Once more we have crossed the threshold into a new year. And once again, from pulpit, school-room, or even newspaper ads, we are reminded of “the future.” Young people have always been associated with the future. The coming generation, tomorrow’s citizens and homemakers, the church of tomorrow are but a few of the descriptions of youth. These descriptions are correct, to some extent. It is true that young people are thought of as potential adults by others and that they themselves think about the future quite a bit. But often overlooked is the fact that young people are much more than the coming generation, tomorrow’s citizens, or the church of tomorrow. They are also today’s generation, today’s citizens, and part of the church of today. They have a present as well as a future. They are not mere potentialities.
Preparation for the future is very important and emphasized, correctly so, to a great extent. Our physical, social, mental, moral, and spiritual development is geared toward the future. We are trained and educated to perform our life’s work. Spiritually too, we receive extensive training, as soldiers preparing to fight. And, without question, such training is necessary. He is a fool who makes no preparation for the future, true. But it is more. It is that the present is also very real and very important. The present is a preparation for the future, true. But it is more. It has meaning now.
In the church this neglect of the present place of young people is great also. Preparation for the future, which must be emphasized, often is the only thing that is emphasized. Many people tend to equate the church and adults. But have we as young people no calling today? Must we look only at the future?
The church, we know, is made up of the elect, historically the believers. In the church we experience the communion of saints. The elect in this communion are one unity, the body of Christ. This body, however, is made of different members and these members have a diversity of talents and gifts. Not only do different people have different talents, but the talents which one person has may change, either by being buried in the earth and thus lost, or by being developed. Now, young people are also part of the communion of saints and they too have talents, talents that can and must be used now, not foolishly buried until “the future.” Youth is an integral part of the church of today. Therefore, their talents and gifts must be employed for God’s glory and for the edification of themselves and others.
But what about the future? What are the prospects? It would be well to take a look. In the world things do, and probably always will, seem gloomy. Confusion and unrest, distrust and fear are prevalent. But how do things look in the church? And, more specifically, how do they look in the Protestant Reformed church? What will your future be like there?
If you’re looking for size and honor and prestige, you’re simply in the wrong location. It’s a small, struggling group and apparently for quite some time it will continue to be small and struggling. It’s a little esteemed and often despised group and it’s doubtful whether it will ever become universally acclaimed and praised. From a purely human standpoint, you could do much better. But are you perhaps interested in a purer manifestation of the truth of God’s Word and is that what you consider important? You’ll find it here.
That should be a challenge to you. God will preserve His truth, we know. But we have a responsibility, namely to guard and develop it, since it has been entrusted to us. And that will be a battle. No area is immune from the plague of secularism and liberalism.
That is a problem, also for the Protestant Reformed Churches. We must develop our thinking, perhaps revise some deep-rooted traditional ideas, and progress onward. But progress brings danger; in a farmer’s field weeds are bound to spring up with the planted crop. We must be careful. But we may not stagnate. There are those who fear the dangers of progress so greatly that they use that as an excuse in their effort to halt all progress. That is very wrong. We must fight uncompromisingly against all evil, both old and new, but we must be willing to change. The problem comes in drawing the line – deciding what is progress and what is evil innovation.
Note one prominent example. In the future we will probably see a hymnal in the Protestant Reformed Churches. (At least we would hope so). What is that going to be? A sign of progress and development? Or will that be, as some seem to think, the great tragedy of tragedies, the day when we must give up all hope for the future of the Protestant Reformed Churches?
Young people, we must look at the future. But we must not idly wait for it to come. Preparing for it we must act in the present, that we may develop our spiritual life and gain experience in the affairs of the church. Our calling is here and now. We have a responsibility not only, but we have many opportunities. Through our interest and devotion we can do much, now and in the future, to make our churches the sphere in which the truth is further developed, in which the cause of education is advanced, in which intellectual progress is made.
How can you do this? Make the specific causes of our young people your own. Support the cause of Beacon Lights and the Federation. Attend our hymn sings and mass-meetings. Be a faithful and lively member or your society. Being careful, but having sound basis, don’t be afraid to change the status quo. Criticize, not in bitterness or sarcasm, but helpfully. Talk and write on issues needing discussion. Read your Bible, and pray, and learn to follow God’s will, for without his motivation and guidance all your efforts will be futile.
Our hope is in God, and therefore we can have hope in regard to the future. He will preserve His church and finish the work. He has begun. So let us earnestly labor, abounding in the work of the Lord, for we know our labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 19 No. 9 January 1960