Pete and Cornelius live in completely different worlds. Their paths would never ordinarily cross. Peter has been taught all his life that Cornelius’ world is dirty, unclean and simply elsewhere.
Don’t you think this is a bit like the church? We create worlds that feel safe, clean and all encompassing – and we make ‘Other’ those who are beyond who don’t conform to our bubble.
But the truth: Pete and Cornelius are good, honest humans – leaders in their own spheres – and known for their spiritual depth and their kind manner. They’ll just never meet, believing the other has nothing to offer them. This is what we do to youth culture. Young people are Other because we just never meet them.
But in an act of biblical matchmaking, God sets Pete & Cornelius up…
Peter is minding his own business, thinking about lunch, when he falls into a trance. He encounters a vision of a blanket lowered by ropes from the heavens. On the blanket is every animal you can think of – and a voice, ‘go, eat!’. Pete’s confused: these animals aren’t kosher.
Pete is interrupted again – this time Cornelius is at the door inviting him round for tea.
Sitting in Cornelius’ living room, uncomfortable outside his bubble, and disturbed by the vision, Pete suddenly gets it – No culture is better than another! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from. God is everywhere.
Pete is like the youth worker – faithfully living out his call in his community, and called by God to go. This is pioneering, boundary-crossing. Imagine: it’s like that blanket has everything from youth-world… play stations, smart-phones, tracksuits, bikes, selfies, homework, sleepovers, acne… every youth-thing you can think of.
The lesson I think we find here for youth work, for pioneering, is that God is everywhere. Pete’s job is not to induct Cornelius into his world; but to help Cornelius find truth where he is. No culture is better than another. It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from. God is everywhere. The cultures outside the church, outside adulthood, are not necessarily dangerous, dirty or unclean. In these things, and in these places, we find God already at work.
Frontier Youth Trust is building a movement of pioneering youth work – encouraging youth workers and churches to take mission risks to reach young people. Contact us for help in exploring this thinking in your practice.
This is not really my own work. Try reading Richard Passmore’s Here be Dragons (FYT, 2014) for a useful guide to youth work and mission that engages with culture. Great for churches, youth workers and groups wanting to engage a new group of young people for the first time. Or try the FYT Starter Card resource found in our online shop: a deck of beautiful photos and conversation starters to easy in to those first conversations.
Photo Credit: Oliver Hale on Unsplash