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people of praise

Don’t treat youth as second-class Christians


“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” – Acts 2:17

Certain privileges come with age. In our country, a person must be 16 years old to get a driver’s license, 18 to vote, 21 to purchase alcohol and 35 to run for president.

These laws aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Like many of you, I would not like to drive down the highway and look out the window next to me only to see a 5-year-old driving a semi-truck. Age should bring with it maturity, and maturity should be accompanied by greater benefits.

Unfortunately, we in the church tend to equate age and physical maturity with spiritual maturity. We tend to look at young people as somehow inferior Christians who aren’t ready to minister to others.

We must remember that the same Holy Spirit that dwelled inside of men like the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul also lives in young children that have trusted in Jesus for salvation.

Romans 8:9 says, “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Every believer, young or old, has the Holy Spirit living inside. There is no junior version of the Holy Spirit living in young people.

John 3:34 states, “For God gives the Spirit without limit.” There are no restrictions of the Holy Spirit based on age, gender, race or any other factor. To receive the power of the Holy Spirit, a person must simply trust in Jesus.

My wife and I have been in youth ministry for more than 10 years and have worked with hundreds of young people. One of the saddest things that I have consistently witnessed is young people that have left the church and their faith.

I am convinced that one of the reasons is that we in leadership have failed to uncover the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of young people. We often have the false notion that they can’t do something great and powerful for the kingdom of God until they are adults. Therefore, the cares, interests and worries of this world capture their attention and draw them away from the faith.

It is time that we stop looking at young people as second-class citizens in the kingdom of heaven and start encouraging them to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In Matthew 10:7-8, Jesus commissioned his disciples to do five tasks that require an incredible amount of faith: He told them to preach that the kingdom of heaven is near; heal the sick; raise the dead; cleanse the lepers; and drive out demons.

It’s amazing to me that even in the church, we encourage young people to dream big, that they can achieve their dreams if they just believe. They can become famous athletes, wealthy businesspeople and powerful decision-makers. However, do we ever challenge them to heal the sick, drive out demons or raise the dead?

If Jesus believed that through God’s power we can do these things, then why don’t we believe it and encourage our young people to do the same? I believe the answer, as I stated earlier, is that it takes an incredible amount of faith, a faith that many times we as adults don’t have. If we don’t have it, let alone demonstrate it, then how can we expect our young people to?

Not only can young people exercise this type of faith, but they may actually have an advantage over adults. In Luke 18:15-17, parents were bringing their children to Jesus so that he could bless them, but his disciples prevented it at first.

Jesus corrected his disciples and told them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

Children have an incredible capacity for faith. Are we only teaching them about faith or actually allowing them to demonstrate it? We must make it a point to show our children that they too are ministers of God’s grace in this world, that they have the power of the Holy Spirit inside of them and that through faith, they can change their world.

Sean Hartzell is associate pastor at New Hope Christian Center in Waterloo. If you are interested in submitting a column (750 words or less), send it to Terri Richardson, The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802; fax 461-8893 or email Include your name, religious organization and a phone number where you can be reached. For more information, call 461-8304.