We have been looking at the prophecy of Joel, a passage that St. Peter used to explain the meaning of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost: Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Peter, as we have seen, was not only explaining what was happening right in front of them, he was also unveiling the future of God’s work among us through the Holy Spirit. We have traced this trajectory, so far, in our grace-given capacity for dreams and visions and in expansion of the ministry of women in recent decades.
Though we can point to these examples, we are led to believe that there is more to come, specifically in its reference to the ministry of youth. I do believe it is coming. When you gather with young people, you can see the reflection of a new future in their eyes. It is now our urgent honour, grace and task to welcome the fullness of this youthful movement of the Spirit into our contemporary Christian community and life.
How are we to assist the uncovering of this prophetic promise? I believe there are a few critical elements.
Our Christian community must become gospel-based and centred, as opposed to institutionally based and centred. This is not a ministry of entertainment, the predominant style of our recent efforts at youth ministry. It is the Word of God becoming flesh, living and real, in our communities and, especially, in our young members and their culture.
The best thing we can do for youth is to become elders. The whole church must courageously follow a path of discipleship that leads to spiritual and communal wisdom. This is the best and most important way our older members can support our youth.
We must develop the capacity to give the spiritual and organizational space to our young people and their prophecies. Most of the work for youth in the church involves marginal and symbolic caretaking of the treasures of the past. Instead, we should prepare the room for them to become all that God intends for them to be. In times like ours, this points to an extraordinary destiny, an extraordinary challenge.
Most important, we must know that God has already placed the prophetic future of our church and world in our young people. We must prayerfully let the gospel reveal its future in our midst, in our youth. Ω
Mark MacDonald is national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.