It’s heard a lot around youth events or at confirmations and graduations. “You are the future of the Church,” the youth are told. Observers say, “this is the future of the church,” or “I’m no longer worried about the future of the church.” Add to that the trend of having High School worship services, where the high school youth go to one service and everyone else goes to another, and the impression is given that they aren’t really the Church at all, they are their own separate community.
That’s simply not true. The youth aren’t the future of the church and they aren’t a separate church.
They are the Church.
Because Christ has died for them. They have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. They need the same Jesus as adults. They need to receive the same forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation as their parents. They need to be rescued from sin, death and the devil just like everyone else!
The youth of the church are intelligent. Talk with them and see that they have probably thought through things more deeply or more analytically then their adult counterparts. The church’s youth can apply Law and Gospel to things many people haven’t even considered. They know that they don’t know everything yet. So they hunger for more knowledge, more hymnody, more baptism, more Lord’s Supper, more Jesus!
Youth are the Church, but they aren’t the only ones. Their parents and grandparents are the church. The 80 and 90+ year old homebound members are the Church. The young children who escape their parents and their pews on Sunday morning are the Church. Even the infant who makes a joyful noise by screaming and squealing during pastor’s sermon is the Church.
The Church is composed of the young and old alike who receive the gifts of the Lord in Word and Sacrament. The future of the Church rests not in the hands of a portion of the Church, but in the death and resurrection of Christ.
10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
– Jeremiah 29