Recently, our church's youth group served at We Will Go. They came to put into practice those things they have read about in the Bible.
They lead worship, provided food for the hungry, served the meal, spent time talking with inner-city neighbors, prayed for needs, and helped with clean-up. They were a part of impacting lives for Jesus but, in doing so, also had their lives impacted.
All too often, we make our church experience in America all about entertainment and "bless me". Left and right, we see young people turning away from the church, and sometimes even Christianity, because we've sold them a counterfeit form of the faith. If we are trying to hold them with games and free pizza and exciting events, then we're going to have to keep upping the adrenaline and fun in a feeble effort to compete with the world. And these things won't hold them. Once they are faced with doubts during a trial or run up against attacks on the faith in a anti-Christian environment, then shallow religion is not going to hold them.
Only an authentic, well-grounded faith is going to last. And one of the ways that authentic, personal faith occurs is through putting into practice the very things they see in the Bible.
When you lay hands on the sick and see them healed, feed a hungry homeless person and watch them come alive as they are showered with love, clothe a street child dressed in rags, befriend a former drug dealer who becomes a new person through the power of Jesus, see spiritual healing occur in the life of a former prostitute, or watch as someone is delivered from addiction, and watch miracles occur as God's power moves and makes things happen that only God's power can make happen, then that faith becomes a lot hard to walk away from somewhere down the road.
It is very hard to stop believing in something that has been real --- something that you've actually been a part of, not just read about or heard about.
I speak from experience. Several years ago, after miscarriages and church hurts, I considered walking away from the faith. I was so confused and in deep pain. But one of the things that kept me was just what I've written about. I'd seen too much to deny the reality. I might not have understood many things about God, but I'd experienced too much of His realness to say that He didn't exist.
I had seen physical healings occur in miraculous ways. I had been a part of supernatural happenings that could have only been from God. I had watched as messed up lives became something beautiful and amazing. I had experienced grace and freedom in ways that were intoxicating.
I had seen God move and had known Him personally.
At times, He seemed distant and unfathomable. But I never could bring myself to deny His existence because He had proven Himself real --- and loving --- too many times.
So if you are wondering how you can grow in your own faith or help your kids develop in an authentic walk with the Lord, then put yourself or them in as many opportunities as you can where God is working. Go on mission trips, visit the sick and pray for them, minister at homeless shelters, lead prison Bible studies, prayer walk in your city, volunteer at an after-school program for inner-city kids.
These works don't save you. Only dependence and faith in Jesus Christ can do that, but it is as you serve Him and start getting out of your comfort zone and the church walls that you open yourself up to do things that really need His provision and Spirit in order to succeed. It is as you actually do the things that Jesus did that you will understand Him better and begin to experience His reality in ways that don't happen in safe, clean, easy venues.
If you want this radical authenticity, or want it for your family, tell Him so. He'll know if your hunger is real and He'll provide ways for you to truly start being His hands and feet in a hurting world.
Because what the world really needs isn't another "church folks only" activity, what the church needs is the radical, amazing, practical love of Jesus.
And that's what you need, too.