canstockphoto27591530(1)5th in the series, “Modern Family?” Larry L. Eubanks, First Baptist Church, Frederick, Maryland, May 1, 2016

This message went in a decidedly different direction than when I had planned it weeks ago. After I had done the research, I came away with a completely different view. And then I realized that there is a message for all of us to hear, related yet having little to do with parenting or adolescence or anything to do with the family.

So this morning I’m going to give you the message I thought I was going to give, because it still has some relevance even though it’s a little judgy.

Then I’m going to give you the message that the research actually pointed to, because it will remind us that when we get all judgmental about people, often times it’s because we don’t really understand their situation.

And then I’m going to give you the third message, one that has to do with our own spiritual lives, and that will help us prepare to receive the Lord’s Supper.


Message #1: Adultescence as Extended Adolescence

As you can imagine, adultescence is not a term that was coined with the intention of being complimentary, but rather to describe young adults who refuse to grow up, who are extending adolescence well into their twenties, and doing so because they had been coddled all their lives by parents.

These are the adults who were the result of the kidolatry week. These are people in their twenties who often still live with their parents, even after college. They took majors that did not prepare them for the job market, and so they hop from low-paying job to low-paying job, which is fine with them because mom and dad are providing for most of their needs, so they only need enough money to buy the latest technology and go out with their friends.

And friends they have, because they don’t want the responsibility of a committed relationship, certainly not of raising children, at least not yet.

They are young, and now is the time to have fun. Why put it off to a retirement that may not happen, when your health might prevent you from doing much?

Typical of this is a young man described in an article named Matt, who is 27 and took 6½ years to graduate from college with a degree in cognitive science. He’s in no hurry to pursue adult responsibilities like home ownership, marriage and parenting.

“I don’t ever want a lawn. I do not want to be a parent. I mean … why would I? There’s so much fun to be had while you’re young.”

Or 26-year-old Jennie, who said, “I want to get married, but not soon. I’m enjoying myself. There’s a lot I want to do by myself still.”

Now, this is the place where we get to be real judgy, shaking our heads at such self-absorption. I have to admit that the closer I got to this particular message in the series, so more icky (ickier?) I felt.

I kept feeling like we would all be sitting around being smug about how much better we are than those slackers.

Pam and I were married at 21, moved to seminary where Pam worked full-time and I went to school full-time while also working part-time jobs. At one time I had three part-time jobs while being a full-time student. We didn’t put off having children just because we were in school. We had Angela at 25, Austin at 29.

You all can tell similar type stories. So it’s real easy for our attitude to be, “What’s wrong with these young people?”

Jesus battled against judgmentalism his entire ministry, and here I would be giving a message that would lead us all to be very judgmental.

And the other icky part is that I’d be talking about them behind their backs, because adultescents don’t go to church very much. So where would I go with the message? It’s not like they’d be here to hear any “advice” I’d be giving them.

The typical sermon I found dealing with adultescents followed a pattern. First, there was a not-so-kind, pretty condescending description, much like what I just gave.

This was followed by some questionable uses of Scriptures to back up the condescension.

And then some advice to these young people who weren’t there that essentially was saying, “Stop it. Stop playing so many video games and surfing the web. Stop eating out so much”—as if they’re the only age group that eats out a lot. “Stop being so self-absorbed”—again, as if they’re the only age group that is self-absorbed.

And as if we weren’t self-absorbed when we were in our twenties.

So, yeah, these sermons were pretty pointless and judgmental, and I wasn’t comfortable doing that.

And then I found out I didn’t have to. The more research I did, the more I found that for many, not all, but many people in their twenties, what they were doing was actually a mature response to a modern world.

Message #2: Adultescence as a Mature Response to a Modern World

An article that came out in the Washington Post two weeks ago noted that this putting off of marriage, which looks like from the outside as if they don’t put a high value on the importance of marriage, is just the opposite. Young people are delaying marriage for two reasons.

One, we have to remember that today’s 20-somethings came of right about the time the economy crashed. They graduated from college with college loans and were unable to find jobs good-paying jobs.

I know this for a fact, because that’s what happened to Angela. She graduated from Maryland and had to take a job at a day care because she was unable to find anything in her field. All the jobs in her field required experience, and there were a lot of experienced people looking for jobs in her field.

After a couple of years she took a job as a nanny, and started working on her master’s degree at night. She did that for a while, then was finally able to find a low-paying job in her field. She now has a masters in non-profit management and also an MBA. She’s in a better job in her field, and is positioned to move up into management. She was married a year ago at 30.

She is not a slacker. The world is just different.

The second reason young people are delaying marriage is actually because they highly value marriage and see divorce as an unacceptable response to marital strain.

In 2002 50% of Americans disagreed with the statement, ““Divorce is usually the best solution when a couple can’t seem to work out their marriage problems.” Within ten years that figure rose to 60%, with young people being the demographic most opposed to divorce as a response to marital strain.

I read that and thought, “What an admirable thing. What a mature response.”

See, for a lot of us, marriage is seen as the foundational event of a good life. You found a mate, got married, then struggled through economic uncertainty as you built a career. Then you capped it off with a good retirement.

Young people don’t want that strain on their marriage. They are willing to struggle, but they’d rather do it while they are single. Then after they have established themselves, maybe even bought their first home, then they feel comfortable getting married. Marriage and children, rather than retirement—which looks like an iffy thing to them—is the capstone event of their lives, the thing they are driving toward and sacrificing for right now while they are single.

You may disagree with it, but you have to admit it’s a mature response. And we are finding that people who marry later have more stable marriages.

According to one NY Times article, “On average, each year that young people postpone marriage, right up into the mid-30s, lowers their chance of divorce, and each year a woman delays motherhood leads to improved test scores for her children.”

So, let’s give them the kudos the deserve, even if it’s not the path we chose ourselves or would choose for them. Pam and I figured we’d be grandparents by now—we had two kids by the time we were Angela’s age, and Pam was pregnant with Austin at the age he is now—a very eligible bachelor, I might add ladies.

But they have chosen a different path and for some good reasons.

That’s message two, which I thought would end things, but then I thought about that first message, the self-absorbed, pleasure- and fun-seeking Millenial, and I realized that, spiritually, that’s not just something that people in the 20’s do, it’s what afflicts all humans. I call it “spiritual adultescence,” and you can see it in all age groups, from the oldest to the youngest.


Message #3: The High Cost of Spiritual Adultescence

This hit me while Pam and I were watching a video of John Ortberg as he was speaking about spiritual formation. He asked, “What are a two-year-old’s two favorite words?” The answer: “no” and “mine.” And those are the two attitudes that underlie our greatest spiritual sin.

“No” to God, and “Mine” to the world.

The process of spiritual formation or spiritual growth is the process in which we learn to say “yes” to God and “no” to our own selfish desires. And we stop saying, “Mine” to the world, and learn to say “Ours.”

In other words, we learn that we are all interconnected and we stop violating others in order to protect what is “mine.” We learn to give ourselves away, and in doing so, we find ourselves.

But we have too many spiritual adultescents in our churches, Christians who have been born again but never made it much out of grade school. This is not a new problem, for Scripture addresses it over and over. The writer of Hebrews said to his congregation,

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

If you look at the context, he’s dealing with people who are unwilling to be obedient to God because it means sacrificing the good lives they’ve earned. They want the good life according to material things, but they also want to be saved by Jesus.

In other words, they want it all, and the writer of Hebrews points out that we are saved not by trying to have our way, but by giving of ourselves. This is what Jesus did, he said, thus in Hebrews 5:8 he says of Jesus,

Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered;

Although he was a Son—although he had everything—he learned obedience—he turned a “no” to God into a “yes” to God—through what he suffered—by pouring out his life for the world.

That’s the meat of the Gospel. That’s spiritual maturity.

Photo by © Can Stock Photo Inc. / gstockstudio

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