Amazed by God

Tompkins preaches on wonder, passion during service celebrating young adults and service

By Jessica Brodie

Calling on Christians to spark a flame of wonder, love and passion in youth and young adults, the Rev. Jonathan Tompkins preached the Tuesday night worship at Annual Conference celebrating young adults and service.

“Many people today are Christian-ish,” Tompkins said, and young people pick up on that message loud and clear.

In a service led by the Rev. Adriane Burgess with music by the Journey United Methodist Church Praise Team and the Youth Praise Team of Columbia Korean UMC, Tompkins noted recent research reveals teens have a very positive image of Christ—and they also feel very little passion about faith. Many do have a religious outlook, but it’s not the Gospel. Rather it’s what is termed moralistic therapeutic deism: a feel-good notion that that central to living a happy life is being a good and moral person, and while there is a deity, He is distant and uninvolved in our daily affairs.

It’s not exactly their fault, Tompkins said. After all, teens mirror their parents’ faith, and their parents aren’t exactly knocking down church doors.

“No wonder people leave the church,” Tompkins said, noting Christians are often known more for what we’re against than what we’re for. “Are young people looking in from the outside thinking, ‘What are they doing?’”

Yet the church is terrified of what will happen to it with the coming “death tsunami,” when the majority of their existing members will die. They rush about, trying to get young people in church so the church won’t die, but once those young people are in the doors, he said, the overwhelming sentiment is that they’d better be quiet, leave leadership to the elders and not change a thing.

“I’ve once heard someone say that if the 1950s came back, The United Methodist Church is ready,” Tompkins quipped.

This isn’t how God’s church should operate, he said. The church is competing against all the beauties of the secular world, and just like Orpheus, who decided to conquer the sirens by drowning them out with a more beautiful song of his own, the church should focus on much the same.

“It’s time for The United Methodist Church to sing a more beautiful song,” Tompkins said. “Let’s get lost in wonder, love and praise.”

Tompkins talked about how television host and comedian Conan O’Brien once said the trouble with the world right now is that everything is simply amazing and yet nobody’s happy. As he said, we should be sitting on an airplane not thinking about the mundane but thinking, “Wow, I’m sitting on an airplane in a chair in the sky!”

To that end, Tompkins asked, “When was the last time we were amazed in church? At the God who made us and the universe? At the God who loves us so much He keeps pouring and pouring that it can’t help but splash out on those around you?”

He implored adults in the room to do all they can to train up youth in the faith and don’t ever stop—like his parents did with him, and like he and his wife are doing with their own young children.

“I’m so glad my parents did not leave me to myself, to my own devices,” he said, “that confirmation was not graduation.”

Tuesday’s worship also featured an offering for the day’s Stop Hunger Now packaging event, collecting $19,204 for the effort.

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