Convention time here again!
I presume, if I may judge by past conventions, that this is met with mixed reactions among our young people. There are always those, and they are no doubt, by far in the majority, who are elated at the news; for ever since they have left last year’s splendid convention in Oak Lawn, they were looking forward to the new one to be held this year in Grand Rapids. Or, if they have not had the privilege of attending a convention before, they look forward to a new experience – one which fills them with excitement.
There are also others who hear talk here and there of the convention, but pay little or no attention to it. They have perhaps attended past conventions, but have found them rather boring, to say the least. Or they have never attended a convention, and are not going to start now. Their reaction to the news is one of cold indifference. These are in the minority – and we hope, a steadily decreasing minority.
There are others also who glance at the news and think of the convention coming as a time to get away from home far from restraints of parental demands and instruction where they can do pretty much as they please. They evidently consider convention time as a time of license and unrestrained life with as little to do with the activities of the convention proper as possible. These are very few in number, I know.
To all three I write.
Young people have a place of their own in the church of Jesus Christ – a place which is uniquely their own. They too are members of the church. Of this there can be no doubt. They belong to the body of Christ not only, but to the church here upon earth, members of the congregation into which they have been born, or have moved, necessarily active in the institute of the church.
This place which they occupy is uniquely their own. This is because they themselves are unique. They are in their youth. And youth is a time that differs from any other age in life. On the one hand, they have reached that point in spiritual development and maturity where they are beginning to understand the implications of their membership in the church, of the truth which their church confesses, and of the solemn obligations which belong to the people of God.
On the other hand, youth is a time of vision, of idealism, of enthusiasm. This is perhaps true even in a natural sense of the word, and is a characteristic of youth which is lost only with the gravest consequences. When the youth of a nation become cynical and indifferent, it bodes nothing but evil for the nation of which they are citizens. For they cannot capture again the inspiration upon which they have turned their backs with sneers and mockery.
But I am speaking of covenant youth in whom the vision, the idealism, the enthusiasm of a young generation is spiritually directed and controlled by a regenerated heart. I know that as one grows older, some of the idealism and enthusiasm is shattered upon the hard rock’s of reality, some of the vision fades in the problems of life which are often difficult and disillusioning; some of the boldness and ambition must necessarily be tempered. For no one can live this life in this world while walking with his head in the clouds far removed from life’s problems. It is good that age brings with its discretion and a tempering of hasty action by a mature wisdom. But woe be to the man who tries to drive from young people their hopes and dreams, their inspirations and plans, to be replaced only with disillusionment and its twin brother cynicism.
And indeed, these characteristics give to covenant youth their own unique place in the church. They are the generation of tomorrow, the church of the future, the saints who must take their place when their parents go to join the company of the saints made perfect. And all their eagerness, their enthusiasm, their idealism, when directed in the proper channels, can only serve the welfare of the church. If young men and young women start life bitter and cynical, what would the future bring? But when they start their active life in the church eager and courageous, fearing nothing and strong in hope, and when all their energy and ambition is directed into the proper channels, then the church can face a strong tomorrow and confident future.
So it should be with the young people of our denomination. And so, by God’s grace, it is to a considerable extent.
The Young People’s Convention belongs to the young people. It is your convention, yours to plan, yours to carry out, yours to enjoy. And above all else; it is your convention to use to the glory of your God and the welfare of your church.
How can one who has the love for the cause of our churches in his heart be indifferent to the convention? How can one who has the desire to see the kingdom of Christ prosper use the convention for wrong purposes?
The convention is a tremendous opportunity for your gifts and talents to be developed, for your enthusiasm to be directed into the proper courses of action, for your idealism and optimism to find its proper outlets.
There are speeches by consecrated men of God to speak to you of the truth which they have learned to love, and which they desire that you love-a desire which increases daily as the times becomes sterner and the days grow short before our Lord returns.
These are opportunities for the development of your own gifts and talents in programs and discussions, in the opportunities for debate and exchange of opinion.
There are occasions when your own ideas about welfare of the unique cause of our young people in their Federation, their Beacon Lights, and their other programs can be aired and discussed.
There are times of fellowship and fun when you can come to know the young people from our other churches, from other parts of the country-their problems at home, their society activities, and their life so different often times from your own. Then are the moments when you can see that the church of our Lord is composed of many different kinds of people, but all who are united in a single endeavor, a common interest, a oneness of love and hope and faith.
And the convention is the only opportunity for this on a denominational level. Taken as a whole, there is the most splendid opportunity in the whole world for you who belong to God’s covenant to give vent to your enthusiasm, to press into the service of the cause of Christ your idealism, to look to the future with confidence and assurance that when you must take your place in the church you are eager and ready.
All that I have written may itself sound idealistic. A perfect convention will have to wait until heaven I am sure. But the goal is there, and to cease to strive for it will end in chaos and failure.
God calls us to the convention. God will bless us. Our churches He loves. Our strength is that which comes from Him. May our convention, under His indispensible blessing be a time of spiritual happiness for all of you!