Modern Day Boldness Part 3: The Challenges of Young Adults in Following Jesus Christ

1Peter 3:15a  “Sanctify Jesus Christ as Lord in your heart.”

Amy Orr-Ewing, Director of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, leads ‘REBOOT’, where they teach teenagers how to live out 1 Peter 3:15 = “Sanctify Jesus Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be prepared to give a defense to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that is in you, with gentleness and respect”.  Her London REBOOT conference recently drew 1,300 teenagers.

Amy is passionate about apologetics as the means of engaging our young generation’s questions and issues with answers from a Christian worldview perspective, focusing on the Person of Jesus Christ. In a recent speech entitled “Meeting the Challenges of Reaching Today’s Young People”, she described the general characteristics that define “Generation Z” (ages 18-23) and “Millennial” young adults (ages 24-38).

“Gen Z’s are internet experts. They are online nearly all the time. They can find answers to their questions on the internet at warp speed. They prefer digital conversations over face-to-face. They are entrepreneurial, hoping to turn their hobbies into careers. And they are very stressed out.

Millennials are technologically advanced. They value friendship networks. They gravitate toward high levels of activism. They tend to be very idealistic (‘anything is possible’). They also tend to feel entitled. As they are aging, though, their idealism is crumbling, as things are getting farther beyond their reach. They tend to have massive financial debt, and along with that an increasing sense of disillusionment.”

Since I spend a good deal of my time with young adults, I can confirm her descriptions. But the most alarming part of her speech came when she gave us the three challenges in reaching them: 1) 45% of teenagers do not know a practicing Christian, 2) the church is almost nowhere on their radar, and 3) their questions and doubts are rarely if ever addressed in churches. A very sobering message.

So, when you do see a Gen Z’er in one of the most prestigious spotlights in American culture – the #1 pick in the NFL Draft – explain that his identity is in Jesus Christ and not football, everyone stops for a second to make sure they heard what he said. That is how Trevor Lawrence, age 21 and former Clemson University quarterback, answered sportswriter questions on how being drafted #1 has changed his life.

“Football is important to me, but it is not the biggest thing in my life. My faith is. This comes from knowing who I am outside of football. No matter how big the situation is, it is not going to define me. I put my identity in what Christ says and who He thinks I am. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what people think about me or how good they think I play. It doesn’t really matter. That’s definitely been a big thing for me – just knowing that and having confidence in that.” What was the reaction of the Sports community?

Breakpoint leader John Stonestreet, in his article ‘Does Trevor Lawrence Have Too Much Character to be the NFL’s #1 Pick?’, provides an answer for us: “The only doubts that exist about Lawrence’s potential in the NFL have nothing to do with talent or poise, but are about his character. That is, some pundits worry Lawrence has too much character. In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Lawrence said, ‘I don’t have this huge chip on my shoulder, that everyone’s out to get me and I’m trying to prove everybody wrong.’ As if that were not troubling enough, he clarified, ‘There’s also more in life than playing football.’

As a committed Christian, who is very public about his faith and the way it shapes his life, one of the things Lawrence considers more important than football is Jesus. He also apparently has a thing for family.

This fed a narrative that Lawrence, like other Christian athletes, is too ‘soft’ and lacks the monomaniacal focus required to succeed in football. The perspective, balance, and priorities shaped by a sincere faith are somehow liabilities and obstacles to athletic success. When Lawrence tweeted, ‘I am secure in who I am, and what I believe. I don’t need football to make me feel worthy as a person,’ the critics pounced.

In a world of ‘expressive individualism,’ things like character and virtue and integrity seem old-fashioned. Still, it is these old-fashioned ideas our ailing young men, and our ailing society, need the most!”

Trevor Lawrence is a Gen Z’er who lives out 1Peter 3:15 – he publicly claims that his highest priority in life is our verse for this week: “sanctify Jesus Christ as Lord in your heart”. This, not NFL Football or any other sport, is how to transform American culture. And it must be through our upcoming young generation.

The Evidence of Faith’s Substance – Article #447

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