An interesting comment was posed to me on the “inter-generational panel” that my Dad organized for our church’s Men’s Retreat –
“I understand the importance of mentoring the next generation. But the millennials I’ve tried to invest in seem arrogant and always reject my attempts to disciple them.”
My response acknowledged the harsh reality –
“Yes, there certainly are a lot of flaws with my generation. Including great arrogance and rejection of authority.”
Let’s face it – for all our pleas for discipleship, we millennials are hard to disciple. We may desire inter-generational relationships and at the same time reject the older people who try to reach out to us. I’ll admit, it’s hard to mentor millennials. We’re kinda a mess. As I wrote in an earlier post, we’re the “Jerk Generation.”
But my response didn’t end there –
“And while it’s true that we should try to invest in those who are willing to be invested in…we also know that we are abundantly thankful God didn’t use that reasoning with us. He didn’t look for those willing and eager to embrace Him. He reached out into the lives of people who had rejected Him and wanted nothing to do with them. Since God chose to invest in us, who spurned His love, we should choose to invest in those who spurn our efforts to invest in them.”
Okay, maybe I wasn’t quite so eloquent during the actual moment, but I’ve been thinking about that comment ever since then. Especially when confronted in my own life with people who didn’t want me to invest in them. People who took advantage of my kindness. People who don’t listen to my advice and never change no matter how many times I tell them.
People I want to give up on.
But I can’t. Because Christ never gave up on me when I sinned the millionth time. He never abandoned me when I rejected time with Him for time with Facebook, movies, or worse yet, immorality. He stuck with me.
And that should motivate me to stick with the millennials I’m investing in. Even when they’re a big mess.
Yes, we should invest in those who seem to be interested. But at the same time, we should not reject those who reject us. We must be willing to throw ourselves at even the most messy and unmotivated people
That’s what Paul did. No, not in his relationship with Timothy (who seemed very open to discipleship). But in his relationship with his “troubled child” church – Corinth.
Both letters to this city are full of Paul’s gracious reprimands for what should have been obvious problems. 1 Corinthians confronts the church about letting a man who committed incest get away with it, dividing up into factions, and even denying the resurrection of the body!
As if that was nothing, his second letter had to confront something even worse for Paul personally. As you read the book, it becomes apparent that Paul was writing to people who had rejected him. False teachers had convinced them that Paul himself was a swindler, out to steal their money and promote himself. In fact, they questioned Paul’s apostolic authority entirely!
Talk about a punch to the gut. Paul had spent a lot of time with this church. He had personally invested in many of them, telling them about the Gospel and teaching them patiently how to apply it to their lives. And now they were treating him like dirt!
So what did Paul do? Give up on them? After all, they’re not worth it. If they don’t love him, he won’t waste his time on them. He’ll go and focus his efforts on churches that actually care about him. The Ephesians were always nicer to him anyways…
Quite the opposite, actually! Paul doubles down on these messy people. He won’t abandon them to heresy or sin. He boldly confronts them, yet the whole tone of the letter is that of a father with a wayward child.
In fact, Paul proves how much he loves this jerk church in 2 Corinthians 2:12-13. He tells them that he had great evangelistic opportunities in Troas, but abandoned them. Why? Because he was so concerned about the Corinthians and how they were responding to the letter he sent them through Titus. He had to leave sharing the Gospel in Troas to find Titus because he was so worried about them!
Wow. What love for messy people. But I love the way he sums up his care for them toward the end of the letter.
2 Corinthians 12:15 could be called the Christian mentor’s motto.
“I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?”
Such is the life of those who choose to invest in others, especially the messy and often rude millennial generation.
So, to answer the question raised by the person trying to invest in millennials but getting rejected…
Welcome to mentoring. Join the club.
Join me and Paul. In fact, join God Himself who lavishly loves those messy people who reject Him. People like you and me.