Generation Z Testifies To God’s Work in Their Lives
The hymn, Amazing Grace, offers us the perfect outline for a powerful conversion story with the words, “Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me…” The challenge for Pastor Jacob Chase: there weren’t any wretches in his youth group at Mahomet Baptist Church (MBC). The 12 to 15 mostly churched teenagers didn’t recall being spiritually lost nor blind. Life was pretty good. Mahomet sits near the Illinois university town of Champaign-Urbana. This small town boasts a medium household income of $97,621 and ranks as having one of the nation’s best high schools.
Jacob served this community as Youth Pastor at MBC for four and a half years. This summer, he accepted a new position as Pastor of Second Baptist in Peoria, Illinois. Northern Seminary’s M.A. of Theology and Missions (MATM) helped prepare him for his new calling to Senior Pastor.
While serving at Mahomet Baptist, one of Jacob’s projects for the MATM program was to ideate and implement a new practice for his congregation. He chose to equip the church’s youth to develop and give their testimonies. “These were kids who felt like they didn’t have a story.” After discussing the project with his instructors at Northern, Jacob formulated an approach. “I asked the youth to make parallels between God and their parents.” For instance, “How do you know your parents love you?” Then he listened.
The students began to come around and see that they did have a personal faith story of their own. “Many of us don’t have Paul-like conversion stories but God has a proven track record. There’s a conversion but He’s also faithful in providing for us continuously.” The teens identified struggles they came through and how God was a real part of their daily lives.
For two sisters in the MBC youth group, they were able to make the link between
their parents’ love and God’s love. Orphaned in the Ukraine, the siblings were adopted by parents from the United States. Their testimonies centered on how their parents modeled Christ’s love to them; adopting them and bringing them home. They and the other youth began to see similar connections of God’s faithfulness and love. By sharing their testimonies, they were able to recognize the adults who had been influential in their spiritual lives and, in turn, encourage them.
Testimonies are now integrated into MBC’s services twice a month as a call to worship, bringing the congregation into a vulnerable and thankful state of mind. “We want to orient our brothers and sisters back to God. A model like this orients us to God and forces vulnerability and vulnerability builds continuity within a body,” says Jacob.
In his new role at Second Baptist Church, Jacob plans to incorporate this and other lessons learned from his Northern Seminary training. He values the opportunity to attend seminary while pastoring instead of simply “reading my commentaries and staying in my small midwestern town.” Jacob appreciates being part of the MATM’s online cohort and Northern Live. “It’s great because Northern is much more ecumenical. There are lots of pastors from different denominations and
regions. If you have the Bible figured out–that’s a red flag.”
Jacob believes his approach to the testimony initiative would have been very different without his seminary training, “Before going into this program, I would have researched effectiveness, had an objective, constructed a bell curve …” He’s learning to balance faithfulness and efficiency–tipping the scales toward faithfulness.
As he continues the MATM program while leading a new church as a senior pastor, Jacob looks forward to seeing a track record built on God’s faithfulness and believers’ care for each other.
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