The following is taken from a journal entry Katie, my 16-year-old daughter, wrote while visiting friends at a small church conference in Des Moines, Iowa. Tonight, she told me the story of how she volunteered to share these thoughts with the people at the conference, and then she offered to let me read her journal. I’m a little proud of her.
You guys keep talking about how new things are happening and mentioning the youth without much hope. I want to explain to you, from the perspective of the youth, what God is doing.
I was homeschooled all of my life until last year. I wanted to go to public school for several reasons: I wanted a more structured schedule, I wanted to be with my friends, and I wanted to be in an art program. But the biggest reason which made me want to go to public school first was because I wanted to be in a situation where I was coming into contact, on a daily basis, with people who didn’t know anything about God.
God called us to be in the world but not of the world. I think that we as Christians try so hard to be not of the world that we forget to be in the world.
We get isolated into our own bubble and we block the world out. I needed to get out of my Christian bubble and be in the world.
Remember that movie that came out recently called The Golden Compass? Christians protested the movie because in the end of the trilogy, they are supposed to “kill God”.
By not going to that movie, they remained ignorant and they didn’t pop their Christian bubble. They weren’t of the world, but they weren’t in it either. I saw that movie twice because I didn’t want to be ignorant and prove the author of the books that inspired the movie correct.
A few days after that, a friend of mine at school was reading The Golden Compass books. I said that the movie was really good, and her response was, “aren’t you religious?” I didn’t know how to address the question because I believe that my faith is not a religion.
Christianity is a way of life that isn’t based on following the rules and doing good works. That’s religion: doing good things to get to heaven. That is not Christianity.
Because I saw that movie, I was able to speak to this girl about the difference between Christianity and religion. I explained a little about my faith. I didn’t “convert” her, but I planted a seed. All it took was escaping the Christian bubble and seeing a movie.
Just this last week one of my friends, who is a senior and is going to become a history teacher, wrote an article for the school newspaper entitled Jesus for President. It talked about what Jesus would do if he became president of the U.S., and if he would even want to be president.
Some atheists, who eat lunch with us occasionally, came up to us during lunch and started lightly mocking my friend’s article. We ended up having a good discussion.
My friends from church and I get together every Tuesday night and talk about God and hang out. We had to go to class that day after lunch, but we invited the atheists to come hang out with us and we said we would debate religion, evolution, and Christianity with them for hours.
One of them did show up that night. We explained some of our beliefs to him, and he explained some of his beliefs to us. We talked to him for over an hour, and after he left we laughed at how stupid we must have sounded to him.
We tried to explain the trinity and feeling God’s presence. It didn’t work out too well, but afterward, we knew we planted a seed. It didn’t matter if we changed him. We made him think. We explained our faith to him. We are okay with doing nothing else.
My lunch group is kind of the “Christian group” at school. Every day we eat lunch with this guy named Alex who is an atheist, as well. We talk openly about our faith with him, but we never try to convert him. We are just his friends. We just plant seeds.
Because I have put myself in the world on purpose, I have planted several seeds. I plan to change the world, and I believe that’s what God has called me to do with my life: change the world. But, I have to be in the world to do that. “I believe I just have to plant seeds to change the world.” (John Reuben quote)
My church in Greeley is changing the world. We have this thing called the PEACE project. Through the PEACE project, we are going above and beyond our tithes to build churches in Peru and Mexico. We are building orphanages and seminaries in Africa. We are giving clean water filters to people who are dying of diseases in Cambodia. And that’s just the start.
We are being in the world, so we can change it.
My youth group in that church is very proactive about changing the world. That’s what we do. We make it our purpose. Several of us are growing up to be pastors.
Carissa is going to move to California to live with the homeless and help them. I’m going to become a youth pastor, but before I do, I’m going to work with this guy named Shane Claiborne who believes in being in the world to be used by God.
Whenever I hear of his missions, it makes me want to cry because of what he is doing. His mission can’t guarantee food, clothes or shelter; only that God will provide. They just live to be used by God.
That’s what I’m gonna do. Me and God are gonna change the world and make it a better place. Me and God are gonna raise awareness about homelessness in the U.S. Me and God are gonna cure AIDS. Me and God are gonna build churches.
But I have to be IN the world to be used by God. So, I’m living in the world. I’m not of it – I’m an alien here – but I’m in it.
I just wanted to give you hope that the world is gonna change. The youth aren’t hopeless. They are just living in the world instead of being in the Christian bubble. God is working through the youth. We are just doing it differently than you did.
We are tackling the world at its level. We are changing the world, so don’t lose hope just because you don’t see the effects yet. We are taking our time planting seeds and cultivating them.
They will grow, but seeds take some time to become fruit; maybe even years. We are doing things slowly. Don’t give up on us because in a few years, you will see the effects of our actions today.
We are changing the world.