As Bishop Lindsey Davis ends his 12 years of service in the North Georgia Conference, MethodistThinker.com is presenting a retrospective — in the bishop’s own words. Under his leadership, North Georgia has grown to be the largest United Methodist conference in the U.S.
During a “youth service” at the Conference’s 2003 Session, Bishop Davis challenged delegates to do “whatever it takes” to reach young people for Christ.
Below is a condensed transcript of his remarks from June 19, 2003, followed by streaming audio.
May 24, 1738. John Wesley went to Aldersgate Street. He had his “heart-warming” experience. It made him a different man — but the difference had to do with how he looked at those around him.
Before his Aldersgate experience, Wesley loved lots of things. He loved himself, he loved God, he loved the Church, he loved education, he loved reading and studying, he loved the Scriptures. He even loved to pray. The only problem was that he didn’t love people — and especially, I think, he didn’t love lost people.
Bishop Davis - Youth Service 2003 (image captured from video)
But when he finally had his heart-warming experience, his heart was transformed, and he knew that God loved him — without a doubt.
And he couldn’t wait to share that with others. And he discovered that he then had a love for the same people that God loved, especially the lost and the poor….
Wesley had a passion for the lost.
Who do we have a passion for? And who are the lost in our day? Hmm?
I’m 55 years old. Ninety percent of my generation received some kind of nurture, some kind of spiritual nurture when they were children and young people. Today, young people the age of these young people [here on the stage with me] — only about 25 to 30 percent of them are receiving any kind of spiritual foundation in their homes at all.
And so, as we look to the future, who are going to be the lost? Who are going to be the unchurched? Who are going to be those persons that we need to reach out to?
They are going to be the young.
Did you hear the statistic today? The average age of a Methodist church member is in the 50s — about my age. I yearn for the day when the average age of our church membership is 15! That’s what I look forward to….
I want to ask you a question, those of you who are a little older. If I could promise you tonight — absolutely promise you tonight — that your children and your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren would have the same deep, abiding faith in Jesus Christ that you have, what would you give for that? What would you give?
My goodness, I’d give everything! I’d give everything I have, everything I’m ever going to have, if somebody could assure me beyond a shadow of a doubt that my children and my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren, all them would have a deep, abiding faith in Jesus Christ.
Well, what are you willing to do to make sure that happens for your children and their children — and all the children who aren’t here tonight and don’t know anything about church?
What are you willing to give up? Are you willing to give up some of your comfort? Are you willing to give up some of your traditions?
I’m not talking about giving up the core values of the faith. I’m talking about all those little peripheral things that aren’t really at the heart of the gospel at all. I’m mean, are we not the kind of people who would be willing to be flexible enough to do whatever it takes to reach the lost?
And if the vast majority of the lost are younger than me, then that means that some of what we have to do in the future will be change for us.
If you want your children and your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren to know Jesus, friends you’re going to have to listen sometimes to music you don’t like! And you’re going to have to be willing to change your worship services around, and you going to have to be willing to find ways to plug young people into the structures of the church!
We have to be far more open than we’ve been. But only if we want them to know Jesus.
So I think the question for us is: Do we love them enough to make whatever adjustments we need to make in order to help love them into the Kingdom?
Well, what would you give to ensure that that happens for our church? I’d give anything.
Click the arrow below for streaming audio (4 min.).