I’ve heard quite a few people say it: “I have the best job in the world.” I always like it when I hear that, because it makes me feel really happy for the person that says it. And I’m one of those people. I say it. And I mean it.
In 2003, I co-founded ARISE, a discipleship ministry for primarily young adults, with Nathan Renner. ARISE is kind of my “job.” It’s now 2019 and I’ve been at this “job” for 17 years. You know what? I’m more fired up for ARISE than ever! I started ARISE at 30 and now I’m 46.
I’m sorry but that sounds really old to me. It doesn’t feelold, but it does soundold. And I think it’s because of my job. Hear me out. Three weeks ago, we graduated ARISE Australia’s eighth class; it was the 23rd ARISE class ever (if I’m counting right). There were 42 students and, get this, 19 of them were teenagers! The oldest student was 30. The last two ARISE Australia classes have been our youngest classes ever. I’ve absolutely loved it!
I am a father of two teenage boys, 18 and 16. But when this most recent ARISE class was in session for 14 straight weeks, I feel like I had 21 teenage children! And again, I absolutely loved it. My job keeps me both happy and young. But it gets even better . . .
Next year, my oldest son, Landon, will attend ARISE. He’s been talking about it for years. “Dad, after I graduate, I can’t wait to do ARISE.” It’s hard to describe how amazing this makes me feel. Honestly, I feel humbled before God as never before. I mean, mychildren are super excited about attending a discipleship program that I started with mybest friend Nathan to teach young people about myamazing God and Savior! Absolutely incredible. But it gets even better . . .
Nathan’s oldest son, Levi, may also attend next year too! And it gets even better still . . .
Several months ago I wrote in the Mission Update about the amazing revival of the youth and young adults that’s happening in my local church here in Australia. I’m happy to report that the revival continues! Here’s really cool evidence of that: nearly all of Landon’s friends that are graduating this year are also planning to attend ARISE! The culture is shifting wonderfully and powerfully down here. It’s almost expected that when you graduate, you attend ARISE. It’s just so incredible.
This most recent class, the one that graduated just three weeks ago, was, once again, a truly international group: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, South Africa, Canada, the United States, Australia, and Tasmania (just kidding). I think I might even be forgetting a country, but I can’t for the life of me remember which one it is. This class was such an energetic, fun, friendly, committed, spiritual, and easy-to-get-along-with group. Whenever it was my turn to teach, I would get excited, giddy even. Just like I used to back in Troy, Michigan in 2003 for the first-ever class.
It’s a beautiful thing to look up, while teaching, and see dozens of young people taking notes and nodding their heads and to hear them ask thoughtful, important, and deep questions. I keep hearing about how young people are leaving the church, both the Christian church generally and the Adventist Church specifically, but, honestly, I feel quite insulated from it. Most of the young people I’m around, whether in my local church or at ARISE, are fired up about Jesus and are taking real steps to better understand, live, and share their biblical faith.
I mean, I came to Jesus through the Adventist Church when I still a young person, just 23. It was a complete change of course for me: punk rock, skateboard kid to suspender-wearing Adventist Bible worker. I’ve lost the suspenders, but I’ve kept the fire! In fact, the fire has grown. So I know by experience that a young person can have a deep, life-changing experience with Jesus. Forgive me, but I just don’t believe that youth or young adults need to be entertained into submission to tenderize them to the Gospel. I just don’t buy it. What I needed was Jesus, the Word, and a group of like-minded people—that is, a community.
And that’s what ARISE is all about. We have been for 17 years now, and by God’s grace we’ll be about the same thing 17 years from now!
I’ll be, *gulp* 63. My sons will be 35 and 33.
And, who knows, maybe my teenage grandchildren will be talking about attending ARISE when they graduate from high school . . .
Even the thought is enough to keep me perpetually both happy and young. I told you, I have the best “job” in the world.
I hope you do too!