Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Yes, I know that every Bible verse is for today's young people (and adults), but there are a few verses and passages that I keep thinking about all the time at the moment. Do get in touch and tell me what's striking you from the Bible in Lockdown (and praise God if you're already totally out of Lockdown). One of these passages that I keep returning to is John 6.66-68:
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Church is different at the moment. Even big churches are different. Some will be able to produce a polished service online or run Zoom small groups and I thank God for such churches. More people may be praying or watching church services, but behind the scenes, I believe something else might be happening. It's certainly the case in our youth ministry. Some people just aren't coming any more: young people who were there every week pre-Lockdown, have never engaged with any of the meetings we're doing online. Many engaged, say, in week 3, and have never been back again, even when we do a quiz or escape room. Online church services are getting smaller numbers of viewers - just a few trickling out every time.
I totally understand that it may be that we're not praying enough. It may be that we're not preparing good talks or engaging online sessions. But I wonder if these verses challenge us about what might be going on at the moment.
There were lots of people in Jesus' time who followed him for a while and then drifted away when they were no longer getting what they wanted from him. In John 6 that was food. In Lockdown, many of the good things have been taken away. We don't have that lovely community that many of us enjoy, or we don't have it in the same way. We don't have the run-around games. And we don't have the food - the cakes and biscuits before the group on Sunday night, the meal with the groups on a Thursday night. Many of us don't have the same worship band or the clean sound we're used to. We don't even have the 'youth room' they decorated with its pool and table tennis tables. Lots of good things aren't there any more, maybe some of our friends have left and it certainly doesn't feel the same. It's at this point, Jesus turns and says,
"You do not want to leave too, do you?"
In effect, he's saying, 'Am I enough?' And all of us have a choice. If we're not making it now, we might be making it when we return to church buildings and we haven't been to our own church for months because we've been enjoying St. John's the Humungous every week online. But boy, they are good!
Simon Peter said something truly profound. He looked around at everything the world could offer, looked at Jesus and said, 'I'm sticking with you.' There was nothing else in the world that could satisfy him. There's nowhere else to go! And in Lockdown, with much of our regular security, even, dare I say, our security in the physical church, taken away, Jesus asks each of us, "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Then he waits. Are we, like Peter, able to say:
"Lord, to whom shall we go?"?
Dave Thornton is author of 'Raising the Bar: Nearly everything you need to know about Christian youth ministry'. Find out more here.