What Does the Church Need to Bring Back the Younger Generation: Author Interview


A few weeks ago, my friend Terri asked if she could interview me for her author interview series. Since she is a great interview-question-maker and a great friend, I said of course!

(Also, she is a very talented photographer–she took my headshot this year in San Antonio, and I am pretty certain the shot at the beginning of her post is of Oxford from our time there last spring. I know that hallway!)

Terri asked so many good questions about the church, its future, and the leadership of young people. Since I am known around these parts as an advocate of the latter (I mean, look at the tagline right up there), I loved every one of her questions.

Questions like:

Many young adults have left the church. What has driven young people away?

How does the church and its people need to change to bring young people back?

I especially love the last question–you’ll figure out why when you read it!

Just part of one of my answers–I hope it makes you want to click over to the full interview.

Jesus came to forgive our sins AND to usher in the kingdom of God with redemption of everything, starting right away. He came to set a broken creation right again. They aren’t separable. Young people find this story credible and compelling. They know the world is broken. They want to help fix it. We’re not just saved from sin—we’re saved toward wholeness.

Get yourself over to her full interview here. Thanks!


Radio Silent

IMG_1500 (1)

When our oldest daughter was little and the adjacent room where she played grew silent, I would call out—“Becca, what are you doing?”

“I’m being very carefully!”

I have no idea why it was always carefully and not careful, but regardless, we knew. Silence meant check—now.

Our middle child was more direct. When we called the same query to her, she responded—“Don’t come in here!”

Silence from small children is bad. Like airplanes, radio silence from kids means something has gone wrong. Terribly wrong.

Silence Means Something Is Wrong

God agrees. The first time his children didn’t answer him, he knew. Silence from his first kids meant something terrible had happened.

Adam and Eve went radio silent on God.

I’ve been preaching through a series called Things God Wants To Know. The first question he ever asked, believe it or not, is one he asks each one of us as well. Every single day. Our answer matters.

God’s first question is seared with pain—for the questioner and the questioned. It leaks with knowledge neither wants and a desire for right that won’t be truly righted for a long, long time.

Where are you?

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” (Genesis 3.8-10)


It’s not a question God doesn’t know the answer to. He made the trees. He knows every leaf and branch. It’s like our kids hiding behind the living room chair and then hollering out, “You can’t see me!”

So there has to be another reason he asks.

My children—Where are you?

I get it. Only a couple weeks ago I went to get my child off the commuter train, as usual. Only she didn’t get off. At least, I didn’t see her, and she didn’t see me. I went straight into mama panic mode, calling her and yelling God’s very question—“Where are you???”

Parents understand.

The answer from God’s children was not good—it was the equivalent of “Don’t come in here.” We’re hiding. We’re afraid.


God’ first kids had never experienced fear before, but now they felt its full force. They’re afraid of their father, their maker. The one who created a perfect relationship with them now forever changed by that monster fear.

We’re hiding. Don’t come in here.

Do you have naked dreams? I do. They’re horrible. You’re in a crowd of people, and suddenly, you don’t have any clothes on. In the dream, it’s humiliating and horrifying.

In real life, it’s the same. The first kids feel vulnerable—and they’ve never even known what the meant before now. So they run for cover—in this case, leaves. Leaves are a terrible cover, really, but desperate people do strange things.

IMG_1085 (8)

I mean, we do, right?

We run for cover to all kinds of things when we’re afraid.

  • Our bank accounts that promise security.
  • A bad relationship that promises belonging.
  • A new job that promises to fix everything wrong with the old one.
  • A political party that promises to make our country just the way we’ve always thought it should be.
  • Our perfect control of everything that promises we don’t ever have to fear fear itself.

Adam and Eve are not the only ones who know how to hide out in the woods with badly thrown together costumes masking their terror at the future.

Where Are We?

We know the answer to God’s question. We are in mess. We’re stuck in our own selfishness. We’re locked in our own bad choices. We’re crippled by a brokenness of our own making. We’re not living into what we were made to be.

So God calls—where are you? And we let it go to voice mail.

You know it’s true. He calls every one of us every day, every hour.

Where are you?

There are really only two answers.

  1. I’m hiding. Or
  2. I’m right here.

If it’s not the latter, it’s the former. We can’t be in between.

Yet maybe, the want to come out can be greater than the want to stay. Maybe something in our DNA remembers that garden. Knows this isn’t all there is. Wants to open door a crack.

“Remarkably, the phenomenon of self-deception testifies that we human beings, even when we do evil, are incorrigibly sold on goodness. At some level of our being we know that goodness is as plausible and original as God, and that, in the history of the human race, goodness is older than sin.” (John Walton)

IMG_0284 (1)

It’s the Deep Magic CS Lewis talks about in Narnia. Sure, what we see every day looks like there is one rule to the universe, and it’s not such a great one, but there is deeper magic. There is a greater, higher, more honestly real way out of hiding and into light. Deep Magic sings our souls the same song — in the history of the human race, goodness is older than sin.

The light isn’t as terrifying as we imagine. After all, it was there, in the beginning, spinning us into being.

The Word gave life to everything that was created,

    and his life brought light to everyone.

The light shines in the darkness,

    and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1.4-5)

If we want healing, wholeness, purpose, relationships, we need to stop hiding, step into light, and say Here I am. This is where I’ve been. With you is where I want to be.

“We are incorrigibly sold on goodness.” I love that.

Where am I? I’m right here, Lord.

Right here, waiting for orders. Right here, wanting to know you. Right here, completely, resolutely, incorrigibly sold on your goodness and its triumph.

What will you say, today, when he ask you where you are?

Alternative Olympic Gold

Continuing in the spirit of the Olympic season. Sort of. A post from a couple years ago.

This is Zobrist’s jersey from 2016. At the Chicago History Museum. Because they know what’s really important history.

The Olympics are the only time I am interested in sports. (Except when the Cubs are playing like nobody’s business, of course.) In the spirit of transparency, we are not technically watching it on a TV. We don’t have a TV. So we are streaming Olympics in a complicated mix of totally legal maneuvers which involve Canadian announcers, who are Canadian polite and never get excited about anything. Anything.

But I have some suggestions. I feel it is completely unfair that most Olympic events are for the young. And the coordinated. Why can’t we all have a shot at Olympic Gold? So today, I offer to you—

Seven Olympic categories that should exist:

The Summer Vacation Floor Exercise

Contenders must maneuver a grocery store with three kids, each possessing his own mini cart, without losing a child, forgetting one item on the list, or cussing loudly enough to be heard when said mini cart hits her ankles for the fifth time. Then, she must perform five drop offs at different locations at least four miles apart, two of which must be at the same time. Finally, she must cook dinner while simultaneously getting four kids out of wet, sticky swimsuits, wiping all the water off the kitchen floor, making sure some of that “water” did not come from the dog who was not let out earlier, and finding enough money in the couch cushions to go on a decent vacation for one week to somewhere that does not involve a tent.

These feet are ready. The legs, not so much. But the feet are Olympic set.

The Social Media Marathon

Contestants see who can waste the most time on social media without resorting to videos of the Kardashians or dogs gone wild (which are essentially the same thing). Buzzfeed quizzes are strictly prohibited. Anyone can spend hours there—it’s not a challenge. Bonus if at the end you can tell us six different personality types you fit and which Disney animal you are most like. Extra points for burned meals and missed day camp pickups.

The Multitask Decathlon

Athlete must, in one hour: cook dinner, help interpret long division, let dog outside, answer five emails, deliver twelve text messages regarding car pool schedules, grade the seven essays she didn’t get done during her “free” period because two students needed to discuss their parents’ disapproval of their future careers as Pokemon Go guides, schedule repair for the car that is making a “grrriiiiiieeeek” sound again, let the dog in, wash enough forks for eating dinner, and explain to her six-year-old what “you’re an animal baby, it’s in your nature” means and why, no, that boy in her class should not have said it. Extra points for not hitting her spouse with the dinner pan when he walks in and asks, “What did you do all day?”

The Toddler Snatch and Grab

Competitor is first put on hold with Comcast so that she knows putting down the phone risks getting back in the queue for another 35 minutes. Then, toddler is introduced, who promptly undresses, covers her naked little body in Sharpie marker, and escapes out the front door. The person who can present a clean, clothed child and repaired internet within the same day wins. (No one has yet claimed this gold. But it could happen.)


The Chicago Winter Moguls

Driver must complete course which includes black ice patches, unplowed stretches randomly placed, SUVs weaving in and out of traffic, and freezing rain. At end of course, driver must park car in space currently half-occupied by a seven-foot drift of plowed snow and enter arena in heels and dress with no traces of salt or water. Running out of gas is an automatic disqualifier.

Yes, there is a road here. Yes, we were driving on it. We knew by the telephone poles.

The Fast Food Free for All

Competitor approaches drive up window and manages to order six different meals, all yelled to her at the same time from the back seats, each with special instructions, two allergy-free, and have the correct meals given to her at the next window. Fastest driver with no mistakes wins.

Your turn. What is your new Olympic event? What would you like us to petition the committee to add in four years? 

Spetacular Failing

IMG_2054 (5)

Since we’re leaving the Olympic season (insert abject crying emoji here) I thought it was time to replay a couple of my favorite Olympic-themed blogs. So—here we go.

I wrote this after Sochi, but it feels pretty relevant for all of us, all the time. Also, since it’s my daughter’s birthday today, I think a post about trying hard things and being brave is appropriate. See this one to know why.

The Olympic Games is pretty much the only time I spend hours watching TV, but for those two weeks, I have meals and mail forwarded to the living room. This gives me plenty of time to muse over deeper meanings of it all, and I found one in the men’s figure skating competition. And no, it has nothing to do with their outfits.

Did you notice something unusual this year? Every single final round athlete in the men’s skating competition this winter fell. Every. One.

Is Falling Failing?

Yet still, three men went home with gold, silver, and bronze, and the world believed they had seen the best skaters alive out there on the ice. Even with all the spills. All the mistakes. All the “could have been betters.”

Which really made me think. None of those men had to do quad jumps. None of them had to push themselves to try impossible tricks and defy whatever had been done before. None of them had to fall.

They could have played it safe and gone home unbruised and satisfied that they had done the best they could. But none of them did.

Every one of them pushed it to the next level, tried, fell, and went home as victors anyway. 

And it occurred to me how absolutely beautiful it is that falling on our faces can be a victorious moment.

IMG_2055 (1)

Falling Can Be Victory

It’s beautiful that, in this arena, failing at a hard thing is rewarded more than playing it safe and succeeding at something too easy.

You get more points for having the guts to whip a quad out there and accidentally touch down with two feet than for doing a double-toe-loop that you could do when you were thirteen. You’re recognized for attempting something challenging when you could have stuck with the safe and easy touch down.

I love that. Victory from spectacularly trying and equally spectacularly wiping out. And, of course, getting back up to keep skating anyway.

Fear Makes Us Settle for Less than Spectacular

P1050182 (1)

Maybe, it’s the fear that keeps us from trying new things, throwing it all out there on the ice and possibly falling hard, that keeps us from real victory. Maybe we never get that golden moment we long for because so often we would rather do what we know we can do. Spinning in the air is dizzying, and we’d prefer to do a quick hop and call it our best effort.

But it isn’t. Because so long as we never push it one more level up, never find a challenge just a little tougher than the last one, never seek that one risk we are not sure is within us but we need to find out, we are not giving it our best. We’re giving it our OK.

Gold medals are never won by OK. (Unless all the other speed skaters wipe out in front of you. Then, well, it happens.)

What do you know you need to stretch to try right now? It’s OK to fall. OK to fail spectacularly. OK to put everything you have out there and mop up the mess. It’s just not OK to never jump at all.