For a lot of us, our environment does not match our mission and values. That is the point Stuart Hall led with as he discussed how we need to “Rage Against the Machine.” The machine he refers to is what we refer to as Christianity in our modern culture. This machine is all about getting people into the church instead of being the church.
Stuart urges us to be honest. There is a distinct and marked difference between the first century and intentioned church and this machine we all call Christianity today. It has always been intended to be a movement, not an institution.
If you are not careful, you could be guilty of feeding the beast and developing fully devoted mechanical robots to a warped system of misaligned values and low standards. We have a lot of teenagers who know how to play church, but a lack of ones who know how to be the church. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us, including our teenagers, but we have a tendency to get caught up in just being involved a group. We should not want to be the generation that just generated more puppets and robots. We need to realize we are a part of something a lot bigger than our four walls.
Stuart then asks if it possible to create students and a culture of authentic influence today. How? What has to stop? What has to start? Is there anything redeemable?
When our children grow up, Stuart says that they will MIRROR what we’ve really CARED ABOUT. We can tell them all we want, but they are going to do is mirror what we care about. If children do not do what we say, they will do what we do. So, what are we modeling that is most important that we value? Often, kids don’t become what we’d like them to become, they become a response to who we are. Could it be that we are the ones who hold up people, singers, speakers, and events so high, and the kids start to value them too? Eventually, you graduate those students out of your ministry, and they keep looking for the next, best, greatest thing.
The ultimate goal of Christianity should not be to make good citizens, but to make revolutionaries in the cause of Jesus Christ, according to Stuart. If you make revolutionaries, they will become good citizens.
He continues, saying that the heart has the power to create momentum, and that momentum can create and shape a culture. We have often taught them what they need to believe and how to act, but we forget to help them connect with what beats inside of them. Not every kid wants to preach or do missions, but there are some who have a passion to be a doctor, lawyer, and other careers. As leaders of students, we have to search for their heart. We cannot use them to just help our program happen. They need someone to help them find their passions and put them to use in God’s Kingdom. Relationships are the context in which the heart will be shown. If that is the case, how much are we investing to make sure those relationships are intact and strong? Students have to be given the freedom to show the heart that they possess. Therefore, our environment must provide a place where they can find relationships and, in turn, find their heart. For too long, we have focused on making sure students believe the right things and have left their passions alone. Students are very motivated; they just need help to put their motivation in the right place. It is more important to change or redirect what students care about than it is what students believe.
To close, Stuart left us with several questions to ask ourselves:
- How do we measure how much value we place on parents and the home? How do we measure the impact we are having on the home?
- How do we view our gatherings? Are they an end of some means or the means to an end?
- What are we pushing students toward? What do we champion more than anything? Jesus? His glory? Or our events? Our deal?
- What processes do we have in place to help students discover and develop their gifts and passions?
- Are we intentional in developing influence on middle school and high school campuses?
- Is the effectiveness measured by who students are becoming & what students are doing while they are WITH us or who students are becoming & what students are doing AWAY from us?
There are no answers. They are different for everyone. The thing is, though, that we need to stop feeding the machine. Instead, we need to think about what we are doing. We need to help them understand what it is like to be fully alive in God’s glory.
Stuart is the director of training for XP3, the student division of Orange. He also leads DASH INC, an organization he founded in 2000 to develop spiritually influential students that engage culture. Stuart co-authored The Seven Checkpoints: Seven Principles Every Teenager Needs to Know, MAX Q: Developing Students of Influence with Andy Stanley, and the leadership edition of Wired: For a Life of Worship with Louie Giglio. One day he may write a book by himself. Stuart, his beautiful wife Kellee, and their three incredible children reside north of Atlanta.