As always, it's been a joy this Christmas to visit with young people from the church who are back home from college or their new careers. There are a few who were even just recently married and began their lives together this year. It's encouraging to catch up with them and see how they are doing. These conversations also provide an opportunity for me to share a little pastoral wisdom with them. What I share is never profound nor is it original or unique. It is really just basic common sense for anyone who follows the Lord Jesus. So what is it that I most often encourage young adults to do who are just starting out a new chapter in their lives?
1. Find a Faithful, Bible-Preaching Church.
There are usually a variety of churches wherever you end up living. Unfortunately, a good number of those churches are not going to be healthy places to worship and serve in. It is one of the more sad realities in our nation that many churches and denominations no longer preach or believe the Gospel. Some have even compromised completely with the spirit of the age and teach and practice things which are contrary to God's Word. So take care. Be discerning in your search for a faithful church. Read their statement of faith. Read their membership covenant if they have one. If the church belongs to a denomination, look up information about it and see if the denomination is being faithful to the Gospel. Ask questions of the pastor, see if their ministries are focused on making disciples. Is God's Word central to all that they do as a church? Does the pastor preach God's Word faithfully? Do they exalt Jesus Christ in their worship service? Do they genuinely love one another? Do they send and support missionaries? Positive responses to these questions are essential for a church to be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. Make a Commitment of Membership to the Church.
Hopefully you will find a faithful, Bible-preaching church near where you live. Commit to being a part of that church by becoming a member. If you are not able to find a faithful, Bible-believing church nearby, find the nearest one you can. In Nebraska, that may mean driving to another community a few miles away. We have members who drive almost 30 miles to worship as a part of our congregation. I just encouraged one young couple to drive to a neighboring town, 17 miles away from where they live to go to church. It is of course ideal to be a part of a church right in your local community, but your local community just may not have one. It's worth the sacrifice to drive a few miles to get to one.
Then, commit to that church. Keep going week by week. Go through their membership process. Show the church that you are committing to them and their mission. Be intentional about getting to know the people there. Don't limit yourself to just building relationships with people who are your age and in the same life situation as you. Get to know the people a little older than you, and those who are your parents' age and even grandparents' age. Build relationships with the youth and children in the church. After some time there, you will find that the people in the church have become your family. They will be the ones who know you best. They will pray for you, they will check in on you. They will serve you and care for you. They will provide for you when you are in need. They will encourage you in your faith and build you up to be more useful for the Lord. There may be no more important step for you to take as you are starting out in a new community than to find and get involved in a good church.
That's really it. That is the main thing I encourage. Now of course it may take time to find a good church. It may take time to really feel like the church is your family. It may not be easy to begin to build relationships within the church, especially if you are not too outgoing like many people are. That is why you have to be committed to it. Know going in that it will take time, work, and some intentional actions on your part. Introduce yourself to people. Join a Sunday School class or a small group Bible study. Begin to serve in an area of ministry. Whenever the church has a fellowship meal or special activity, be there, get involved. That is how relationships will be built. Allow the people to get to know you and seek to get to know them. I really don't know of anything more helpful that I could say to a young person or young couple who want to get off to a good start in a new place.