.”
Pai Mei tells it straight. He’s a mentor who isn’t afraid to say the hard and often cruel things to guide his student towards success.
My idea of discipleship to Youth is similar – not exact – but similar. Of course we can put aside the cruel techniques of dismemberment and physical punishment, but honesty and firmness must remain.
I think of the many relationships I have had in my life where the people I looked up to and were formidable to my journey were people who told it to me straight. They did it out of a relationship they had built with me, out of a love they had for me, and out of a love they had for God. And when I needed to be told that “my so-called faith is really quite pathetic” I could hear it and could be challenged by it.
To be clear my model of good discipleship to youth isn’t to go around and let the youth know they aren’t good enough Christians. That would be quite damaging. But good discipleship means:
- Earn the right to be heard. Earning a place in a teenager’s life where you can say things like, “you need to step it up a bit.“ You earn that respect by following Christ yourself. By being authentic in your own faith. By showing your teenagers that this not only should matter to them but it matters to you. You do this, so when you need to bring the hard truth you don’t sound like the crazy yard duty teacher students barely know who screams at them to stop running in the halls.
- Give it to them straight. Let them know that a commitment to the God who loves them will require a lot. The world might hate them for it. It will require sacrifices and a lot of time. Bad things will continue to happen. However… at the end of the story is peace.
- Never leave their side. Pace with them as they struggle and as they grow and find the promises of God kept.
Recall Jesus’s words to his disciples in John 15 and 16. After He earned the right to be heard by his friends by a lifetime of love and respect, He commands them to love each other out of the love He has for them. But then he gives it to them straight. He lets them know what might happen if they do this:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. “ John 15:18-19
1 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. John 16:1-2
He filled them in on what it might cost. They would have to be ok with being hated. They would have to be ok with choosing to please God over pleasing their friends and family and communities. They would have to be ok with being misunderstood and even hunted down. Was Jesus trying to scare them? Maybe. At the very least it was to help His friends understand the cost of their discipleship.
Finally, Jesus promises to never leave their side. If you continue reading John 16 you will find that this was part of a conversation that resulted in his Disciples coming to a true understanding of Christ’s nature and work.
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
In John 16 you also get a lot of Trinitarian theology with emphasis on the relationship of the Holy Spirit. I think this was to encourage his Disciples that even if they felt alone in their struggle, especially during the coming time when “they could not see him for a little while” (v.16) – that God in fact has never “gone away.” Jesus, along with the Creator, and the Spirit have always and are always around; and they have overcome anything in this life that might be a deterring factor.
It’s a reassuring thing to have the God of the universe let you know that on the one hand its going to be difficult, but on the other tell you “we will do this together. “
This is what teenagers need, adults in the church who model the good discipleship of Jesus to them. So often we only take up one or two aspects of good discipleship. I can easily earn their respect and can never leave their side, but I have a hard time finding the courage to tell it to them straight for fear they might not like me after. I know many adults in our church who can definitely tell it to them straight, but rarely try to earn the right to be heard and often times leave kids stranded in their struggles when they don’t “catch on.” I also know people who will earn the right to be heard, give it to them straight, but then in fact leave their side and allow them ot walk alone.
Good discipleship requires all three – especially for teenagers as they build their identities. The church would be wise to hold onto this and live into it more fully over the next day, month, and 100 years.
Matt Knapp: Matt is a husband, father, youth pastor, day dreamer, SF Giants fan, justice and mercy seeker, bulldog owner, easy to hide, hard to pin down.